“If you will say: What will we eat in the seventh year? For we will not sow and we will not gather in our crop. I will command My blessings for you in the sixth year and it will produce a crop that will suffice for three years.”
The Kli Yakar explains that it is not necessarily the case that the crop of the sixth year is visibly enough for three years; it may seem to the eye just an ordinary crop. The blessing, he says, is not in quantity but rather in quality. Even a small amount of this crop will suffice to fully satiate its eater, and therefore, it will be enough for three years.
One of the primary reasons given by meforshim for the mitzvah of Shemittah is that it serves to instill into Klal Yisrael the concept of bitachon, of relying solely on Hashem and recognizing that ultimately our parnassah — our fate — is solely in His hands.
There are differing views about hishtadlus for parnassah.
The Alshich in a drashah once stated that someone who has total bitachon in Hashem need not to do any hishtadlus at all for parnassah; he can stay in shul and spend all his time davening and learning Torah, and Hashem will provide him with a comfortable parnassah.
Present was a wagon driver who was so impressed by the Alshich’s words that he sold his horse and wagon, stopped working, and sat all day in shul and said Tehillim. Within days, a chest full of gold coins miraculously came into his possession.
Talmidim of the Alshich who had been present at the drashah came to complain to their great Rebbi: They, too, had done what the wagon driver did, yet they did not succeed.
The Alshich replied that this lofty level applies only to someone who has emunah peshutah, without any consideration or analysis.
According to this view, the amount of hishtadlus a person is required to make is in direct proportion to the level of his bitachon.
Another view is that a certain amount of hishtadlus is required even by someone who does have the requisite amount of bitachon. However, Hagaon Harav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zt”l, cautions that even according to this view, one should not err and assume that somehow it is the hishtadlus that brings the parnassah.
Rabi Shimon ben Elazar says (Kiddushin 82): I never saw a deer cutting firewood, a lion serving as a porter, nor a fox as a storekeeper. They — who were created to serve me — merit a livelihood without pain; shouldn’t I, who was created to serve Hashem, merit to earn my livelihood without tzaar? It is only because I sinned, and thus I deprived myself of my parnassah.”
The fact that we must earn our living “by the sweat of our brow” is part of the punishment mankind received following the sin of Adam Harishon, but this is not what brings parnassah.
Rabi Meir says: “One should teach his son a clean and light trade, and ask for mercy from He to Whom the wealth belongs, for poverty does not come from the [type of] trade, nor does wealth come from the trade, but solely from Hashem.
The Rishonim explain that “clean” refers not to work that is physically clean, but rather work that is honest and does not involve any improprieties, while “light” refers to a trade with a minimum of financial risk. It is noteworthy that the Gemara gives needlework as an example of such a trade, a craft that does not generally make a person wealthy.
In secular culture, “success” in life is often judged solely on the amount of material wealth one accumulates. Yet it would appear that from a Torah perspective, the desire for and pursuit of wealth are far from admirable. We beseech the Ribbono Shel Olam for a comfortable parnassah so that we can serve Him in tranquillity, but hishtadlus to become a wealthy is frowned upon.
In Noam Elimelech, the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, zy”a, relates in the name of his brother, the Rebbe Reb Zusha of Anipoli, zy”a:
The Torah often writes an extra word or even an extra letter through which many questions are answered. However, the Torah generally does not ask the question itself. Why did the Torah choose in this passuk to ask the question explicitly? The Torah could have stated, “I will command My blessings for you in the sixth year and it will produce a crop that will suffice for three years,” and the question of “What will we eat” would be extraneous.
The Rebbe Reb Zusha explains that the Ribbono Shel Olam created the world with conduits for comfortable sustenance for mankind. However, when an individual fails to have the proper bitachon in Hashem it causes the bounty of sustenance to stop flowing, and the Ribbono Shel Olam must then command anew that the sustenance should flow.
The Torah is teaching us that man should never waver in his bitachon in Hashem; he should not ask, “What will we eat?” For such questions cause the sustenance to stop flowing, and we are then matri’ach Hashem (so to speak) to command the flow of parnassah once again. Rather, one should fortify himself with emunah and bitachon, and then the bounty of parnassah can flow unimpeded and uninterrupted.