"We are aware of how many dangers threaten Eretz Yisrael from inside and out. Our merit of living here and being able to pursue Torah study is largely thanks to those who observe shmittah." This was the boosting message of our gedolim at an impressive event which took place in the home of HaRav Eidelstein for the farmers who committed themselves to keeping shmittah and are currently organizing themselves for the upcoming year. Participating in this special gathering were HaRav Arye Finkel, HaRav Boruch Dov Povarsky, HaRav Shmuel Yaakov Bornstein, HaRav Bezalel Pinchasi, the Admor of Chernobyl and the Admor of Alexander.
HaRav Simcha Kook, Rav of Rechovot, opened his address with the message that the Chazon Ish ruled that one should give generously to assist those who observe shmittah. "We have seen the government spending many millions for shmittah but most of this money is not channeled to the farmers themselves."
The keynote address was delivered by the organizer of the meeting, HaRav Gershon Eidelstein, who said, "We have gathered here for the sake of shomrei shmittah in order to help them. All those who have undertaken to keep shechita according to the strict Halacha are surely making a considerable Kiddush Hashem by standing up to this difficult challenge. Aside from actually keeping this mitzvah of leaving the land fallow, they are also exhibiting G-d-fear, as is written, `You shall fear Hashem, your G-d.' Rabbenu Yonah also quotes Chazal that if a person has in his lifetime not transgressed anything, he is rewarded. But if he has had to grapple with his evil inclination and prevailed, he is additionally fulfilling the commandment of fearing Hashem, and is rewarded for that as well.
"All those who support these farmers are at the same time partners in all of these inclusive mitzvos, besides their fulfilling the mitzvah of tzedokoh and gemilus chassodim. Thus, whoever donates to this cause and assists the farmers earns more than he gives. With the help of Hashem, all those who keep shmittah, as well as all those who support them, will be rewarded with all the blessings stated in the Torah."
HaRav Arye Finkel said: "It is written: `Bless Hashem, you emissaries, heroes of might who keep His word.' Chazal in Tanchuma say that `heroes of might' refers to those who keep shmittah. Dovid Hamelech calls them heroes because they stand by and disown their fields for a whole year during which everyone has free entry to take the produce - and they remain silent. Is there anything more valiant than this? The shmittah observers who overcome their natural inclination are truly laudable. A person can perform a mitzvah momentarily, or for an hour, a day or a month, but here, the farmers keep this specific mitzvah for an entire year and restrain themselves accordingly. The yetzer hora is called an old and foolish king but he is also powerful, and the farmers who defy him are truly valorous and powerful themselves."
He concluded by saying, "I wish to bless those who are committed to keeping shmittah properly, without heteirim and loopholes, but the way the Torah describes. They are the tzaddikim of the country who protect us all. `A tzaddik who is the foundation of the world!' The Rambam states that even one tzaddik can preserve and sustain the entire world. May it His will that we merit to see the Geulah thanks to those tzaddikim of the land, and may you be rewarded with all the blessings which the Torah promises. May we see that in their sake Hashem will return to Zion speedily and with great compassion."
HaRav Boruch Dov Povarsky said: "The land wishes to rest from its labors during the seventh year and asks that we allow it that rest. What land can ask such a thing? Eretz Yisrael is the only country in the entire world which has innate holiness. It has the mitzvah of shmittah which encompasses many commandments within itself and also includes chessed. The most important thing to remember is that life is spiritual, and spirituality is the purpose of life. The entire week is nurtured from Shabbos, which is the king of days, while the seventh year is the king of years. Whoever violates shmittah will be ejected from the land. Shmittah is a major mitzvah which encompasses the entire Creation. We are obligated to support the farmers who are the servants of the King and the entire Jewish nation must lend a hand. This is what Keren Hashevi'is does. It is a tremendous zchus to sustain these farmers in the seventh year because that is the essence of shmittah."
HaRav Shmuel Yaakov Bornstein said that exile comes from not keeping shmittah. "The merit of observing the commandments of the seventh year is what keeps us here in this land and thus, it compels us, as with a covenant which was made. `And I shall remember My covenant with Yaakov, and also My covenant with Yitzchok and I shall remember the land.' The Gaon writes that a covenant is an agreement between two close friends. Hashem gave us the land but what did we give in exchange? The commitment of the mighty heroes who display wondrous courage by keeping the restrictions of shmittah for an entire year without seeking leniencies. There is a new wave of leniency-seekers but our farmers stand steadfastly in keeping the covenant. We know how many dangers threaten us from outside and in, and the very privilege of living here in Eretz Yisrael and being able to study Torah is greatly thanks of the shmittah-observers. All of us must work to help them through the Keren Hashevi'is and in this merit, we will live to see the geulah and be able to observe future shmittahs and yovlos as dictated in the Torah."
HaRav Betzalel Pinchasi said: "Aside from the test of shmittah, which represents for the farmer an entire year of income, the Torah also requires them to abandon everything. The merit is commensurate to the difficulty. In past generations, almost everyone was a landowner but today this has been reduced to a group of farmers. But they are not alone. By joining in partnership with them, we become full partners in the mitzvos of landowners. In this generation, the trial is doubled by those who seek loopholes, and because this mitzvah is so important, the yetzer hora redoubles its efforts by presenting easy ways out. Those who abide by the strict letter of Halochoh will be doubly rewarded, as will those who assist them in being full partners. And if we were exiled because of defying this mitzvah, we will surely be redeemed and live to see Moshiach in the merit of observing it properly."
At the end of this gathering, the rabbonim present signed a partnership agreement with Keren Hashevi'is stating that people should commit themselves to paying fifty shekel a month up to the end of the year which will constitute partnership. After this, the gedolei Yisrael sought to shake hands with the farmers who had come to hear the words of chizuk and arousal in anticipation of the upcoming shmittah year.
It should be noted that during the visit of these farmers in Bnei Brak, the latter paid a moving visit to the yeshivos and beheld the uplifting scene of thousands of yeshiva students toiling in Torah with devotion and adherence. They conversed for a long time with Torah scholars to strengthen and be mutually strengthened in Torah study and shmittah observance and create a strong partnership bond between these two worlds of Torah and agricultural heroes.