In this week’s reading, we learn about the commandment of Shmittah, the Sabbatical of the Land. The Torah says: “Six years shall you sow your field, and six years shall you prune your vineyards, and gather its produce. But in the seventh year, it will be a Holy Sabbath, a Sabbath to God; you shall not sow your field, and you will not prune your vineyards.” [Leviticus 25:3-4]
The commentary of the Kli Yakar teaches a powerful lesson from this verse, as elucidated in the Yalkut Lekach Tov. A person could think that the land is his, and he can do as he wishes with it. If he is intelligent and uses good strategic planning, then his fields will flourish — and he will deserve credit in accordance with his intelligence and expertise.
This, says the Kli Yakar, is a mistake. With the mitzvah of Shmittah, the Sabbath of the land in the seventh year, G-d tells us that the land is His, and all success is His. “Six years shall you sow your field” is a guarantee, which applies in Israel when the Temple is standing and the land is fully ours. The Torah says that a person during those times can plant a field for a full six years, and the field will not become weak. There will be no need for crop rotation and other strategies to keep the land fertile.
Not only this, but we are promised that fields will flourish precisely when they should be weakest. “And if you will say, ‘what will we eat in the seventh year, when we will not sow nor will we gather our grain?’ I have commanded my Blessing to you in the sixth year, and you will produce grain for three years.” [25:20-21] G-d promises that the land will be blessed — not the year following Shmittah, but immediately before it, when it should be underperforming due to overuse.
Once we know this, that the field will be at its best in the sixth year, we understand that letting the field rest in the seventh is not for natural benefits. It is not for the land’s benefit, but for ours.
Shmittah helps us to recognize that ultimately it is not our own efforts that bring success. Our efforts are merely the necessary vessel, the receptacle of G-d’s Blessing. So we do not need to overwork in order to succeed.
Where, then, must we devote our efforts? The answer comes later, in the second part of this week’s reading, Bechukosai. “If you will follow My statutes and observe My laws and you will do them; then I have given your rains in their time and the land will give its produce, and the tree of the field will give its fruit.” [26:3-4] And Rashi asks, if the Torah says “observe My laws,” than what is intended by “follow My statutes?” And he answers: “that you will toil in Torah.”
The Torah first tells us, don’t spend too much time on material pursuits, as Hashem determines who is truly successful. So where should we invest our efforts? We must “toil in Torah,” and that will bring — material success! Doing mitzvos and learning Torah is what brings true riches into our lives.
Torah is where we need to invest our efforts, to learn and to grow. And it is the one area where we are guaranteed to see our efforts meet with success!