A Time to Share

A Time to Share

Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe

by A New Year Message from the Rebbe - Lubavitch HQ, NY

September 9, 2007

The Jewish New Year, 5768, is a particularly unique year as it is the year of Shemittah the Sabbatical year. This Rosh Hashanah marks the completion of a cycle of six years and the beginning of the observance of the Shemittah, the seventh year.

As with Shabbat, the seventh day of the week that is dedicated to holiness, during which we abstain from work and all kinds of physical labors, the Shemittah year is designated as a holy year. “let the land lie fallow…” the Torah commands us, and as such, prohibits all labors pertaining to agriculture, in the Land of Israel.

There is, however, an underlying and essential difference between Shabbat and Shemittah. Whereas in the observance of Shabbat we invoke G-d as Creator of the world, Shemittah invokes Divine proprietorship of the universe.

Basically, the laws of Shemittah render the fields, orchards and farms as public property, withdrawing for all practical purposes personal ownership for the duration of the year. These laws make it permissible for anyone, including house servants and field laborers, to eat from fruits and grains in the fields.

Although these laws apply only to the Land of Israel, there is a message that all of us can glean from its significance, regardless of where we live.

The Shemittah year, designated by G-d as a reminder to each of us that while He has endowed us with the gifts of the earth, to cultivate the land and enjoy its fruits, ultimately, it is G-d to Whom everything belongs. The recognition that we do not hold true proprietorship to anything ought to inspire within us gratefulness to G-d for all the bounty He has blessed us with. Furthermore, it bears strongly on how we perceive our money, and the spirit that attends our charity giving. It is not in common for one to give charity—even generously, with the perception that he or she is parting with their own money. This is a mistaken perception.

Tzedakah, commonly translated as “charity,” actually means “Justice.” With the recognition that everything ultimately belongs to G-d, the sharing of ones money, time and energy is not a charitable act, but rather a just act. In giving each of us our share of material blessings, G-d has given us the opportunity to exercise our choice to share it generously.

Every year on Rosh Hashanah, we proclaim G-d, King of the Universe. The Shemittah year, which appropriately begins on Rosh Hashanah, affirms our faith that not only had G-d created the world but He is its Master.

As has been said many times before, the manner in which we begin the New Year, the commitments we make and the resolutions we adopt will reflect themselves in the quality of the days that follow throughout the year. Thus, it is especially important that we take the message of Shemittah to heart, beginning with the early days of the New Year, when we customarily increase in our tzedaka giving, and carry it through the entire year.

In the merit of a heightened awareness of our indebtedness to G-d Almighty during this Shemittah year, G-d will surely bless each and every one of us with a year of health, happiness and prosperity, in both physical and spiritual respects.

                                                --Adapted from a letter by the Rebbe, Tishrei 6, 5733

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