"What does Shemitah have to do with Mt Sinai?" - Rashi This week's parsha starts with the statement that the Jews were at Mt Sinai before beginning to tell us about the rules of Shemitah, the sabbatical year. Famously, Rashi immediately asks why the Torah must specify that these laws come from Mt Sinai. Why is it necessary to emphasise that point? He answers that this is to show that all the Torah, even the smallest of regulations, was given to Moshe on the mountain in those forty days. However, this begs a more fundamental question: What do obscure issues of land use and regulation on the sale of lands have to do with the Torah at all? Why would the Torah care about how long we sell our land for? And why should it matter if we plough the ground in a given year?
Rav Kook explains that the Sabbatical year for the land is similar to the day of rest for people. We make our time holy by sanctifying one day a week as a day of rest with a host of activities enjoined. We do not affect just that day. It profoundly impacts the entire week because setting aside some time helps stamp the whole week as being aimed toward that period of unique divine connection. This is the true meaning of the Midrashic statement: Sarah's shabbat candles would stay lit from one Friday night to the next.
According to Rav Kook, the Sabbatical year serves a similar purpose. By designating one year in seven that we either do not work the land at all or do so far less, we create the holiness in the land that spills into everything else that happens there. We generate the holiness of the land of Israel by treating the land as being restricted by the divine hand which first gifted it to us.
The other places of significance in our lives operate similarly. We have the power to define our spaces for ourselves. Are they places of happiness, growth and holiness? The Torah tells us that turning them into that must be our goal.