An End to all Suffering
“And it shall be a Sabbath for the earth for you to eat…” (Vayikra 25:6)
The Torah commands us about shemittah, the sabbatical year, when the fields must lie fallow, although its produce may be eaten.
The tzaddik Reb Hershele of Rimonov zt”l would say, “The possuk says, ‘Eat today for today is Shabbos (Shemos 16:25).’ Moshe told Bnei Yisroel to ‘eat today’ – consume the spiritual benefits of this holy day Shabbos! Shabbos is sweet to the taste; it is like nourishing food that strengthens the soul!”
The real, everlasting Shabbos will take place when Moshiach will come, an era described as “the day that is always Shabbos and peace.” The kind of Shabbos we have nowadays is merely a sample of Gan Eden, a taste of the eternal world. When Moshiach will come, we will merit the eternal Shabbos, eternal bliss.
This is the message of the verse: “A Shabbos for the earth,” even the earthly Shabbos we experience in this world, “for you to eat,” is still a source of nourishment and sustenance just like food. We should enjoy the taste of our earthly Shabbos, while keeping in mind that more is yet to come!
The holy Zohar says that the blessings of the entire week are dependent on Shabbos. A person may think he’s losing out because he isn’t working or doing business that day, but in truth, by resting on Shabbos, he brings blessing into his business dealings throughout the coming week. Shabbos can be compared to soil. On the surface, the benefits of the soil are not visible. However, the produce of the soil receive their nourishment from its hidden reservoirs of nutrients.
We can see this lesson in the verse: “And it shall be Shabbos – like the earth that is for you to eat.” Just like the soil gives you food, Shabbos brings you the blessings of the coming week, spiritually and materially.
“And if after all this you will not listen to Me I will add on to your suffering sevenfold for your sins.” (Vayikra 26:18)
Rashi explains: “I will add other suffering.”
If the first round of punishment did not bring the desired results, why is Hashem telling us that he will increase our suffering? What if this wouldn’t either help, and only drive us further away from Him?
The word used in the verse is “yosafti” – I will add on. The root word yosef has two meanings, as can be seen in the verse that Rachel said when Yosef was born: “Hashem ceased (asaf) my shame, and she named him Yosef to say, ‘Hashem should add (yosef) for me another son.’” So we see the two meanings of the root word yosef are a) cease [another reference to such use of the word is in Devarim 5:19] and b) increase.
In Sefer Divrei Yisroel there is a poignant parable: A father had a rebellious son and wanted the boy to improve. He took a rod and began hitting the child, but the boy still did not repent. So the father put away the rod and said, “My child, I see that hitting you doesn’t help. I will no longer hit you; perhaps by showing you my love I will succeed.”
This is the meaning of the verse. “And if after all this you will not listen to Me,” if your suffering and anguish will not bring about the desired results, “I will cease your suffering” (using a different interpretation of the word yosafti) and instead shower you with kindness despite your sins. The word sheva – sevenfold, that is used in the verse, can be read sava – to satiate. Hashem will satiate us with His love and kindness and take away our suffering.
This is what we pray for constantly, “Hashem, decree that our suffering has been enough!” We certainly had our share of anguish and pain; it is time for Divine kindness and blessings.
Rashi’s comment can now be understood in a new light. The holy Ba’al Shem Tov revealed a powerful message in the words “Bestow kindness on those who know You, You vengeful G-d!” The biggest retribution for our sins would be if Hashem would bless us with His kindness, causing us to be overcome with sincere remorse in the face of such undeserved Divine blessing. When a person sees all the good that Hashem has given him, he is ashamed of his unworthiness and strives to become better. This is the type of vengeance, a vengeance of kindness, which we ask of Hashem.
This is the meaning of Rashi’s words: “I will give you other suffering” – a different type of suffering. Not a suffering of pain and trouble, but a suffering of kindness. Hashem will reveal to you His love and you will be overcome with the suffering of sincere remorse!
May Hashem indeed cease our suffering and shower us with His kindness instead. May He send yeshuos and refuos to Klal Yisroel, Amen.