We begin the Torah again.
The world was created perfect: “Hashem G-d planted a garden in Eden… and placed there the man whom He had formed.” (Bereishis 2:8)
Mankind was created perfect: “My G-d, the soul You placed within me is pure ….” (Morning prayers)
What went wrong?
"The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His paths are justice; a G-d of faith without iniquity, righteous and fair is He. Corruption is not His. The blemish is His children's, a perverse and twisted generation.” (Dvarim 32:4-5)
The Torah was given so we could straighten out this twisted world.
Several weeks ago, we met a Shmittah farmer named Yosef Chaim ben Amram. He cultivates orchards in the far north of Israel, which is, as he put it, “About ten minutes from Lebanon and a few minutes from Syria,” in the gunsights of our heavily-armed and violent enemies. And yet this tzaddik grows his beautiful pecans, plums, avocadoes and other fruits in peace and tranquility, secure in his trust in Hashem.
The year of Shmittah has ended, but the brachas emanating from the shmittah farmers will never end. I told Yosef Chaim that I believe the protection of the Land and the People of Israel stems (is that a pun?) from the mesiras nefesh of the courageous Jews who keep shmittah, whose emunah in Hashem is so great that they give up large sums of money in order to keep the Shabbos of the Land as the Torah commands.
Yosef Chaim told us that someone asked Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky zt”l for a bracha, to which he responded, “Go to a shmittah farmer.”
I asked Yosef Chaim who helps him tend his orchards. He told us that he has nine sons and two daughters. The surrounding farmers make fun of him for keeping shmittah, but he told us that all his blessings come from shmittah.
My friends, listen please to this story.
After each of his three oldest sons left the army, they went off the derech. They stopped keeping the Torah and left home. Yosef Chaim and his wife tried everything, but to no avail. The children were lost.
And then, one day, about six months ago, in the middle of shmittah, his oldest son, twenty-three, showed up at the house. He had decided to come home … to his parents and to his Torah. He went to yeshiva, where he sat and learned “yomam v’laila,” day and night.
Shortly afterwards, this son left for a day to go to Tel Aviv, where he found his younger brother, and he brought him back home with him. Now the two of them were sitting in yeshiva, yoman v’laila, learning Torah all day.
Shortly, afterwards, the two of them left for a day to go to an anti-Torah kibbutz somewhere in Israel, where they found their younger brother, and they brought him back home with them. Now the three of them are sitting in yeshiva, yomam v’laila, sitting and learning all day.
Yosef Chaim said, “We owe it all to shmittah.”
Yosef Chaim gave us all individual brachas, each of which lasted many minutes. I feel as if I received a bracha from a novi. I feel as if the bracha came from the very soil of Israel, which it really did.
When our First Parents were expelled from Gan Eden, Hashem said to Adam, “accursed is the ground because of you. Through suffering you shall eat of it all the days of your life…. By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread until you return to the ground from which you were taken. For you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Bereishis 3:17)
I would not be surprised if, through the mesiras nefesh of Yosef Chaim and the other holy Jews who keep shmittah, the curse engendered by our First Parents’ rebellion is being lifted from the earth. Soon b’ezras Hashem the path back to Gan Eden will be reopened.
I received permission from Yosef Chaim to use his name and repeat this story. May we all learn from this tzaddik. May we merit to see the Geulah Shelemah with the coming of Moshiach ben Dovid soon in our days!
Bereishis: The Book of Genesis
Gan Eden: The Garden of Eden
Geula Shelemah: The Final and Complete Redemption
Mesiras nefesh: Sacrificing for Torah
Shmittah: The seventh year, during which the Torah commands that all agricultural land lie fallow