In this week’s edition of Letter & Spirit, we present a letter of the Rebbe in which he expounds on the very special and supernatural aspects of the mitzvah of shmitah. The letter was written through the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel, and was made available by his son-in-law Rabbi Sholom Ber Shapiro.
The Rebbe explains that Shmitah gives us the inspiration to carry us through each and every day of the year – exercising our mastery of nature as we come directly under Divine providence, even miraculous divine intervention, with the observance of Torah and mitzvos.
This new weekly feature is made possible by a collaboration between CrownHeights.info and Nissan Mindel Publications. Once a week we will be publishing unique letters of the Rebbe that were written originally in the English language, as dictated by the Rebbe to Rabbi Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5733
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to be informed of your forthcoming Building Dinner. May G-d grant that it should be with much hatzlocho in every respect.
The current Shmittah Year is an auspicious one, for the Sabbatical Year corresponds to the Shabbos day which is the source of blessing for all the days of the week. In also has a meaningful message for us, even though the laws pertaining to the cessation of all agricultural activity during the year of Shmittah do not apply outside of the Holy Land. Nonetheless, as in the case of certain other mitzvos which do not apply “at our time” (in the absence of the Bais Hamikdash), their inner spiritual content and message are eternal, for the Torah in all its details is eternal. Consequently, these mizvos too, can and ought to be made part of our actual experience, in our daily life, here and now.
The basic point of Shmittah is that when a Jew possesses a field and has title to it, and the Torah itself recognizes his ownership and obliges him to dedicate part of its produce to terumah and ma’aser/tithes, etc., the Jew must at the same time recognize that the real owner and master is G-d, Who declares “The earth is Mine.” And the recognition of this truth is not to be merely a matter of symbolic formality. It had to be implemented in a tangible way, by actually renouncing ownership to the field, ceasing all work on it and abandoning its produce to all and sundry, even to the beasts of the field. All this for the duration of the entire year. Moreover, as in the case of all mitzvos which have to be fulfilled with joy, a Jew fulfills the mitzvos of Shmittah likewise most joyfully, realizing how greatly a mitzvah is to be cherished and that there is no greater happiness than doing G-d’s Will. On His part, G-d explicitly promises an immediate and supernatural reward for the observance of Shmittah, assuring a three-fold yield on the sixth year, to produce for three full years.
Thus, Shmittah, like Shabbos, reminds us that although the Torah expects a Jew to engage in matters of parnosso in the natural way (“Six days shall you toil and do all work”), yet when it comes to yiddishkeit, the observance of Torah and mitzvos, the Jew is placed over and above nature and he comes directly under Divine Providence, even miraculous Divine intervention. If in the realm of the material a Jew is not always complete master, he is so in the realm of the spiritual. It is up to him to exercise this mastery and to do this not on special days in the year such as the High Holidays, Shabbos and Yom Tov, or on special occasions, but each and every day of the year, the weekdays as well as Shabbos and Yom Tov, etc., just as Shmittah encompasses the entire year and each and every day of it.
In light of the above, and in the spirit of thecurrent Shmittah Year, I trust that the participants in the Dinner and all who cherish Torah-true Yiddishkeit, will respond generously to the occasion and give the Lubavitch Foundation the financial and moral support needed to carry on its vital program of strengthening and spreading Yiddishkeit in your worthy community, in an ever growing measure. And, as above, G-d’s reward will surely be “in kind”, bestowing a supernatural abundance of blessings to each and all, in all needs, materially and spiritually.
With prayerful wishes for hatzlocho and
With esteem and blessing,
The above letter is from the archives of Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, a personal secretary to the Previous Rebbe and The Rebbe, whose responsibilities included the Rebbe’s correspondence in English.
Many of the letters are now being published in The Letter and the Sprit, a series of volumes by Nissan Mindel Publications.
We thank Rabbi Sholom Ber Shapiro, director of Nissan Mindel Publications and the one entrusted by Rabbi Mindel, his father-in-law, with his archives, for making these letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.