The tending and sowing of a plot of land is the farmer's hishtadlut (making an effort) toward obtaining food (including selling the excess at the market for even more income).
Therefore, if Hashem wishes to allow this hishtadlut as the way for the farmer to obtain his needs, then Hashem will sprout the seeds, increasing their growth and multiplying them according to His Calculations.
And should the farmer thank the land for this?
No, he should thank Hashem.
In fact, we even say blessings before eating, many of which recall this land-growing process:
- “Blessed be You…Who brings forth bread from the land.”
- “Blessed be You…Creator of the fruit of the vine.”
- “Blessed be You…Creator of the fruit of the tree.”
- “Blessed be You…Creator of the fruit of the earth.”
In contrast, if Hashem wills the farmer to go through a time of austerity or if He wills the farmer to receive his sustenance from a totally different source, then despite the farmer’s best efforts, the land either does not bring forth a harvest or its crops are somehow destroyed (gophers, invading armies, tornadoes, drought, flooding, etc.).
Does the farmer blame the land or the seeds for not doing their job? No.
(Although if you’ve ever kicked your car or vacuum cleaner or washing machine out of frustration, you might also be the type of person to start chewing out your tomato seeds for not “behaving” properly. But aside from these kinds of occasional outbursts, a rational person knows that it is not the fault of the thing and that accusations, yelling, revenge, cursing, slandering the uncooperative soil and seeds to your neighbors, or hiring a real shark of a lawyer to wring the dirt or seeds through the justice system.)
The commentaries Pas Lechem and Tov Halevanon both emphasize that we should realize that other people are only intermediaries for us, just as a plot of land is only an intermediary.
And that furthermore, seeing as human beings are cognizant beings created in God’s Image, they still should be thanked for their efforts simply because those helpful people were designated by Hashem to be His agents in meeting your needs.
And showing them proper gratitude is like showing Hashem proper gratitude.
Some people are bumblers, some are lazy, some are experienced and energetic.
And because, for better or for worse, many people are so intentional about what they do (whether it’s chessed or harm), it’s easy to get lost in the illusions of This World.
But if we focus on other people as intermediaries, then a lot of the stress and desperation eases and we gain balance and yishuv hadaat.
Instead of turning our efforts to wrangling with other people, chasing after them, or emoting at them or about them, this knowledge helps us channel all our hopes and energies toward Hashem.
(And as always, Hashem is NOT looking for perfection here, but sincere attempts - however bumbling - in the right direction.)
May all your “fields” reap bountiful harvests.