God’s Dominion

Yael Eckstein  |  May 27, 2024

Close up image of a wheat field with hills and a cloudy blue sky behind it. God's dominion

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD.’” — Leviticus 25:2

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Behar, which means “the mountain,” from Leviticus 25:1–26:2.

The Shmita year is the biblically mandated sabbatical—or “year of release”—of the land that happens every seventh year. It last happened between 2021 and 2022. And when it does, it has very real consequences for Jews living in Israel because during Shmita, we cannot work our land or plant new things. The entire land of Israel is to be at rest.

For some, like my husband and myself, the impact is minimal. We had been putting off doing some work in our garden for a few years, but decided to plant trees and plants during spring before the Shmita year began on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, that September.

But it’s not just people’s backyards that were affected. More and more farmers in Israel took the courageous and faithful step of letting their farmland lay fallow. Many of these farmers placed large banners in front of their farms saying, “This farm observes the sabbatical year.” 

I can’t tell you how much seeing those signs moved me and inspired me. These modern farmers took a leap of faith of biblical proportions, just as the Israelites did thousands of years ago, trusting that God would take care of them, even though they would not work their land or sell their produce for an entire year.

God’s Dominion

We find the origin of the sabbatical year in this week’s Torah portion: “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD.”

The final words of this verse, “a sabbath to the LORD,” teach us an important lesson. Why do we have the Sabbath day of rest each week? While it’s true that we need a day to rest and recuperate each week, that is not the reason for the Sabbath. The Bible calls the seventh day “a sabbath to the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:10) because it’s more than a day of rest. It’s a time to acknowledge God’s dominion over our lives and to connect with Him.

The same is true of the sabbatical Shmita. By letting our land lay fallow, we acknowledge that all the land is God’s and whatever blessings we get from the land are gifts from God alone.

It takes an incredible amount of courage and faith to observe the laws of Shmita, but just as God promised His children thousands of years ago, those who learn to trust Him during this year will be richly rewarded.

Your Turn:

What might you consider letting rest or releasing for a period of time and trusting God? Let God know that you acknowledge that He is the source of all the blessings in your life.