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Mishpatim: Alshich HaKodesh: Mitzvah 69 – Concept 284

“Six years shall you sow your land and gather in its produce. And in the seventh, you shall leave it untended and unharvested, and the destitute of your people shall eat, and the wildlife of the field shall eat what is left of them, so shall you do to your vineyard and your olive grove.” (Exodus 23:10-11) We are obligated to leave free all produce which grew in the seventh year. (Rambam, Hilchot Shemittah V’Yovail – The Laws of the Sabbatical and Jubilee Years)

Since the previous paragraph addressed itself primarily to your judges, this paragraph lists the rewards for a society in which social justice prevails.

Whereas in other countries the earth needs to recover after each year, and cannot be worked six years in succession, Israelites in their land can work the same soil six years in a row without fear of famine, seeing famine is the penalty for social injustice.

Should you think that the legislation is designed to give man a year’s vacation, this is not so. Just as it has been decreed to abstain from work every Shabbat as a reminder of the fact that God imbued the Shabbat with sanctity already at creation, so the 7th year legislation is also rooted in similar considerations, that both on the Shabbat and during the 7th year, a person acquires an additional spiritual dimension. (Rabbi Moshe Alshich)

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