Shmita

שמות כ״ג:ח׳-י״א

(ח)וְשֹׁחַד לֹא תִקָּח כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר פִּקְחִים וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִים. (ט)וְגֵר לֹא תִלְחָץ וְאַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם אֶת נֶפֶשׁ הַגֵּר כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם. (י)וְשֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים תִּזְרַע אֶת אַרְצֶךָ וְאָסַפְתָּ אֶת תְּבוּאָתָהּ. (יא)וְהַשְּׁבִיעִת תִּשְׁמְטֶנָּה וּנְטַשְׁתָּהּ וְאָכְלוּ אֶבְיֹנֵי עַמֶּךָ וְיִתְרָם תֹּאכַל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה כֵּן תַּעֲשֶׂה לְכַרְמְךָ לְזֵיתֶךָ.

Exodus 23:8-11

8 Do not take bribes, for bribes blind the clear-sighted and upset the pleas of those who are in the right.9 You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.10 Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; 11 but in the seventh you shall let it rest and lie fallow. Let the needy among your people eat of it, and what they leave let the wild beasts eat. You shall do the same with your vineyards and your olive groves.

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What is the significance / connection of the two sentences preceding the commandment of Shemita?  

8) identifies the character flaw that will make the nation susceptible to transgressing this commandment. Bribery appeals to people who are greedy, they value material things over character and spiritual purity.  Like violating Shemittah, bribery chooses gain by prohibited means, with the assumption that there is no “eye that sees” or “judgment for sin”…  The rules on property, slaves, loan repayments, etc. further reinforce this aspect of a social order that makes us worthy of our own land, not to be powerless strangers under the rule of others (see Deuteronomy 15:1-2 below).

The references to Grapes and Oil indicate that the observance will transcend the physical by allowing the emotional (grapes) and spiritual (olive)to grow unhindered by “grinding / pressing” labor or mundane worries.  An interruption of routine work would allow those aspects of the person to grow, creating the type of individual that would not be interested in bribes or the other items listed that stand in the way of building a G-dly community.

9) is an admonition on how to treat strangers and a reminder of the ordeal we experienced in Egypt. It is also an ominous warning of the exiles to come (and being strangers again) in the future if we fall prey to the shortcomings endemic to transgressing Shemita.*We are required to have a certain type of society to have our own land, or re-experience  painful lessons until we return to Hashem – and the Land.

דברים ט״ו:א׳-ב׳

(א)מִקֵּץ שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים תַּעֲשֶׂה שְׁמִטָּה. (ב)וְזֶה דְּבַר הַשְּׁמִטָּה שָׁמוֹט כָּל בַּעַל מַשֵּׁה יָדוֹ אֲשֶׁר יַשֶּׁה בְּרֵעֵהוּ לֹא יִגֹּשׂ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ וְאֶת אָחִיו כִּי קָרָא שְׁמִטָּה לַיהוָה.

Deuteronomy 15:1-2

1 Every seventh year you shall practice release of debts. (shmita) 2 This shall be the nature of the release: every creditor shall release the loan that he claims from his fellow; he shall not oppress his fellow or kinsman, for the release proclaimed is of the Lord.

There is a correspondence with below also.

דברים ה׳:י״ב-י״ד

(יב)שָׁמוֹר אֶת יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת לְקַדְּשׁוֹ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוְּךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ. (יג)שֵׁשֶׁת יָמִים תַּעֲבֹד וְעָשִׂיתָ כָּֿל מְלַאכְתֶּךָ. (יד)וְיוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שַׁבָּת לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה כָל מְלָאכָה אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ וְעַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתֶךָ וְשׁוֹרְךָ וַחֲמֹרְךָ וְכָל בְּהֶמְתֶּךָ וְגֵרְךָ אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ לְמַעַן יָנוּחַ עַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתְךָ כָּמוֹךָ.

Deuteronomy 5:12-14

12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the stranger in your settlements, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do.

*The precision of the prediction ties powerfully with Rashi that all the Torah was given at Sinai (and furthers Chasam Sofer argument with an additional proof?).

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