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4 Cheshvan 5761 - November 2, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
What Will We Eat?

By HaRav Nosson Zeev Grossman

Part I

The mitzvah of shmitta, which involves abandoning our fields in Eretz Yisroel every seven years and not working them for a year, teaches us emunah. It not only teaches us common emunah; we gain from it a solid faith in Hashem that guides us through the years of the Sabbatical cycle and especially during the year of erev Shevi'is. Although this shiur in emunah that Hashem gives us is essential in every generation, it is especially important for us today, since material aspirations have become central "aims" in life for many in the modern world.

Even though the whole world, both non-Jewish and Jewish- secular society, judges each matter according to its actual productivity, and measures each person's worth according to the material benefit he brings to the economy, the Torah commands us, "the land shall keep a sabbath for Hashem" (Vayikra 25:2). For a whole year we must discontinue all agricultural work, the foundation of man's food supply and the essential factor of his life.

Although a person lacking emunah worships what he has produced and the land that bears fruit for him, although he refuses to realize the existence of a supreme power ruling over the world, the mitzvah of shmitta educates us that man's life is not dependent upon what the land produces. On what does it really depend? Everything depends on Hashem's will. It is a Shabbos for Hashem!

But man who is so accustomed to looking at the illusions of "nature" is liable to be concerned that perhaps not working the land would cause him to go hungry. "And if you should say, `What shall we eat in the seventh year? Behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase!' Then I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years" (Vayikro 25:20).

These pesukim teach us a lesson that is needed for more than the sixth and seventh years. Reflecting on these pesukim immediately clarifies a distinct answer for us to all the various "what will we eat" questions (as the gedolei Torah have explained, and as will be cited later). In particular in recent times, since those studying Torah are constantly accused of a "lack of productivity" which causes them to live in poverty, it is important to elucidate this topic.

Indeed, within our camp, among those who have emunah, no question of "what will we eat" is asked. They know the true answer, the one known from ancient times, that every cheder child studies in parshas Beshalach. "Moshe said, This is the thing which Hashem commands: Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations, that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness" (Shemos 16:32). Rashi (ibid.) comments: "In the time of Yirmiyahu, when he rebuked them about not being engaged in Torah, they said: `How can we stop working and engage in Torah? How can we live if we stop working?' [Yirmiyahu] would take out a jar of monn and say to them: `See the word of Hashem.' He did not say `hear' but `see': from this your fathers lived. Hashem has many messengers to prepare food for those who fear Him."

Every ben Torah who knows that what Chazal write is not, chas vesholom, mere figures of speech, that it shows the reality of life for the Torah nation, is not bothered by questions of "what will we eat?" Only our critics from outside the Torah World, those who are unable to understand the inner way of life of am Yisroel, bother us with such questions. This provocative question, that has been heard ever since the secular Jewish movements started and the Enlightenment raised its ugly head, is not relevant merely as a marginal detail in the unending argument between Torah observers -- those who raise the banner of emunah, and those who have overthrown the yoke of Shomayim -- those who bow to materialism and represent heresy. It relates to a central point in this argument.

This is the reason, explains the Yismach Moshe, that the parsha of Shmitta begins "Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai." The central idea found in the mitzvah of Shmitta is the foundation of the entire mitzvah of studying the Torah that was given on Sinai. Bnei Yisroel were fed monn in the desert, but when they entered Eretz Yisroel the monn stopped falling. At that time they could think, "the food dependent upon Hashgocho has been displaced with natural food."

The truth, however, is that even after the monn stopped, Divine behavior continued and it continues forever. "The only difference is that at that time the Hashgocho was overt, and now it is covert. Hashem with His immense chessed awakened us to realize His intense surveillance over us, and therefore commanded us to keep the jar of monn."

This Divine behavior, explains the Yismach Moshe, is also expressed in the mitzvah of shmitta, which educates us that "natural" food too, the land's produce, is like the monn. It is not dependent on the work of man, but on the brocho from Shomayim that comes from above. Chazal therefore teach us, "The Torah was only given to those who eat the monn."

"A difficulty arises. The Jewish Nation ate the monn for only forty years but the Torah itself is forever. An intelligent person, however, understands that even today he eats Hashem's monn. Such a person depends upon Hashem and can engage in Torah study. The mitzvah of shmitta was therefore given `at Mount Sinai' - - because the Torah that Hashem gave us can be fulfilled only upon the foundation that shmitta teaches us, as Chazal write: `The Torah was only given to those who eat the monn.'"

"I will command My blessing upon you." The Chofetz Chaim zt'l explains that this is not to be considered Divine behavior involving supernatural miracles. It is simply how the Creator acts through His midda of brocho, and it is to be found in what a person with emunah does in all areas of life.

In the Kuntrus Nefutzos Yisroel (at the end of Shem Olom) Maran the Chofetz Chaim writes down fundamental principles of faith, how the Creator acts in His Creation.

We find three types of Divine behavior with which HaKodosh Boruch Hu conducts the world. First, the natural behavior which guides the whole world: Hashem brings rain and wheat grows from the earth. On the other hand, miraculous conduct is also found, altogether supernatural, such as what happened at yetzias Mitzrayim and the splitting of the Jordan. This change of nature is intended only for the whole of Klal Yisroel or for special individuals such as nevi'im and other kedoshei elyon.

Another, intermediate, conduct which lies between the supernatural conduct and the natural one, also functions: middas habrochoh. It is not a miracle, which is a rare occurrence, something uncommon. "This conduct is not really new. It is Hashem sending a brocho on what man does, making it increase immensely, or Shomayim sending him all the necessary means for this endeavor. Even though it is not altogether a natural way, through it a man succeeds."

This Divine conduct is included in what the Torah writes: "for it is He Who gives you power to get wealth" (Devorim 8:18). "Although making a living involves miracles, they are covert ones." The middas habrochoh prevails in what a person does and is part of the Creator's Hashgocho. This conduct is not a complete miracle that only happens to a few people: every Jew can be zoche to it.

"On this middas habrochoh are built many of the Torah's destined rewards, as is written, `And if you should say, "What will we eat in the seventh year? Behold we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase!" Then I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years.' And also, `Because for this thing Hashem your Elokim shall bless you in all your works, and in all that you put your hand to' (Devorim 15:10), and several other pesukim in the Torah."

Middas habrochoh, writes the Chofetz Chaim, is not dependent on how much effort a person puts in: "It seems that with this midda of brocho Hashem is conducting Yisroel during their entire golus. They have no basis for winning their food as other people do."

End of Part I

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