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Fallow Land, Fellow Jews

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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Fallow Land, Fellow Jews

Many open miracles have happened to farmers that observed the laws of shemita. The Ridvaz documents how the first farmers to settle in Eretz Yisrael didn’t observe the laws of shemita for four shemitos in a row. And so, from 1889 until 1917, in each year following the violated shemita year, great catastrophes occurred in the fields, to the extent that in 1918 one-third of the population had to leave Israel.[1] However, in 1972, as is documented, there was a disproportionately higher growth of produce in the fields only of farmers who were preparing to keep shemita the next year, just as the Torah promises.[2]


R’ Binyomin Mendelson (1904-1979), the Rav of Moshav Komemiyus, wrote of the many miracles the moshav farmers witnessed while observing shemita. Here is one of the poignant stories that he related: “It was in the year 1953 just after a shemita year and we didn’t have wheat to sow. We didn’t want to use wheat seeds from the shemita year, and the only seeds we could find from the sixth year were broken and inadequate for planting. The farmers asked me for advice and I told them that since they couldn’t find other wheat they should believe in Hashem and plant as the Yerushalmi says. The villages around Komemiyus mocked the religious farmers for planting those seeds and told them that they would incur a huge loss. Nevertheless, they continued. In that eighth year there were no rains at the start of winter and all the seeds of those who had plowed the land during shemita and planted immediately at the end of shemita died in the dry land. But for the Komemiyus farmers, who began plowing only after Succos and planted in the first months of the winter, the rain came just on time. Miraculously, the damaged seeds grew into high-quality wheat.” R’ Mendelson concluded, “That was a sign that Hashem sends his blessings to those who observe shemita.”


Another riveting story that R’ Mendelson penned was the following. “In the early months of the shemita year of 1959, this is what took place. Animal feeds were growing in our fields from seeds that were planted before shemita. One Friday swarms of locusts arrived and began devouring the nearby fields. Some of our farmers approached me expressing their fear about our crops. I told them that we would see Hashem’s salvation in the shemita year. The swarms of locusts moved nearer to us but turned back just as they reached our fields. Our crops were fully intact and not even one locust remained in sight. When I related this incident to the Brisker Rav, he said that it was a miracle that must be publicized.”

[1] The Ridvaz (Introduction to the sefer Beis Ridvaz) lists the tragedies that befell the settlers in Eretz Yisrael during the post-shemita years and perceives them as a punishment for the violation of shemita. “Let it be known that after the shemita year of 1889 was violated, locusts devoured all the grain in the following year. In the post-shemita year of 1897 Hashem sent throngs of mice which ruined all the crops… After violating the shemita year of 1910 all the granaries were consumed by fire…”

[2] Vayikra 25:21, 22. Parenthetically, shemita is one of the mitzvos that demonstrates that there is Hashem, as no man would ever devise such a commandment. It must be that it is Divine. The fact that there are 613 mitzvos is also indicative of Hashem, as no man would formulate such an enormous amount of commandments.

Author of Three Books

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