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
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
"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