When twelve-year-old Einav Moshe Sabah prepares for bed at night, he smooths his long, wavy peyos, recites Krias Shema and adds another soft tefillah of his own. “Hashem, please watch over my Abba.”
Einav Sabah’s dad Tamir is a member of the local civilian patrol in Moshav Achituv, home to the extended Sabah clan. Einav is aware that, on any night, his father could be roused at any hour of the day or night to respond to a threat of Palestinian thieves who exploit the moshav’s precarious location in Israel’s narrow waistline to infiltrate Jewish farming settlements, load their trucks full of produce and disappear with the wind.
Tamir Sabah is a third-generation farmer who is familiar with every corner of his field, every hillock and lump of earth. He was raised here on this moshav, and he lives and breathes every furrow in the ground and every fresh seedling.
The man is fearless, always on call. He’s invariably the first to respond to the chirp of his walkie-talkie reporting an attempted theft, keenly aware that only if he and his buddies reach the site on time will they manage to catch the thieves, or at least scare them off.
This is why when Einav Moshe goes to sleep, he does so with an extra prayer on his lips. Throughout the years, there have been several occasions when the civilian security squad stumbled upon a group of armed thieves and were forced to fire into the air in order to scatter the infiltrators moments before they loaded their tons of stolen goods onto a truck and disappeared.
Several years ago, Tamir’s father, patriarch of the extended Sabah family, passed away, leaving a giant void in the hearts of his children. Tamir, in particular, remained with profound feelings of loss and yearning, and these sentiments prodded him to search for something deeper and more meaningful to do in his father’s honor.
An encounter with a rabbi left him craving more, and throughout the year of mourning, Tamir began undertaking more mitzvos, delving into the traditional customs and rituals that they’d observed throughout the year, and forming a deeper, more meaningful relationship with G-d.
The gradual changes at home appealed to his son Einav Moshe, who fired up the enthusiasm of other family members and urged them to observe mitzvos even after the year of ritual mourning drew to a close.
And Tamir? The yarhtzeit came and went, and Tamir and his wife Osnat discovered that, with his passing, Tamir's father had bequeathed them the greatest imaginable gift—the gift of a meaningful relationship with G-d. The following school year saw Einav Moshe newly enrolled in Ner Shmuel, an Orthodox Talmud Torah in nearby Hadera.
The boy’s transfer to a charedi institution inspired other families on the moshav to seek the counsel of the moshav’s rabbi Harav Chen Sidah, shlit”a, who advised them to follow the Sabahs’ example and send their children to Orthodox institutions. What resulted was a gradual shift in religious demographics on the moshav.
When Rabbi Chen Sidah settled in Moshav Achituv some twenty years ago, the place was a spiritual wasteland. The fields were an endless lush carpet of verdant greenery, and its cucumber harvest the pride and joy of the moshav’s farmers; yet Torah knowledge was nonexistent and the spiritual aspirations in the town next to none. The spiritually deprived members of the moshav lacked rudimentary knowledge of Judaism, even real basics such as keeping Shabbos or kosher, let alone building a succah.
Yet Rabbi Sidah, who descended upon the secular moshav as a delegate of Ayelet Hashachar, captured the residents’ hearts with his genuine smile and warm, compassionate ways. Person by person, dunam by dunam, Rabbi Sidah began infusing the warmth of spiritual life and aspirations into the Jews of Achituv.
How passionate is Tamir about the mitzvos? A clear example took place two years ago when he invited all the residents in his moshav to participate in the ceremony of pidyon peter chamor. As an expression of his love of Torah and mitzvos, Sabah and a partner raised donkeys with the goal of breeding a foal that would enable them to perform this rare mitzvah. The event, celebrated with great fanfare, attracted a large crowd and was attended by none other than the Rishon Letzion Harav Yitzchak Yossef, shlit”a.
As the year of Shmitah drew closer, everyone guessed that Tamir would grab the opportunity to seize another mitzvah, which was why his extended family embarked on a persuasion campaign to talk him out of it.
“Tamir, don’t be a fool!” they warned him. “There are lots of ways to keep Shmitah, and neglecting the fields and greenhouses for a full year is suicide! There’s heter mechirah and other options. You don’t always have to go all out… You’ll regret it.”
