We fast. We daven. We say Kinos. Sometimes we feel that we’d like to do something more to help bring the end of this bitter galus. Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, said that there is something we can do: We can keep Shemittah, the neglecting of which, Chazal say, is the reason we were sent out of Eretz Yisrael.
Since we are not farmers ourselves, however, we would not normally have the ability to fulfill this mitzvah. Keren Hashviis, therefore, developed a legal and halachic contract which allows us to partner with a farmer. In addition to our main mitzvah of helping the farmer, we also are able to personally keep the mitzvah and hopefully help bring the end of the galus. My family decided to accept the opportunity.
But which farmer should we choose? That was our next question. The Chazon Ish explains in his sefer “Emunah U’bitachon” that the brachah that Hakadosh Baruch Hu promises to Klal Yisrael is a general brachah. “Don’t worry,” says Hashem. “You will not starve. I will see to it that although the entire nation does not plant, there will be food available.” That does not mean that each farmer will clearly see an economic bounty. Each farmer has to go through his own nisayon in keeping this particularly difficult mitzvah.
There are farmers for whom the year of Shemittah is particularly difficult and who continuously run the risk of giving up on its proper observance. For these farmers, it is a constant struggle. There are others, however, who instantly see the miraculous bounty. For them, there is no struggle at all.
With which type of farmer do we want to partner? Do we want to share the zechus of those who come through with great difficulty? Or would we rather grab on to the tail of one whom Hakadosh Baruch Hu showers with brachah and nissim?
Our family decided to go with the latter and join with a farmer who is melumad b’nissim. We decided to become the partner of Baruch (Buki) Adiri of Chavat Naamah in the south of Eretz Yisrael near Nachal Grar — the area where Yitzchak Avinu found miraculous brachah.
Allow me to introduce you to our partner, Buki Adiri.
Buki was raised in a secular home and in school was given what he describes as a very leftist education. After Israel’s great victory in the Six-Day War, he and all his friends were convinced that “kochi v’otzem yadi” — i.e., the Israeli military — could take on and defeat any army.
That attitude changed during the Yom Kippur War.
Buki received a call from his brother on Yom Kippur saying that there was some fighting in the North. Would he like to join? Buki grabbed his weapons and went north for what he thought would be an exciting and interesting adventure.
The Israeli government realized that there was an invasion from Egypt but thought that the Syrians would not attack in the north. They moved almost all their forces to the south. When Buki arrived north he joined about 50 other soldiers on four half-tracks and went to patrol the northern border.
They were shocked to hear that 2,000 Syrian tanks had crossed the border and had decimated an Israeli force. Buki heard over his radio that his brother had been taken out of action. It wasn’t until later that he found out that he was seriously wounded but, baruch Hashem, not killed.
As the four half-tracks climbed a hill, the soldiers suddenly found themselves facing 300 Syrian tanks. The Syrians wouldn’t even need their heavy guns to eliminate the four poorly armed half-tracks! Buki looked out and realized that this was his end. Even more seriously, he realized that there was nothing behind him defending the way to Tel Aviv. Once they eliminated these four half-tracks, the Syrians could capture the whole north of Eretz Yisrael! At that moment, he realized how silly it was to believe “kochi v’otzem yadi.”
What happened next made him realize that there is a Greater Power in this world.
The Syrian tanks stopped. They didn’t shoot their guns. They waited and Buki waited with bated breath. After a period of time (Buki can’t tell me how long) they turned around and headed back towards Syria. This was the first miracle that Buki experienced and made him realize that there is a Ribbono shel Olam that controls the world.
[The Syrian tank captain was court-martialed by the Syrians after the war. He claimed that he came to the north of Israel and saw only four half-tracks. He said to himself that it couldn’t be. It must be a trap and he turned around to save his men from an ambush.]
With his new realization, Buki returned to his farm in the south, but didn’t know how to put it into action.
One day, a number of years later, he got a call from a Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, zt”l, who lived in Ofakim, not far from his farm. He explained that there is a mitzvah of reishis hagez — to give the first shearing of a sheep to a Kohen. Since Buki had many sheep, Rabbi Pincus asked if he could come to the farm and perform the mitzvah. Buki readily agreed.
In the course of conversation, Rabbi Pincus asked Buki if he had ever heard of Shemittah. Buki said that he had learned in school that it had something to do with allowing the land to replenish itself. Rabbi Pincus explained the deeper meaning of Shemittah and how it represents our belief that Eretz Yisrael is not a land like any other land. It is Hashem’s Land and we have it only because of His blessing. Especially after Buki’s experience in the war, this spoke to Buki and he agreed to keep Shemittah.
Buki then goes on to explain that during every Shemittah year since then he has seen open miracles. Whatever he gives up by keeping Shemittah, he makes up for with the brachah of Hashem.
One year during Shemittah I was on his farm, and he asked me how many kids were nursing from each of the mother goats. I saw that most of them had three and some had two. He explained to me that generally his goats and sheep produce about 1.2 babies per mother; about every fifth mother has twins. In the sixth year — the year before Shemittah — almost all his animals had triplets. Any losses he had from not planting the wheat and barley that he usually planted was made up for by the increase in animal production.
Another Shemittah year he had planted “zriah mukdemes” before Rosh Hashanah. Soon after Sukkos, the rain came and the grains began to sprout. Afterwards there was a long period without rain and the plants dried up. The representative from the Department of Agriculture visited the farm and told Buki that since the plants died he will now have to dig up the field and replant. Buki told him that it was Shemittah and he wouldn’t be able to. The representative then told him that it would be a total loss. In January, after two months of no rain, it finally rained. All of a sudden, Buki saw his dead plants come to life. I actually stood on the border of his field and was able to recognize his field where the barley stood shoulder high as opposed to the field of his neighbor, who had planted in the normal time, whose barley was barely a foot high.
Last year he had planted his 2,000 dunam (about 500 acres) with animal feed. There was very little rain and when there is little rain there is little crop. Fellow farmers were very worried. What will we use to feed our animals? “Don’t worry,” consoled Buki. “This is the sixth year. Hashem promised that he will send the brachah.” Sure enough, after two months of no rain, they received gishmei brachah after Pesach; whereas he usually harvests 750 tons a year, this year he harvested 1,400 tons. He has animal feed for more than two years.
Over 3,000 farmers and tens of thousands of partners throughout the world are saying we believe Eretz Yisrael is Hashem’s Land and we’re keeping Shemittah because we want Him to return to His people. May Hashem hear our tefillos and see our actions and bring the Geulah speedily in our days.
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