I find the symbolism of shemittah just fascinating; by letting the land rest/rejuvenate, we remember that our every success in life is reliant on Hashem willing it to be so. In turn, shemittah reminds us that our primary purpose is simply to serve Him. Hashem says work, we work; Hashem says let the land lie fallow for a year, and we place our utter faith in Him that He will provide for us over a three year period. It is hard to find a more blatant symbol of how in this world, we use the physical/tangible (food, clothing, property, education) as tools to amass spiritual objectives.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I ate Shabbos lunch by some vegetarian friends. By coincidence, the Thursday night before we had lunch there, I had seen an interview on Nightline with a currently in vogue Food Guru. You know the type: the new breed of specialist who is able to comment on the effect of the food chain/agriculture industry on our health. Anyhow, this gentleman stated that the soil in mainstream agriculture basically functions to hold plants erect; the soil itself is devoid of nutrients, as exemplified by the fact that in order to obtain the nutritional value imparted in 1923 by a single apple, we would nowadays have to eat three apples.
So, post-lunch, you will excuse me, but I actually found myself pondering both shemittah and soil quality. I consequently quipped to my husband: maybe that's why people are overweight these days. The food chain provides fewer nutrients, so the body craves more food, and we consume more calories to meet our physical requirements. More to the point though, because we have to eat more, we have to cook more, and how many people really cook from scratch these days? So the benefit to the food industry increases, since we consequently eat more convenience foods, which deliver fewer nutrients than whole food, and which cost more while simultaneously costing more, and so we eat even more food. Quite the cycle, no?
With shemittah, Hashem requires us to let the land rest, and if we follow this commandment we are told, the land will continue to yield its tremendously delicious, plentiful bounty. By valuing the spiritual with this mitzvah, we simultaneously support the physical infrastructure of our existence. Thus, by keeping shemittah, we can circumvent this vicious cycle that we see perpetuated by the food industry here in America.
In Hashem's world, He makes the rules. According to those rules, the spiritual worlds form the the foundation for this physical world we inhabit. If we follow shemitta, we benefit not only spiritually, by demonstrating to Hashem that we understand our very existence lies solely in His hands, but we also benefit physically, by maintaining the natural world. If we choose to go the other way, chasve shalom, Hashem removes His protection from us, and we become susceptible to the whims of the natural laws: the land rebels, the people are expunged from the land, etc. etc.
Let's remain humble enough then as a nation to say, "We are but Your servants Hashem" and remain vigilant during shemittah. After all, if we do so, we can rest secure in knowing that Hashem will remain our constant Protector. And in His World, it does not get any better than that!