Since this is the conclusion of all the priestly rules for the conduct of Jewish worship in the biblical period, we would expect something a little grander and loftier as a summary to all that came before. After all, this is God's timeless message to the Jewish people. Is the most important part of that message really to leave our fields alone once in a while? That same question occurred to the rabbis of antiquity.
In the Midrash Sifra, an ancient commentary to the Book of Leviticus, the rabbis open by asking "what is the connection between Sinai and Shemittah?" After all, weren't all the commandments given at Sinai, not just this one. So why does Shemittah merit the honor of first mention? What's so special about Shemittah?
What is the unique link between Shemittah and Sinai, between a vacant field and a mountain?
Once every seven years, the mitzvah of Shemittah, presents a reminder that we merely use the earth, but that ultimately the land is not ours, nor any other human's property.
Ramban clarifies that verse by paraphrasing it as "don't think that you are so essential." The world is not a play-thing for human beings, and the vast array of organic and living things serve a purpose higher that human whim. Together with humanity, the rest of the cosmos is a living, interlocking symphony to our Creator. We have been remiss in caring for our world and our children and their children will pay. Its time to care for our earth, to stop all the building and cultivate gardens.
If the deer are still wandering from yard to yard and the bear have come down from the hills to our suburb in New Jersey; we have failed our task and abused our inheritance.