Thursday, May 17, 2012


This week’s parsha, Behar, starts with discussing the Sh’mitta, the sabbatical year, where on the seventh year, farmers must let their land rest. Every seventh year, the Sanhedrin, Jewish court, must call out the year of the Sh’mitta. The parsha continues to dictate the several laws pertaining to following the Sh’mitta:
1.    All private ownership of produce is nullified.  With that said, all the produce that grows during that year, naturally, is free for all animals and poor people to take. Moreover, the landowner may also take any produces that yields from his land, but he may only take the amount that he will eat on that day.
2.    All sowing, planting, cutting, and reaping are prohibited. However, one may minimally tend to his crops so that they don’t die.
3.    All the produce produced during the Sh’mitta year contain an essence of kedusha- holiness- to it. So to, because of it’s kedusha, the produce must be treated in an elevated matter. (For example, it is a transgression to throw away any edible part of the produce in the ordinary trash; it must have a separate trash).
4.    Additionally, because of the kedusha the produce yields, the produce may not be sold commercially.
Hashem commands that the Jewish people abide by the laws of Sh’mitta. Hashem tells us that if we abide by the laws, we will be sustained and Hashem will bestow a blessing upon the Jewish people during the years of Sh’mitta and thereafter.  When a person disregards the laws of Sh’mitta, thinking that he needs to work the extra year to make a livelihood, essentially he is lacking bitachon- trust- in Hashem. Similarly, for a Jew to work on Shabbot, he is lacking faith that Hashem will provide him with all his needs during the rest of the week.

As Yirmeyahu exclaimed, “Thus says Hashem, ‘Cursed be the man who trusts in man and attributes his success to flesh,’ by plowing and harvesting in sh’mitta, ‘ and whose heart departs from Hashem’- Who promised to bestow His blessing upon the produce of the sixth year so that it should suffice for the coming years” (Rashi, Yirmeyahu 17:5).

From this it is clear to see how observing Sh’mitta, not only humbles us to recognize Hashem’s Divine assistance in our lives each and everyday, but more so that during the seventh year, the farmer is forced to turn to Hashem and trust that He will provide him with all that he needs for that entire year and on. Moreover, the Sh’mitta law is one of the hardest Torah commands to fulfill. The farmer must sit and watch his land waste away for an entire year! Nevertheless, he follows this command with joy and that is what a true kiddish Hashem is!

As Jews, we must all recognize that we are not self-reliant.  Just because one sows that land does not mean that it will grow, but rather, it is up to Hashem’s will to enable things to grow or not. (Hashem is in control of the fertility of the earth, regarding snow, rain, climate, etc. Hashem can bring insects, wild beasts, etc. to destroy one’s harvest). Moreover, this is a lesson for us all. Although many of us work equally as hard, our efforts may not be as equally successful. Why you may ask? Unfortunately, our finite brains cannot understand the ways of Hashem, but rather we must come to understand that Hashem is in charge of everything, not us. We cannot assume that our efforts will definitely produce our livelihood, but rather, we must place our trust in Hashem, that He is the one who determines if our efforts will yield successful results.

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