Parashat Behar- Letting the Blessing Flow
Parashat Behar discusses the fascinating Misva of Shemita, which requires abstaining from all agricultural work in Eretz Yisrael every seventh year. Additionally, all produce that grows in the seventh year may not be harvested and stored by the owners, and must instead be left for anybody who wishes to take it.
The Torah anticipated that people might wonder how they could survive observing such a command: "If you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, given that we will not plant or collect our produce?’" (25:20). G-d responds: "I shall command My blessing for you in the sixth year, and [the land] shall yield produce for the three years – you will plant in the eighth year and feed off the old produce until the ninth year, when its produce arrives…" (25:21-22).
In other words, the Torah is telling the people: "Work less, and you’ll earn more."
To put this into terms we can relate to, imagine a businessman closing his store for an entire year, and being guaranteed that he will earn greater profits this way. Business will be so good in the sixth year, before the store closes for the seventh, that the owner will be even better off by closing for the seventh year than if he would if he remains open for that year.
Of course, no business consultant would ever recommend such a strategy for increasing revenue.
And this is precisely the message of Shemita – that it is Hashem, and not our business endeavors, that brings us our livelihood. The Torah commands the people to do something that should, by natural causes, result in financial ruin, assuring them that it will bring them great prosperity, instead – thereby reinforcing the belief that although we are required to work hard to earn a living, the success of our work depends solely and entirely on G-d, as it is He, and only He, who brings us our sustenance.
We might ask, however, why does G-d say in the verses cited above that He will "command" His blessing during the sixth year to sustain the people? A "command" refers to something which could meet with resistance, that people might not want to do. How is this term appropriate when speaking about G-d’s blessing? Does G-d need to "command" His blessing?
A powerful explanation to this verse was suggested by Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk (1717-1786). He noted that the question, "What shall we eat in the seventh year?" is, in truth, misguided. After all, G-d fed Beneh Yisrael manna for forty years in the desert, when they had no fields at all and were completely incapable of producing their own food. He brought ten miraculous plagues upon the Egyptians, and split the sea to allow Beneh Yisrael to cross. For that matter, He created the universe. Is there any question that He could sustain us if we don’t work the land once in seven years? Compared to other things G-d has done and does, this is no big deal at all. The farmer who asked, "What shall we eat in the seventh year?" should never have asked such a question, because it is obvious that G-d can provide sustenance regardless of how much or how little the farmer works.
And for this reason, Rav Elimelech explained, G-d responds that He will "command" His blessing. If the people don’t ask this question, and trust that Hashem will provide for them, then the blessing flows naturally. But when they lack faith, and they begin worrying and wondering how they will survive, then Hashem has to "command" the blessing. Anxiety about our livelihood causes a "blockage" in the pipelines of blessing, and thus G-d needs to "push" His blessing through the blocked pipes. This is the meaning of the phrase, "I shall command My blessing."
If we want the blessing to flow, we should place our full trust in the Almighty’s ability and kindness. We must believe that He can and wants to care for us and support us, that we don’t need to worry, that no matter what the circumstances are, He will provide our needs. Although we must be responsible and put in the effort to support ourselves, we must place our trust in G-d and realize that ultimately, He provides our livelihood and is always there helping us. If we live with this faith, then we will never need to worry, and will always feel confident and secure that our needs are being cared for.