On Jealousy and the Sabbatical Year

Sometimes, we can be very clever. We can figure out ways to avoid the straightforward observance of a commandment. At times, this can be critical, such as the sale of chometz to a non-Jew before Passover. It is legitimate, utilizing a real loophole to save people for whom Passover could be financially ruinous (eg. a supermarket owner).

On such loophole relates to the prohibition of working the fields in the 7th year. The Rabbinate instituted a similar sale of the land for that year, enabling the Jewish "previous" owner to continue to till the fields. In the early years of the state, this measure may have saved some settlements from ruin.

But now, I believe, it is time to stop it. It is time to observe the shemita-sabbatical literally. This is because we are losing out on the most important perspective of our nationhood by using a loophole. We are missing the point, and I don't believe Hashem wants us to miss this point!

Example. This year, my family did not sell chometz. We got rid of it all, and it was an uplifting experience. We felt truly the pressure to clean and the sense of accomplishment when we fulfilled the mitzva in its purest sense. We can only wish the same for the farmers in the Sabbatical! There is a message of true happiness hidden in the Shemita.

You see, the Shemita tells us that the Earth is God's and that all of our accomplishments are with His help. We should never say "It is my actions that have brought me this wealth." By stopping to work the fields, we acknowledge God's ownership of the land, and we state, by our passivity, that we believe it is Him who has given us the blessings of the Earth.

Why is this crucial? What if I really did work super hard? Maybe it WAS my efforts?

No! Once we believe it was our efforts, we fall into the pit of possessiveness. We develop a sense of entitlement, and when others are more successful than us, we become jealous. God is reminding us of a basic truth: Our success is because of the gifts He gave us, including health, talent, land and creativity. Yes, we USED those gifts successfully, but He gave them to us in the first case.

Therefore, there is no need to look at others who succeed and feel jealous. After all, that came from God as well, so why be bitter? Rather, if you feel you have underachieved, look upwards and try harder, or smarter.

By eliminating the sense of possessiveness which leads to entitlement, we inoculate ourselves from jealousy, the most destructive emotion. That is the true message of the Sabbatical year, and a lesson that can only be learned viscerally by observing it properly.