"…and the land will observe a rest for G‑d." (Lev. 26:2)

The above verse does not refer to individual parcels of land belonging to individual farmers but refer to the earth as a whole and is an allusion to the seventh millennium following the six thousand years when our terrestrial universe functions normally. It is a reference to the 1000-year transitional period when the earth will be desolate, unfit as a habitat for living creatures (compare Rosh HaShanah 31). That millennium is one described as "eternal rest" (Tamid 7:4), a reference to the world to come after physical resurrection has occurred.

According to this concept, the sabbatical year discussed in our verse would be a cessation of agricultural activity which is not voluntary but imposed by the conditions prevailing in the universe at that time. This does not replace the normal meaning of the verses 3 - 8 which speak about what happens every seven years. It only explains the halachically unnecessary words that "the land shall observe rests for G‑d" (verse 2).

The observance of a bird's eye view of what will be in the future, i.e. what we may term a "miniature" sabbatical year, is intended for us to focus on the eventual meaning of the concept. All the severe penalties connected with failure to observe the legislation of sabbatical year and Jubilee, especially the fact that non-observance is the cause of our losing our homeland and going into exile, is all to give us an inkling of a much grander concept G‑d has in mind for the existence of the physical universe and the message that an imperfect terrestrial universe is eventually to metamorphose into a perfect terrestrial universe.

[Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of "The Torah Commentary of Rebbeinu Bachya" by Eliyahu Munk.]