The Mitzva of Shmita as the Catalyst of Galut and Geula
The Days of ‘Bein HaMetzarim’- Longing for Redemption
Our enemies have become exceedingly haughty during these trying days of Bein HaMeitzarim. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation so that Israel’s name is remembered no more” (Tehillim 83:4). During this difficult period, our longing for the rebuilt Beit HaMikdash becomes stronger, our desire to see the final redemption come about is awakened. “Look! There he stands behind our wall” (Shir HaShirim 2:9). Chazal have already stated that “He who mourns over [the destruction of] Jerusalem, will merit to see its rejoicing”.
It is praiseworthy for one to mourn the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, and the reason for it. To know what it’s all about, to beseech Hashem for mercy, to do many good deeds, to deeply reflect upon what one can practically do in order to hasten the Geula and the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash.
Has The Merit of Our Fathers Been Forgotten?
The Holy Alshich expounds the following upon the passuk “Then will I remember my covenant with Yaakov, and also my covenant with Yitzchak, and also my covenant with Avraham will I remember; and I will remember the land” (Vayikra 26:42) which we’ve been screaming out to Hashem for two thousand years while requesting the geula, and mentioning the merit of our Forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. “Recall the covenant with Avraham and the binding of Yitzchak and return the bondage of the tents of Yaakov and redeem us for Your name’s sake.” Yet another winter has passed, the summer is almost over, and we still have not been redeemed. Bnei Yisroel are worried and concerned: has the merit of our Forefathers been forgotten from before Him, G-d forbid?
Hashem replies, “Then will I remember my covenant with Yaakov, and also my covenant with Yitzchak, and also my covenant with Avraham will I remember; and I will remember the land” (Vayikra 26:42). I have not forgotten, nor has the merit of the Forefathers been lost. However, “and I will remember the land”. Just as you are standing, screaming and reminding me of the merit of your Forefathers- so too is the land standing before me and screaming that the Jews have annulled the shmita year and render the Sabbatical year mundane. Therefore, even though I do indeed recall the ‘zchut Avot’, “For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees” (Vayikra 26:43). The Galut will continue until the Jews do tshuva out of love and then I will turn their sins into merits.
“The Eyes of G-d Are Forever Upon It”- Until When?
The Midrash on Tehillim expounds upon the following passuk “ You showed favor to Your land; You restored the captivity of Yaakov” (Tehillim 85:1). The Torah states: “a land about which Hashem your G-d is always concerned, because the eyes of Hashem are continuously on it throughout the entire year” (Dvarim 11:12). He is constantly watching this land, awaiting the time when the Jews will perform the mitzvot that G-d has commanded Bnei Yisroel, a time when they will tithe their food, keep the Shmita and Yovel years, and the rest of the mitzvot that they have been commanded to keep. That will be the time when they will please G-d, as He says “then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths”. Therefore, “ You showed favor to Your land”.
The Cause of the Galut- The Nullification of the Shmita Year
The mitzva of shmita is unique in the way that Pirkei Avot states that “Galut befalls the world” when the Shmita year is not kept. The source of this phenomenon is in sefer Vayikra, “Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths” (Vayikra 26:34).
The Midrash Tanchuma states “G-d said to Moshe, “You want them not to go into Galut? Warn them about Shmita and Yovel!”
And in the Midrash Agada: Come and see that HaKadosh Baruch Hu wanted Bnei Yisroel, and gave them a beautiful land. HaKadosh Baruch Hu said: Plant during the sixth year and let the land rest during the seventh, so that you will know that the land is mine, and I gave it to you as an inheritance, as it is written, “When you come to the land that I am giving to you, not with your sword and not with your bow, rather I am giving it to you.” But they did not do so, and they sinned and did not keep the Shmita and Yovel years, which caused them to be exiled. As it is written, “As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it” (Vayikra 26:35). “How many good things did Bnei Yisroel lose, until the spirit from on high will come down, until it returns, until it’s rebuilt, until He glorifies Jerusalem in the land.”
Nullifying the Shmita- Disconnecting from the Divine Source of Abundance
The sefer “Shem MiShmuel” writes that even though Eretz Yisroel’s soil is ‘nature’, it has been supernaturally blessed by the Divine source, and this is what maintains it. Therefore, when Jews go against the Shmita year, they cause the land to disconnect from its Divine source, and it disintegrates on its own.
We can all see that nullifying the mitzva of shmita that Bnei Yisroel have been commanded to keep, is one of the central causes of the prolongation of the Galut and the delay of the Geula.
Strengthening the Mitzva of Shmita Will Bring About the Geula
Even HaGaon Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz zt”l pointed out that “this mitzva is neither meant for individuals alone nor have we been commanded to observe it for a short period only, rather it is meant for the entire nation and has been commanded upon generations, and due to the nullification of this mitzva we have been punished and have been exiled from our land. But by observing this commandment we will merit to be redeemed very soon, speedily in our days, amen.”
During these trying times when “Tzion is crying bitterly and Yerushalayim cries out, my heart, my heart is grieving the casualties, my intestines, my intestines grieve the casualties”.
Oh nation of Hashem, be strong and let us strengthen ourselves- for our nation’s sake and for our land’s sake. Let us take upon ourselves to fulfill the mitzva of shmita kehilchasa, by letting the land rest, by observing shmita lemehadrin without any leniencies, so that Hashem will remove His wrath from upon us and generously fulfill all our hearts’ desires.
The time is ripe to join the Giborei Co’ach, who observe the mitzva of shmita kehilchasa, and as we heard from the Gedolei HaDor shlita, that if the Galut was decreed because of the sin of nullifying the shmita year, the good is greater than the bad five hundred-fold, and the proper fulfillment of the mitzva of shmita will surely hasten the Geula, speedily in our days, Amen.