Six in a Row

“Six years you shall plant your field and six years you shall prune your vineyard” (Vayikra 25:3)

The laws of Shemittah are referred to as the Shabbat for the land. Ramban cites a Midrash (Mechilta Mishpatim 20) that says: “When the people of Israel do the will of Hashem, they keep one Shemittah in seven years and when they do not do the will of Hashem, they keep Shemittah four times in seven years — planting every other year.”

In ancient times, farmers would plant their fields in alternate years in order to give the soil a chance to replenish the nutrients needed for a healthy crop. The Midrash comes to teach that when the Jewish people do the will of Hashem there is no need to rest their fields every other year, rather, only once in seven years is sufficient. By keeping the mitzvah, the land will miraculously produce bumper crops in spite of the fact that the natural sequence for healthy growth is ignored.

Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, said the passuk hints to this blessing. If a person keeps the mitzvah of “The land shall observe a Shabbat for Hashem” as prescribed by the Torah, then, “Six years you shall plant your field” without having to rest every other year.

Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, explained the verse in a novel way. He said that when is it that a person is permitted to rely on a miracle and refrain from planting and yet still have Hashem provide his needs? Only when Hashem commanded one to do so! Only when a person keeps the laws of Shemittah as Hashem wants, will Hashem bless his water and produce. The blessing will be that one will be able to eat a little and be satisfied. However, in the other years one must not rely on a miracle, as is stated, “Six years you shall plant your field.” In the other six years one MUST plant his fields.

This lesson may be applied to one’s daily life. For example, there are times when one calculates that the time he would pray with a minyan is time he could profit in business and, therefore, he may skip tefillah b’tzibbur to take advantage of an opportunity.

There was once a businessman who learned after tefillah every morning before setting out to work. One morning he scheduled an early meeting with an important customer. Fearing heavy traffic or some unforeseen delay, he changed his routine and skipped his morning learning to set out extra early for his office. As planned, he arrived early for the appointment. However, not as planned, he waited nervously for his client who arrived about an hour late due to an unforeseen delay. The customer arrived at exactly the time the seller would have reached his office had he not cancelled his morning class. The reality is that the way to profit is to do the will of Hashem by living according to halachah. Trust in Hashem, and no loss will be incurred. In other situations, when halachah does not demand a specific behavior, one should not rely on miracles but instead must do things in the natural way. Six years you shall work — even if it depletes the fertility of your field — and the seventh will produce miraculously — because you kept the laws of the Torah faithfully.

Shabbat shalom.