Between the coronavirus and summer vacation, it’s possible to miss something very important: the coming year, 5782, is a shmittah (sabbatical) year. This week I met representatives of Otzar-Ha’aretz, an organization that encourages Torah-observant agriculture, and the following are a few thoughts I took away with me:
Exactly like Shabbat that arrives every seven days, the shmittah arrives every seven years and is meant to calm, refresh, and restart the entire economy. To allow land and people to rest. Are you familiar with all the preparations and arrangements that we make prior to the arrival of Shabbat? So, too, we are meant to feel similarly at this time as we prepare for the shmittah, a entire year of Shabbat for the land.
Many prefer “not to get involved” with shmittah. Truly, who needs such a headache? But, at the same time, why try to avoid kedushah (holiness)? Why miss an opportunity to observe this special mitzvah? For two thousands years, throughout the exile from our land, Jews could only study the subject of shmittah, but now we can live it, so why shouldn’t we?
Once, we lived in an agrarian society. Today not all of us are farmers, but we can still care about the farmers of our generation. This is an opportunity to support Israeli agriculture throughout the coming year and to learn about Otzar Beit Din, a halachically approved method of distributing shmittah produce.
And even if we are not farmers, we can relate to the coming year more spiritually and regard it as a year to fill ourselves with content. We must prepare in advance to devote more time to learning, to family, to volunteering, to personal development – to things for which we do not have enough time during the daily rat race. We have an entire year to take a kind of Shabbat rest from our typical concerns. Shana tova, or perhaps we should say – Shabbat shalom!
What Do You Take From A Burning House?
“Shalom Sivan, David Saada here. My wife and I recently moved into Moshav Beit Meir and today we were forced to leave due to the huge fire in the Jerusalem hills. It is difficult to describe the feeling when you see black smoke clouds outside your home and they are telling you that you must evacuate. And you ask yourself: What is most important to take with you? All your life goes smoothly and suddenly you have just a few moments to ask: What is most valuable to you? It’s about survival and it’s frightening. I said to myself that I will leave here with just a few items and return to see all the rest of my possessions destroyed.
Now as I relive those last few seconds, I recall taking my tallit, tefillin, a few holy books, some books of Rav Nachman, the guitars and the cats. We left in our car in a panic after making sure our neighbors were alright. We drove through a cloud of smoke while flames threatened to burn down our house.
Baruch Hashem, we are okay, we are staying with my mother-in-law, our house is also okay, but it was still an earth-shattering experience. We received a ‘jolt’ for the month of Elul as we were compelled to ask ourselves: what’s most important in life?”
(Translation by Yehoshua Siskin)