Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What is Shmittah?

We have now completed the fall holidays and have fully entered the new year, 5775. Beyond the quaint palindrome nature of its numbers, this new year is distinct from the past few years in that it is a shmittah year. Shmittah is the final year of the seven year sabbatical cycle. During the shmittah year, the Jewish farmers  must allow the land to lie fallow according to God’s command:

“And six years you shall sow your land, and gather in the increase thereof; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beast of the field shall eat. In like manner you shall deal with your vineyard, and with your olive-yard” (Exodus 23:10-11).

While agricultural experts have long praised the policy of letting agricultural fields have periods of rest and regeneration, the halachot (laws) of the shmittah year apply only to Jewish owned fields  in the land of Israel. During shmittah, Jewish farmers who abstain from working their fields demonstrate great faith, trusting in God's promise of abundance to supply them with food during the shmittah year and the year that follows.

“And if you shall say: 'What shall we eat the seventh year? Behold, we may not sow, nor gather in our increase'; then I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth produce for the three years. And you shall sow the eighth year, and eat of the produce, the old store; until the ninth year, until her produce come in, you shall eat the old store” (Exodus 25:20-22).

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