May 7, 2021
25 Iyar 5781
Candle Lighting: 7:17 p.m.
The opening verse of B’har B’Chukkotai, the double portion that we read this week, reminds us that the laws of the Shemitah sabbatical year were given at Mount Sinai. The Shemitah year is a year-long break in all things agricultural. In that year, Jews are forbidden to plant or reap food in the land of Israel, or to eat food that is the result of deliberate cultivation. The prohibition is still observed by some Jews in Israel today.
Rashi asks the question as to why we had to be specifically reminded that the laws about the Shemitah year were given at Sinai, when all of the mitzvot were given at Sinai. The Lebuveche rebbe provides a beautiful answer. He tells us that is because the observance of the Shemitah year required us to have faith. By not planting in the seventh year, we were trusting that God would sustain us in both the seventh and the eighth year.
We have all been in trust-demanding situations before. In fact, that’s where we are right now. We have entered a time of change and uncertainty about the future, a time when we may not know what comes next or how we can move forward. Even so, we need to have faith that it will all work out in the end.
But faith alone is not enough. To survive and thrive during the Shemitah period, the Israelites had to work in partnership with each other and the land to make the sixth-year crop larger than normal. The Shemitah year reminds us that faith should go along with a partnership for action. We work with each other and the world around us to do everything we can to set up ourselves, our families, and our community for success. But there are no guarantees that our own efforts will be enough. We still have faith that by the grace of God, everything will work.
With all of the craziness, going on in our lives and the world around, may we continue both to work with each other and to have faith. Faith is what will help us navigate the challenges we face in our lives, in our families, and in our community. The partnership for action that goes along with faith will help us emerge from this pandemic and other challenging changes stronger, more connected to one another, and more committed to our tradition and community than ever before.
Rabbi Josh Dorsch