April 21, 2024
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April 21, 2024
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Not just one day out of the week, or one week out of the month or even one month out of the year. The mitzvah of shemitah—where one leaves his field abandoned—applies for an entire year straight. Where does this ability—this strength to follow through on this mitzvah—come from?

The midrash applies the verse (in Tehillim) that discusses the “giborei koach (strong warriors)” to refer to those who abide by the laws of shemitah (Vayikra Rabbah, 1:1). The Gemara, however, applies the term “giborei koach” to Bnei Yisrael as a whole—who showed their single-minded devotion and desire to accept the Torah when they said, “na’aseh v’nishma” (Shabbat 88). We, perhaps, see from here that this aforementioned strength is inherent—it’s part of who we are, we were created with it; and it’s not just what gives us the ability to keep shemitah, it—even more so—propelled us to confidently and blindly accept the Torah.

Yet, we can suggest further that there’s a deeper rooted middah that gives us this unique strength: Almost immediately after, the aforementioned Gemara records an incident of a zeduki who exclaimed to Rava, “O impulsive people, who put their mouths before their ears!” (Meaning, you people committed yourselves to observe the Torah even before knowing whether you have the ability to adhere to it). Rava responded back, “We … go in the ways of complete (faith) … ” (meaning, we trusted Hashem and relied on Him that He wouldn’t burden us with something we could not uphold).

By Rava emphasizing and implying that it was the trait of faith and trust that enabled our acceptance of the Torah—and the fact that the Gemara brings this story almost immediately after it says that Bnei Yisrael who said “na’aseh v’nishma” are considered “giborei koach”—perhaps, this shows us that bitachon was the middah that gave us that strength, the will and desire to accept the Torah. Therefore, bitachon—perhaps—underlies the character of the “giborei koach,” and thus, the shemitah observers who may exemplify this middah—par excellence—like no other, are, therefore, highlighted and singled out by the midrash as “giborei koach.” It’s possible, therefore, that the root of this inner strength—bitachon—is inherent in our nature and part of our makeup—it’s implanted and imprinted into our energy and “spiritual DNA,” so to speak. We may just need to tap into it, utilize it and enhance it—to bring it to its fullest potential.

In fact, among the various underpinnings, explanations and purposes for this mitzvah of shemitah that the Sefer Hachinuch (84) states, one of them is in order for us to increase and enhance our bitachon in Hashem. And, as Rav Chaim Shmuelvitz asserts—of all the reasons offered in explanation of this mitzvah—the most central is this notion that shemitah is to develop our bitachon in Hashem (“Sichos Mussar,” 69).

Indeed, shemitah reinforces and enhances our recognition and belief that Hashem is the cause—the One who provides for us and gives us sustenance, and not our hishtadlut, not our efforts. When one abstains from tending to his field, and renders his field ownerless and free for all to take, this could inspire a much higher level of trust that Hashem is the One Who ultimately provides for him and his family.

While the necessity of this bitachon is particularly emphasized in the context of the mitzvah of shemitah, however, this idea of bitachon essentially spreads and is crucial to the entire Torah—to the performance of all mitzvot: Our parsha introduces shemitah by stating, “And Hashem spoke to Moshe on Har Sinai, saying,” and the Torah then continues to discuss the laws of shemita. The question is: Why does the Torah here say “on Har Sinai” specifically in the context of the laws of shemitah, as opposed to other laws? Were not all of the mitzvot stated at Har Sinai?

Rashi brings an explanation from the Torat Kohanim, that this is to teach us that just as with shemitah—its general rules and its fine points were stated at Sinai—so too, with all of the mitzvot were their general rules and fine points stated at Sinai. Yet, this explanation seemingly doesn’t fully explain why the Torah chose specifically the context of shemitah to teach us this as opposed to any other law in the Torah!

I heard from Rav Nissan Kaplan who explained that the Torah mentions “Har Sinai” by shemitah to teach us that just like shemitah teaches the importance of having bitachon, so too, is bitachon essential in order to fulfill all the other mitzvot. I thought to add that we could further see the centrality of bitachon—in relation to keeping all of the Torah—from the aforementioned story of Rava. It’s, perhaps, evident from there that since bitachon was the key factor that enabled us to accept and keep the Torah, bitachon is, therefore, part and parcel of observing all mitzvot, and is necessary for a genuine practicing Jew who wants to observe the Torah in its optimal fashion.

Based on this, we could elaborate on Rav Kaplan’s explanation by suggesting that (and maybe this is what the Torat Kohanim is hinting to) the reason why shemitah, in particular, was chosen to teach us that all other mitzvot in their entirety were given at Har Sinai, is because since shemitah’s most central and unique lesson is bitachon. This also comes to emphasize that bitachon is crucial for all the other mitzvot that were also given at “Har Sinai”—i.e, that bitachon is fundamental in order for all mitzvot to be fulfilled and in order for them to be fulfilled in their entirety, both their “general rules” and their “fine points.” As, indeed, bitachon was the key element that enabled our movement to accept the Torah and keep the mitzvot which were given at “Har Sinai.”

It would emerge that although shemitah might be the most challenging and may—as a result—most necessitate the middah of bitachon, really, essentially all mitzvot and keeping all of Torah in its optimal manner may require bitachon. As the Chovot Halevavot says that among all other things that are necessary for the service of Hashem, the most necessary is bitachon! We see from here how vital bitachon is when it comes to doing Hashem’s mitzvot—it may be the most important middah to succeed in avodat Hashem. When one has bitachon and firmly believes that Hashem decrees his success, then one can find it much easier to find the time and space to devote oneself to Torah and mitzvot, both quantitatively and qualitatively—with a sense of focus and peace of mind—knowing that if this is what Hashem wants him to do, then he can’t lose out, but only gain.

From the above, we could learn that the greater one’s faith and trust in Hashem, the greater one will “make it,” succeed and excel in all areas of avodat Hashem.


Binyamin is a graduate of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchanan, and of Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

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