In the Torah portion of Behar, the verse describes the Sabbatical Year, Shemittah, as follows:1 “The seventh year is a sabbath of sabbaths for the land; it is a sabbath unto G‑d, during which you may not plant your fields nor prune your vineyards.”

Rashi2 comments on the words “it is a Sabbath unto G‑d,” and explains: “For the sake of G‑d; similar to that which is stated regarding the Shabbos of Creation.”

What does Rashi mean by this comment?

The Torah provides two reasons for the Jews’ obligation to rest on Shabbos:3

a) to commemorate the work of Creation — since G‑d made heaven and earth during the Six Days of Creation and rested on the seventh, therefore we are to work for six days of the week and rest on Shabbos;4

b) to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt, as the verse states:5 “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt… therefore the G‑d your L-rd has commanded you to observe the day of Shabbos.”

By explaining that the rest of the Shemittah year is likened to the Shabbos of Creation, Rashi is telling us that the intent of resting during Shemittah is to commemorate the fact that G‑d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

However, this gives rise to the following question: Since, according to Rashi, the intent of Shemittah and Shabbos are seemingly one and the same — to commemorate G‑d’s creation of the world in six days and His resting on the seventh — why the duplication? Why are we commanded to rest on the seventh day of the weekly cycle, as well as on the seventh year of the seven-year cycle?

The sanctity of Shabbos envelops and permeates the Jew, including his physical body and material needs. Thus, we have the mitzvah of “calling the Shabbos a ‘delight,’ ”6 and taking pleasure in all manner of things, including eating, drinking, etc.

Although during the rest of the week, we are to partake of permissible worldly matters only in accordance with our needs, and overindulgence for the sake of pleasure is not permitted,7 on Shabbos the indulgence in these selfsame pleasures is considered a mitzvah. This is because the sanctity of Shabbos permeates even man’s physical properties, so that he must also delight in them. This delight takes the form of a mitzvah, and is sanctified and holy.

Thus, when Rashi compares the sabbath of Shemittah to the Shabbos of Creation, he is conveying not only the prohibitory aspects — the need to cease from working the land during Shemittah just as on Shabbos we cease all creative labor — but also the positive ones: just as all physical matters are sanctified on Shabbos, so too are we to draw down the sanctity of Shemittah within the fruits of the Shemittah year,8 for “In all your ways shall you know Him.”9

Accordingly, we now understand that, just as there exists a special quality within Shabbos that Shemittah lacks, so too does Shemittah possess a quality lacking in Shabbos:

The Shabbos day possesses the special quality (lacking in Shemittah) that, on this day, man and the rest of creation are elevated to a higher level.10 Thus, all manner of creative labor is prohibited, and all of a person’s needs are considered matters of delight, and are categorized as a mitzvah.

Shemittah, on the other hand, is “a Sabbath for the land,” the “land engages in a Sabbath to G‑d,”11 wherein the “sabbath unto G‑d” is drawn down within man’s physical and earthly affairs.12

There is a lesson contained within the mitzvah of Shemittah : Man’s union with G‑d is not limited to the time spent in the study of Torah or in prayer, when he divorces himself from worldly affairs. Rather, he can and should seek holiness and union with G‑d even while engaging in worldly matters, for “in all your ways shall you know Him.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XII, pp. 108-114