When a university student brought up in a secular family has an opportunity to spend some time in a yeshivah like Ohr Somayach he often asks questions. He wants to know, among other things, how it can be determined that the Torah was truly given by the Al-mighty and not by a man?
One of the numerous responses is the mitzvah of Shemittah. No human being would have the nerve to instruct an entire country to close up agricultural production for a year. The people would starve. Only a Ribbono shel Olam can say, “Keep Shemittah and don’t worry. Ve’tzivisi es birchosi — I, the One who is in control, will send My blessing and in the sixth year you will have enough food to last for you and your families and your animals for three years.”
If that is the case, then why are there so many advertisements asking us to support the farmers?
Why did the Gedolei Yisrael, starting with Harav Yehoshua Leib Diskin, the Ridvaz, the Chazon Ish and continuing on to the Gedolim of our time endorse so strongly the campaign to raise money for the farmers? Hakadosh Baruch Hu promised that he would take care of them. Don’t we trust Him to keep His word?
This question has been responded to in many ways. The Meiras Ainoyim (the Sma) on Choshen Mishpat (67:2) explains that the brachah promised by Hakadosh Baruch Hu is only granted when all the Jews are living in Eretz Yisrael and Shemittah is min haTorah. At this time, since many Rishonim believe that Shemittah is mid’Rabbanan, the special brachah of “Ve’tzivisi” does not apply.
Harav Binyomin Mendelson, zt”l, denotes from the words of the Sma that he doesn’t mean that we don’t have a brachah. He just means that the tripling of produce in the sixth year doesn’t necessarily happen. As many farmers expressed to me, “Everyone feels the brachah. Some feel it in their bank accounts and others feel it with their health or their children. We have the brachah but it still is difficult to pay for your expenses when you have no income.”
The Chazon Ish (Shviis 18:4) disagrees with the Sma. He feels that the brachah of Ve’tzivisi applies even b’zman hazeh. He explains that the brachah of Ve’tzivisi itself is a general brachah for the country. It promises that we will have the abundance necessary to be able to exist. If we leave it to nature, a country not producing will starve. Hashem guarantees us that He will find ways to ensure our continued economic existence. How each farmer fares, though, is determined by his individual situation.
Our experience shows us that on the one hand there is a farmer by the name of Boruch Horan of Rosh Pina who reports that despite the fact that it didn’t rain much during the rainy season this year, his crops grew double in size. He harvested the crop just in time, just before the heavy rain that fell after Pesach which would have destroyed the crop had he left it in the field. Because of the weather conditions there was a scarcity of grain and the price was higher than usual. He ended up receiving triple what he got last year.
On the other hand, there are many farmers entering Shemittah with great trepidation because this year did not provide them with bountiful harvests. Eretz Yisrael on the whole, though, will be able to support itself. That is the brachah.
There is a third possibility that I’d like to suggest. Actually it could fit in to both the Sma’s and the Chazon Ish’s explanation.
The Gemara reports on a conversation between Turnusrufus and Rabi Akiva (Baba Basra 10a). Turnusrufus asks Rabbi Akiva, “If your G-d loves poor people, why doesn’t He support them?” Rabbi Akiva answered, “To give us the opportunity to help poor people to use as a zechus so that we may live.”
I wonder whether Hakadosh Baruch Hu sent the brachah to us so that we can support the farmers in order to give us the zechus to be mekayem this very precious mitzvah of Shemittah?
The author can be reached at email@example.com