Just When We’re About to Give Up: The Shmita Year

The law of Shmita (letting the earth rest every seven years) means we can’t work the ground and plant again until the eighth year. Rabbinic commentary and common sense point out how unlikely it is that the sixth and most depleted, weary year of production from our overworked soil could suddenly provide enough food to last not only for the sixth, but for the seventh and eighth years as well.

Since we are called to rest along with the land, and devote ourselves to prayer and study for the seventh year (which is a mind-boggling expectation in itself), we need to be fed that year and for most of the following year until that harvest comes in.

Unthinkable! How could we, who are so focused on production and the work of our hands, possibly set that much time aside—not working or planning for our needs for an entire year?! It’s hard enough to do that for a whole day each week. I find my fingers itching to get back to my lists and my deadlines frequently each Shabbat. I have to keep my computer off all day or the temptation will be too strong to just check my emails from time to time, to make sure my clients don’t need me. You know the drill.

How could an entire YEAR spent only in prayer and study possibly put food on the table and money in the bank? Yet since ancient times, the seven-year cycle has been honored by Jewish farmers and somehow the people not only survived, but thrived.

What a level of trust it requires to set down our tools and open our hands to receive when we are so wired to do things, make things, and provide for ourselves. Yet if we don’t take that sacred time to rest and focus on the foundation of our existence, we may instead find the seventh year to be one of famine and burnout, destruction and loss.

Just as the tired, worn-out soil craves that seventh year of rest, many of us are just about to give up. We might be at the end of our energy, feeling useless or hopeless, unable to make it all happen like we used to. Strangely, this is exactly the right time to step back and trust, to stop striving and worrying. God has promised to take care of us if we’ll follow the plan, as counterintuitive as it seems, and dishes out a triple shot of provision to boot.

 

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