Friday, May 13, 2011
Behar, Vayikra 25:3. Shmittah, Shabbos, and Working for a Living.
The Torah says that we will plant and harvest for six years, and then in the seventh year, we will let the land rest. שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים תִּזְרַע שָׂדֶךָ וְשֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים תִּזְמֹר כַּרְמֶךָ וְאָסַפְתָּ, אֶת תְּבוּאָתָהּ. וּבַשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן יִהְיֶה לָאָרֶץ. The Lubavitcher in his first Likutei Sichos asks, why say that you will work for the six years? Just say that the seventh year is assur! Same thing by Shabbos Breishis, Saturday— work six days, and on Shabbos don’t work. All that is necessary is to teach us the special laws pertaining to the seventh year and to the seventh day!
He answers that there are two avodos man has; one is to be mevareir the gashmius, that is, to suffuse gashmius with ruchnius through kiyum hamitzvos in this world, and that is the avodah of the weekdays and of the six years. The other is to draw one's self close to Hashem in a way of lema’ala miderech hateva. The weekday work is called Avodas Elokim, because ‘Elokim ‘ is gematria ‘hateva.’ The avodah of Shabbos is Avodah of (Yud Kei Vov Kei) Hashem, which is lema’ala miderech hateva. He says that each avodah depends on the other. Only a person that is mekadeish gashmius a whole week can come to Shabbos and rise above the teva, and only a person who is elevated by the kedushas Shabbos can be mekadeish the gashmius.
Note that ‘ultimate yield’ can mean many things; it can mean equal income, or fewer sudden losses or illnesses, or being satisfied with less, and so on. As I've discussed elsewhere, the the Gemara in Eiruvin 18 brings the pasuk in Parshas Noach, Breishis 8:11, that says “omro yona...” Let my food be bitter as olives from the hand of Hashem, rather than sweet as honey from the hands of man. I explained that although hashgachas Hashem predetermines whether a person will have enough to eat, it does not necessarily guarantee that the quality, or the quantity, or the pleasantness of the food will be the same as it otherwise would be. The Yonah said “I realize that by choosing to subsist directly from the yad Hashem I might have to settle for food that is as bitter as olives, while if I shnorr from Noach I would get food that is as sweet as honey, but I prefer the yad Hashem.” This is also clear in the Gemora in Sahnedrin 20a that says that in the generation of R’ Yehuda B’reb Ila’i that was characterized by universal limud hatorah, “hoyu sisha miskasim betallis echad.” The point is that what we think of as the bottom line is not the bottom line. There are many lines under it! The raw number that indicates ‘income’ is not absolute or interchangeable with other similar numbers! A person might have a high income but high tzaros, or be audited, or have tremendous personal expenses for unexpected needs or even meshugasen. Here, Hashem promises that the bottom line will not suffer because of the person’s keeping the mitzvos.
This lesson reinforces something we've discussed in the past. The Chasam Sofer says that the reason the Bris Milah is on the eighth day is to ensure that the child experience the beginning of a Shabbos and the end of a Shabbos. We explained that every Jewish child needs to learn that there is a Shabbos and there is a Motzei Shabbos. Just as the kedusha of Shabbos is essential, so, too, the work week, the mundane activities we undertake, must be imbued with the kedusha of Shabbos.