By: Samantha Ebner (11th Grade)
In this week’s Torah portion, Parsha Behar, the Torah discusses the mitzvah of shmita, the prohibition from working one’s land every seventh year. Similar to Shabbat, a day of rest on the seventh day of the week, one must refrain from working their land every seventh year for the whole year.
This means that for six years one may sow seeds, prune the plants to help them grow, and harvest fruits and vegetables in order to sell them and make money; they may work their land as usual. However, in the seventh year (the year of shmita) one cannot plant or harvest anything on their land. If something does grow, it is free for anyone to take; in essence, the shmita year deems all land ownerless.
After 49 years, or seven shmita cycles, the fiftieth year is the yovel, or jubilee, year. The yovel year is another year of rest for the land and is essentially a second shmita. This implies that all land sales are completed under the condition that the buyer would need to give the land back to the seller at the time of yovel.
Realizing that this may concern some people, the Torah tells us not to worry about a possible lack of food during those two back-to-back years of rest. The Torah states that Hashem promises that during the sixth year, the year right before the shmita year, the land will produce enough food to last that year and the two additional years. This ensures that landowners will have enough food to live on for the two years of rest.
This idea that Hashem will provide for us for the two years is representative of a core value of Judaism. We are meant to trust that Hashem will provide enough food for us and ensure that we will be able to live on the food of one year. This teaches the lesson that Jews should have faith in Hashem and to trust that Hashem will always provide for the Jewish people.