Postscript: A Sweet Story for Shabbos

The previous letter, “Radical Stories for Rosh Hashanah,” had a brief discussion on the Sabbatical Year, when we are to fulfill the following land-related mitzvos:

“Six years shall you sow your land and gather in its produce. But in the seventh year, you shall let it go and abandon it, and the needy of your people shall eat, and the wildlife of the field shall eat what is left; so shall you do to your vineyard and your olive grove.” (Exodus 23:10,11)


“Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When you come into the land that I will give you, the land shall observe a Shabbos for Hashem. For six years you may sow your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard; and you may gather in its crop. But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Shabbos for Hashem; your field you shall not sow and your vineyard you shall not prune.” (Leviticus 25:1-4)


Through this mitzvah, explains the Talmud, Hashem is telling Israel:


“Sow for six years and let go of the land in the seventh year in order that you know that the land is Mine.” (Sanhedrin 39a)


The Sabbatical Year therefore reminds us that we are not the owners of the earth. With this realization, we can fulfill the mandate to serve as custodians of the earth – “to serve it and to protect it” (Genesis 2:15).


Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman spoke to the Torah-committed farmers who were affiliated with Agudath Israel and called upon them to properly observe the mitzvos of the Sabbatical Year. For example, on the eve of the Sabbatical Year – known in Hebrew as “Shmittah” – he traveled to Kibbutz Chofetz Chaim in order to strengthen the spirit of the farmers. He spoke to them about the holiness of this “Shabbos for Hashem” – a holiness which permeates each plant and each “boimelah” (an affectionate Yiddish term for a tree). As the Sabbatical Year was about to begin, he suggested that every farmer go over and wish a tree, “Good Shabbos, boimelah!”  He himself then kissed the earth and wished it a “Good Shabbos”!


Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

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