And if you will ask, “What will we eat in the seventh year; for we will not sow or gather in our crops?!” I will enact My blessing for you in the sixth year and it will yield a crop lasting for three years (25:20-21)
Ostensibly, the mitzvah of Shmitta and Yovel — leaving the land fallow and not growing crops — appears to be a difficult mitzvah to appreciate. After all, the mitzvah causes landowners anguish over their inability to provide sustenance for their families. And while it is true that Hashem will bless the previous crop, it appears from the Torah that this only comes in response to the landowners’ distress.
Interestingly, the Tzror HaMor says that this is precisely the point of this mitzvah! He explains that while the poor live in constant worry whether they will be able to provide food for their families, the rich generally take their lifestyle for granted. So much so, that they often forget about the suffering of the poor. Therefore, Hashem instructs that wealthy of society to refrain from producing crops so that they will also wonder what they will have to eat and how they will provide for their families — the same feelings that the poor people face every day. As a result of being placed in the same situation as those less fortunate, once the Shmitta and Yovel years end, they will feel more responsible and willing to provide for the needs of those less fortunate.
This week, I personally came to appreciate this message. As I drive to a Kollel in the afternoons — often at the last minute — I occasionally pass people who are looking for a ride to different places on the way (“tremping” is a common form of transportation in Israel!) Because I want to reach my chavrusa on time, I do not always stop to pick up people on the way because it will usually cause me some delay. However, this week, my car radiator pipe needed repairing and I found myself without a car for the day. After the bus dropped me close to my home, I began to walk up the steep hill ten minutes from where I live. In the sun, with a suit and hat, I really began to appreciate the difficulty of those who make this walk on a daily basis. I also felt the relief and gratitude when someone stopped to give me a ride up the hill. For me, this was my “Shmitta and Yovel” for it forced me to appreciate the difficulty that others face, which I had come to take for granted. As such, I decided, bli neder, to set out earlier on my daily route so that I have the time to pick up anyone who wants along the way.
This is one example of applying the Tzror HaMor’s message in our daily lives. I would never have wanted Hashem to give me the car trouble that I faced, but I am grateful to Him for reminding me of what I had forgotten.