Warning: there isn’t going to be a cucumber in sight in this post…
‘The secret of shmita year’ is the title of one of the chapter headings in a Hebrew book by Breslev Rav Ofer Erez, called ‘From the Depths’.
In a nutshell, Rav Erez explains that sometimes, we experience a time of such prolonged, intense darkness in our lives, that it’s called ‘The secret of shmita year’. Remember that before BigAgro, keeping shmita meant letting the land lie fallow for a year, which could mean you’d have no food to eat for a whole 12 months.
Food = parnassa = sustenance = livelihood = the means, the werewithal to stay alive, to live.
Rav Erez explains that in our times, this sort of potential destitution and economic vulnerability can still happen, but with a modern twist: G-d takes your house away; He takes your job (or business) away; He makes everything you try to do fail, often inexplicably. After this has carried on for a while, you hit rock bottom, and you start to wonder how you are ever going to make ends meet enough to continue to live, to be.
All your financial security, all your assets, all your confidence in your ability to make a living, evaporates. It’s a massive test.
Rav Erez explains that the only way to pass this test in one piece is to work really hard on your emuna, and in particular, on your emuna that Ein Od Milvado – G-d is really all there is.
If you can hang on to your faith in the middle of this test – and believe me, it’s really not easy – then, he explains, you’ll see that G-d Himself is sustaining you, and that He always was, even when you thought it was your great degree, or your amazing real estate acumen, or your fantastic job that was doing it all.
If you can hang on, and again that can be a very big ‘if’, he explains that it’s a massive tikun, or soul correction, that fixes a whole bunch of very deep, hard-to-reach things in a person’s neshama. And it doesn’t last forever.
I read this, and I almost cried from relief. You see, everything my husband and I have tried for the last two years financially, professionally, socially, religiously – you name it – has flopped so badly it went past ’embarrassing’ a long time ago.
It got so bad at one point that I started watching the local bag ladies to pick up tips for when I’d have to pack up and move again – to the nearest dumpster.
Until a month ago, I truly couldn’t see how we were ever going to turn things around, or how we were going to be able to ‘live’ in any sense of the word, once our house money ran out.
Then I went to Uman. I learnt a lot of lessons there, I got a lot of breakthroughs, and one of the biggest presents I came home with was the feeling that maybe, just maybe, we will be successful again, we will earn money again, we will own a home again, it will be good again.
I know Shmita year is only two months’ old for most people (if it’s even on their radar), but I feel my own personal Shmita ended in Uman last month. And now, I’m waiting for the good times to roll again, whenever G-d’s ready to send them down.