"When you come into the land that I am giving you the land must be given a rest period, a Shabbat to G-d (25:1)." Every seven days we acknowledge G-d as the creator of the universe by abstaining from creative work on the shabbat. In a society where there was no such thing as a five-day work week observance of shabbat often meant financial hardship, a hardship observant Jews lovingly accepted as they enjoyed the serenity of shabbat. Not only must man rest every seventh day, the Torah mandates that our land too is to have a complete year of rest every seventh year. While such a rest period allowed for the land to renew itself it also allowed the farmer after six years of hard physical toil to focus on intellectual pursuits devoting his/her time to a year of study. While important, it appears that the real purpose of the shmitta year is to drive home the message that G-d is the ultimate master of the world, just as shabbat does. It is no coincidence that the shmitta year is known as a "shabbat to G-d". Man really has no ownership in the land. Thus all produce (planted in the sixth year) that grows in the seventh year is declared hefker , ownerless with the right to eat thereof given to every single person. Surely it is not easy for the farmer to let others roam around in "his" field enjoying the fruits of his labor. Clearly the development of the trait of sharing our bounty with others must form an integral part of a Torah-based society.
"You shall count seven shabbat-years, that is, seven times seven years.You shall sanctify the fiftieth year, declaring emancipation of slaves all over the world. This is your jubilee year, when each man shall return to his hereditary property and to his family (25:8-10)." The Yovel (Jubilee) coming after seven shmitta cycles teaches that we are not even able to acquire ownership in land - at most one can lease the land for a period of fifty years - and that slavery must only be a temporary state .
Interestingly the Torah commands that we are to count seven times seven years and then proclaim the 50 th year a jubilee. Of course in last week's parsha we read about the mitzvah to count seven times seven weeks with the fiftieth day being the holiday of Shavuot. And there too the term used to mark the beginning of the count is "on the morrow of the shabbat" even though shabbat in that context refers to pesach. Of course pesach marks our holiday of freedom and the jubilee year meant freedom was to be granted to all slaves.
The laws of the sabbatical year are introduced in the Torah by the phrase "G-d spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai." Our commentaries are troubled by the use of the words at "mount Sinai". Why can't the Torah just state and "G-d spoke to Moses" as it usually does?
Shabbat culminates with shmita, which culminates with yovel, which reminds us of sefirat haomer and shavuot. All of these interconnected holidays instill in us the knowledge that we are resident aliens in this world and the only slavery allowed is to G-d. It was at Sinai that G-d proclaimed freedom for all and it was at Sinai that we were given our sacred mission. When we truly realize that everything we have is on loan then we will gladly join forces with our fellow debtors to share G-d's blessing that He promised would be our reward for faithfully keeping the shmitta year: "I will direct my blessing towards you". Let us be worthy to merit the many blessings of our Master. Shabbat Shalom!