May 19, 2022 by Jeremy Rosen
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“When you come to the land I give you, the land must receive a period of rest, a Sabbath to God.
Hence the law of the Liberation of the Seventh Year, the Shmitah, is very similar to medieval crop rotation and good agricultural practices. However, calling it a divine rest adds a spiritual dimension in addition to the physical dimension.
Additionally, the Torah then discusses people who are going through difficult times and the importance of helping them. This includes lending money without interest charges to help people fend for themselves and not depend on charity.
For us today, the idea of a sabbatical is to take time to nurture our minds, study, take a step back and take a step back.
We can say that these laws are no longer applicable, so why bother? We do not know the reasons for the laws. For thousands of years, our commentators of all generations have tried to find them. But we cannot know for sure. What we can do is find relevance and purpose that will give us guidance for life in the times we live in. We can look for recurring themes as a clue to what’s most important and take them as messages.
On the one hand, we learn to respect the land, to cultivate it and to appreciate it. And from this we can deduce how important it is to feed human beings too. Either way, there will be good times and bad times. Times when we must go beyond our immediate selfish needs and deal with famines, natural disasters and human suffering. Think of others.
The Talmud asks why these laws are specifically related to Mount Sinai. Were not all the laws given there? There is a Talmudic principle that when a law is taken out of context or repeated, it affirms a universal principle. Laws are necessary, for all societies and for everyone. But if we consider them only as laws rather than the ideas and spirit behind them, we will miss the point. And here the point is that the land and the people should be taken care of and all the laws are aimed at achieving these goals, the physical material and the spiritual.
We have had a visceral connection to our land and our communities for over three thousand years. Land is very important. She is our mother in metaphorical terms. But people matter more.
Leviticus Chapter 25 at 26:2