This week’s parasha opens with the commandments of Shemitah and Yovel, which are the years every seven and every fifty years that we let the land rest. We don’t do any work on our farms and crops during these years, mainly to show that we trust in Hashem and the reward He gives to those who follow these special laws.
The Torah continues to talk about laws of transferring land between owners, cities set aside for the tribe of Levi, and preventing poverty among the Jewish people. We learn laws about having an eved ivri, a Jewish slave, and the parasha ends off with emphasizing the importance of not making idols, that we have to keep Shabbos, and revere Hashem’s sanctuary.
Below is a first-hand account of a modern day Shemitah story:
“My name is Dov Weiss, and I was one of a group of about thirty young men that started the moshav (agricultural settlement) of Komemiyut, in the south of Israel. It was in 1950, after we had completed our army service. I was still a bachelor then. Among the founders was also the well known Torah scholar and rabbinical authority, Rabbi Benyamin Mendelson, of blessed memory. He had previously immigrated to Israel from Poland and had served as the rabbi of Kfar Ata.
At first we lived in tents, in the middle of a barren wilderness. The nearest settlements to ours were several kibbutzim associated with the left-wing Shomer Hatzair movement: Gat, Gilon, and Negvah. Several of our members supported themselves by working at Kibbutz Gat, the closest to us, doing different types of manual labor. Others worked in our fields, planting wheat, barley, rye and other grains and legumes. I myself drove a tractor. Our produce, which grew throughout the 15,000 or so dunam (nearly 4000 acres) allotted us, we sold to bakeries and factories.
At that time, there were not yet water pipes reaching our moshav. We had to content ourselves with what could be grown in dry rugged fields. Every few days we would make a trip to Kibbutz Negvah, about 20 kilometers distant, to fill large containers with drinking water.
The second year we were there, 5711 on the Jewish calendar (1950-1951), was the shmitah year which comes every seventh year in which the Torah commands to desist from all agricultural work. We were among the very few settlements in Israel at the time to observe the laws of the Sabbatical year and refrain from working the land. Instead, we concentrated on building and succeeded that year in completing much of the permanent housing. The moshav gradually developed and expanded and more and more families moved in, as well as a number of young singles. By the end of the year we numbered around eighty people.
As the Sabbatical year drew to its completion we prepared to renew our farming activities. For this we required seed to sow crops, but for this purpose we could only use wheat from the sixth year, the year that preceded the shmitah, for the produce of the seventh year is forbidden for this type of use. We went around to all the agricultural settlements in the area, near and far, seeking good quality seed from the previous years’ harvest, but no one could fulfill our request.
All we were able to find was some old wormy seed that, for reasons that were never made clear to us, was laying around in a storage shed in Kibbutz Gat. No farmer in his right mind anywhere in the world would consider using such poor quality seed to plant with, not if he expected to see any crops from it. The kibbutzniks at Gat all burst into loud derisive laughter when we revealed that we were actually interested in this infested grain that had been rotting away for a few years in some dark, murky corner.
“If you really want it, you can take all that you like, and for free, with our compliments,” they offered in amusement.
We consulted with Rabbi Mendelson. His response was: “Take it. The One who tells wheat to sprout from good seed can also order it to grow from inferior wormy leftover seed as well.”
In any case, we didn’t have an alternative. So we loaded all the old infested seed that the kibbutz had offered to us free of charge onto a tractor and returned to Komemiyut.
The laws of shmitah forbade us to plow and turn over the soil till after Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the eighth year, so we didn’t actually sow the seed until sometime in November. This was two or three months after all the other farmers had already completed their planting.
That year, the rains were late in coming. The farmers from all the kibbutzim and moshavim gazed upward longingly for the first rain. They began to feel desperate, but the heavens were unresponsive, remaining breathlessly still and blue.
Finally it rained. When? The day after we completed planting our thousand dunam of wheat fields with those wormy seeds, the sky opened up and the rains exploded down to saturate the parched earth.
The following days we were nervous in anticipation but we turned our attention to strengthening our faith and trust in G-d. Anyway, it did not take a long time for the hand of the Al-mighty to be revealed clearly to all. Those wheat fields that were planted during the seventh year, months before the first rain, sprouted only small weak crops. At the same time, our fields, sowed with the old infested seed and long after the appropriate season, were covered with an unusually large and healthy yield of wheat, in comparison to any standard.
The story of “the miracle at Komemiyut” spread quickly. Farmers from all the agricultural settlements in the region came to see with their own eyes what they could not believe when they heard the rumors about it.”
(Quoted directly from chabad.org)
Every time I hear this story I’m wowed anew by the trust that these Jews put in our Father in heaven to deliver on a promise He made thousands of years ago. And He did!
We should all merit to see Hashem’s Hand so clearly in our lives!
Have a super Shabbos!