Celery Man

Shemittah gives us the opportunity to work on our bitachon, to trust in Hashem and trust in His promises. By blindly taking a year off work and leaving the rest up to the One in charge, one demonstrates total trust in Hashem. The lesson of Shemittah that we must internalize and ingrain in our hearts is that parnassah — actually, everything — is from Hashem!

Rabbi Shlomoh Bussu relates the following story:

After listening to a lecture given to unaffiliated and non-observant Jews about the importance of Shemittah, Efi, a farmer from the Jordan Valley in Eretz Yisrael, approached the lecturer, Harav Shlomo Zalman Grossman, shlita (who is now the Rabbi of Elad), and asked, “Rabbi, can you guarantee me that if I keep Shemittah, I will not be effected negatively in any way?”

After consulting with the great Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l, he answered Efi, “You will witness tremendous siyatta diShmaya! Hakadosh Baruch Hu will help you and I guarantee that you will not be damaged in any way!”

Efi immediately decided that he was not going to touch his field for the whole year!

Efi got a job for the year as a local clerk, thus being transformed from a successful farmer into a simple clerk. His friends made fun of him as they planted their produce, expecting to sell it for a profit as they did every year. “You could have also made money now!” they nagged him. “At least rent out your tractors and make a little money on the side!”

Efi ignored their barbs and comments and trusted that Hashem would not let him down.

The next year, Efi failed to secure seed. When he approached the government agency that helped farmers, an agent explained that the only thing they had left was a lot of celery seeds — and even those were of very poor quality. He had such an overabundance of celery seeds that he gave them to Efi for free.

Reluctantly, Efi planted all his fields with those low-grade celery seeds. Amazingly, the celery in his fields grew waist high — three times the size of regular celery!

Again, people mocked. “What in the world will you be able to do with all that celery?”

“I did mine and Hashem will do His,” he answered confidently.

Rav Grossman himself was baffled. What could possibly be done with such a great amount of celery — enough to feed the entire country for a few months!

One day Efi’s phone rang; it was his friend from the agency that gave him the celery seeds. “Tell me, Efi, did you ever do anything with all those celery seeds I gave you?”

“If you want to know about celery,” Efi answered, “you called the right guy. I eat celery, sleep celery and breathe celery! Everyone calls me Mr. Celery!”

“Do you have a lot?” his friend asked.

“I have as much as you could possibly want,” Efi answered.

“Great!” his friend said. “The going price for celery is 50 cents a head, but now, you can sell them for a few dollars a head! Maybe even more!”

“How is that possible?” asked Efi.

His friend excitedly explained that a heavy cold spell had hit Europe and everything had frozen over! Moreover, everyone was stuck at home.

“Now, you know how Europeans love their soup,” he added, “especially with celery in it. But they have no celery in all of Europe. All the importers are scrambling, trying to find celery! You can be Europe’s celery distributer!”

Efi hired hundreds of workers, who worked around the clock. There were lines of trucks that took the celery to the airport and celery was flown to destinations throughout Europe. In about 30 days his entire inventory was sold. Efi became extremely wealthy. He bought himself a Cadillac, which he called “my Shemittah Cadillac.” He also bought an expensive Arabian horse and called it “my Shemittah horse.”

“They laughed at me for a year,” Efi said, “and now look who has the last laugh. Look what you gain by keeping Shemittah!”

Efi became more observant and became an outstanding individual. One of the times Rav Grossman related the story, someone in the audience stood up and said, “I know Efi; he is now a talmid chacham and delivers shiurim in his community!”

This true story demonstrates we should trust that one will never lose out by keeping Torah and mitzvot!

Shabbat shalom.