Sabah listened to his friends and family, weighed his options carefully, and seemed pretty convinced. Yet before any of our readers think to judge him for choosing the easy way out, stop for a moment to reflect upon what it means to observe Shmitah k’hilchasah.
It means gazing at sweet-scented verdant fields, all lined with neat vegetable beds, and realizing that, next year, there will be nothing. It means calculating a year’s worth of losses, in addition to lost income. It’s a challenge of unimaginable proportions, especially when there are so many willing to rely on a range of leniencies and working to convince you to do the same.
Luckily, Tamir’s relatives and friends forgot about a little boy with gleaming coal eyes and long, wavy peyos that are constantly getting messed in the breeze. And that little boy, blessed with those obdurate Sabah genes, had no intention of surrendering his fight.
Every night, before Einav Moshe went to sleep, he reminded his father that Shmitah was coming up, and that it’s a precious, unparalleled, year-long mitzvah that only they and a select group of Israeli farmers are privileged to keep. He pleaded earnestly with his father to keep Shmitah k’hilchasah in the coming year, but his father inevitably smiled and murmured something noncommittal.
When the boy pressed, the father sighed and explained that he, too, would love to keep the mitzvah, but that the financial losses were more than their family was capable of swallowing, and that when Einav Moshe was older, he would understand…
Shocked and bewildered, Einav Moshe, only months away from his bar mitzvah, turned around to face the wall, unwilling for his father to glimpse his tears. He recited Shema inserting his daily supplication for his father’s safety, and then added another plea to Hashem: “Help me convince Abba to keep Shmitah—the right way, the real way, with all the halachos!”
On his way home from school the next day, Einav Moshe stopped at the home of Rabbi Sidah. The boy is a frequent visitor, and Rabbi Sidah was thus unsurprised to see Einav of the coal-black eyes, who had become something of a ben bayis in his home over the past months, on his doorstep. Yet nothing prepared him for the sudden floodgate of tears that opened, and Rabbi Sidah instinctively drew the child into his embrace and rocked him gently as he cried and cried.
After several minutes of intense sobbing, the tears petered out, and Einav Moshe struggled to catch his breath. The Rabbi headed to the kitchen, poured a cold glass of juice, handed it to the child, and waited patiently while he recited a brachah and sipped.
“Now, dear child, tell me what’s going on,” he instructed kindly.
“Rabbi…I … I tried… I tried so hard, and I can’t!” A fresh wave of tears.
“You tried…” repeated the bewildered Rav. “Is it school? Is the gemara too hard?”
“No…I t’s my dad…” Einav Moshe hiccupped and dried his eyes again. “I’m trying so hard, and he still won’t keep Shmitah. I did everything I could, and he won’t listen!” The boy again dissolved into tears. “I just can’t do it. There’s no way.”
“There’s always a way, Einav Moshe,” Rabbi Sidah averred.
And they found a way. Rabbi Sidah and Einav Moshe called the boy’s principal Rabbi Brunner, and the trio resolved to make Shmitah happen next year on the Sabah farm. Their next call was to Keren Hashviis who made it their business to contact Tamir immediately.
Tamir was pleasant on the phone and listened patiently while they spoke, yet responded with clearly thought-out arguments and explained why observing Shmitah next year was simply impossible. His concerns were legitimate, but Keren Hashviis’ agents are experts at creative solutions, and one by one, they gave workable answers, resolved each problem separately, and proved that it could still be done.
The battle raging in his heart died down, and Tamir softened. Deep down, he also longed to fulfill this precious mitzvah, but the financial losses resulting from Shmitah were too much for him to bear on his own.
His mind was still not made up on the day that Keren Hashviis’ Rabbanim invited him to meet the Rosh Yeshivah of Ateres Yisroel, Hagaon Harav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, shlit”a. The Rosh Yeshivah’s powerful words of encouragement tilted the scale, and Tamir Sabah’s commitment to keep Shmitah k’hilchasah was sealed with a handshake.
When his father announced the news, Einav Moshe jumped for joy and threw his arms around his waist. And when he went to sleep that night, he recited krias shema along with his customary perek Tehillim before adding another tefillah: “Hashem, give Abba the strength to stick to his commitment throughout another year…”
With that, Einav Moshe fell asleep with a gratified smile on his lips—the smile of a child who’s led his father one step closer to their Father in heaven.