As a chronic blogger, it's no surprise that I have opinions about everything. That's why I can blog on two very different blogs ever single day, excepting Shabbat and Jewish Holidays, of course. And as a salesperson, I have always told my customers that their opinions count. I won't tell them that their taste is awful. So, some people may not only disagree with what I'll be stating here, they may even think it's sacrilegious to dare blog on such a subject.
First of all, for those who don't know, Shemitta is a mitzvah, a Torah G-d given commandment, the Shabbat, year of rest, for the Land and the farmers.
For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce. But in the seventh year, the land shall have a complete rest, a Sabbath to the L‑rd; you shall not sow your field, you shall not prune your vineyard, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth of your harvest . . . And [the produce of] the Sabbath of the land shall be yours to eat for you, for your male and female servants, and for your hired worker and resident who live with you . . . (Leviticus 25:3–6)This sounds pretty simple at first, but of course it's horrendously complicated in practice, and there are more interpretations for the actual observance than anyone can imagine.
Since Shemitta only affects the Holy Land and Jewish landowner farmers, until the advent of quick and safe food import/export most Jews never had to deal with it or even know about it. And for close to two thousand years there weren't any Jewish landowner farmers in the Holy Land, the questions of Shemitta were mostly academic.
With the advent of Zionist farmers, who understood the importance of reclaiming the Land in the most intimate way possible, using it for all Jewish needs, suddenly Shemitta needed practical solutions for the farmers and the consumers.
The Kibbutzim and private farmers of those early Jewish settlers couldn't just give up their livelihoods for a year plus every seven years. The rabbis came up with the solution known as "Heter Mechira," a "fictional" sale of the Land to non-Jews. Read this article on The Kosher Point. Not everyone accepts the Heter Mechira solution, and that's how things get very unpleasant especially here in Israel. There are two main opposing solutions.
- eat only fruits/vegetables from non-Jews, whether local or foreign
- Otzar Beit Din, Public Treasury
A third approach to Shemittah that has been increasingly making inroads is the Otzar Beit Din, or Public Treasury. It is based, inter alia, on the idea that Shemittah fruits are forbidden to be sold, but not to be eaten, and in fact have a sanctity that renders their consumption extra meritorious. The poor must be able to share in the fruits equally. To this end, the and distribution, as well as the upkeep of the fields, are out not for commercial profit, but by a public body acting as the public's representative. (Arutz 7)While Heter Mechira followers and those eating from Arab agriculture frequently refuse to eat in each other's homes, Otzar Beit Din is pretty much accepted by all.
The thing I absolutely hate about Shemitta year is that "I won't eat your food" custom/syndrome which will reach its peak by next Rosh Hashannah and the first few months of 5776, when there won't be any "sixth year" produce in the stores. I so hate all of the contradictory rules/rabbinic decisions that I can't get myself to even go to the classes and information seminars that have been going on for months here in Israel.
edible fruit in their gardens. Pretty much everyone but us has been busy getting their gardens pruned, and cleaned like US Marine buzz cuts.
Now to tell you that there is one thing I really like about Shemitta. It's based on the halacha, Jewish Law, that says that individuals are forbidden to benefit in any way from the fruits/vegetables growing on their private Land/garden, but others may take just enough for their needs. My neighbors will be allowed to eat our delicious grapes, and we will be permitted to take their figs, grapes, apples etc. One can only take what is needed for the next meal, not for the week and certainly not to sell.
The marketing/shopping Shemitta dilemma doesn't start the day after Rosh Hashannah. It begins gradually as vegetables then fruit from the sixth year are no longer marketable. No doubt I will be writing more about the seventh aka Shemitta year.
May everyone be respectful and tolerant concerning various rabbinic opinions concerning Shemitta, because Derech Eretz, how we treat other people is an equally if not greater mitzvah.