“I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years.” — Leviticus 25:21
The Torah portion for this week is Behar, which means “on the mountain,” from Leviticus 25:1–26:2, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 32:6–22.
Every seven years in the land of Israel, God asks this question: Do you trust me? Hopefully, we can answer with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Yes, Lord, we trust You. We believe in You and believe that You run the world.
Then comes the real challenge. God says: Prove it!
In this week’s Torah portion, we learn about the laws of the sabbatical year. There is a seven-year cycle in which farmers may work their land for six years, but during the seventh year, the land must rest. Farmers cannot sow seeds or reap the harvest – for an entire year.
Now to put this into perspective, let’s imagine that every seven years, we were commanded to march into work and announce that we would be taking the year off. We’re not talking about a paid sabbatical; we’re talking about simply quitting our jobs for the year while living the same lifestyle that we have always maintained. At the conclusion of the year, we would fully expect to get our old jobs back, or to get another one that was even better.
That would be some act of faith. And that is exactly the kind of faith that God demands of Israel on every seventh year, even today. In the natural world, this kind of business practice would set a person up for bankruptcy. But God promises, “ I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years.” If we demonstrate our faith in God, then what should lead us to scarcity will instead lead us into abundance and blessing.
You see, God wants us to know that He’s got our backs. It’s not the fluctuations of the stock market or the luck of the real estate market that will determine our blessings. It’s not our clever ideas or working overtime that will yield promotions. God alone will deliver abundance and blessings in our lives. Sure, we’ve got to put in our effort and do our part, but the heavy lifting is God’s doing.
At the end of the day, it’s not the land that needs the rest; we need it! We need to stop worrying ourselves sick about how we’ll get by next week or in the next 20 years. We need to stop working so hard at making a living that we neglect to make a life. We need to trust in the Lord and step out in faith. As it says in Jeremiah 17: “ blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD . . . They will be like a tree planted by the water . . . It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit ” (vv. 7–8).
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President