Beginning with Rosh Hashana 5782, the Jewish People will have the privilege of observing the commandment of Shemita, the Sabbatical year. Observing this mitzva has always been a challenge for the Jewish People, and as a result sometimes Jews unfortunately view it as a burden. Nevertheless, I believe that meeting this challenge is a unique privilege: one that is available to us in these generations for the first time in millennia, only once every seven years, and only in Israel.
I’ve written this short booklet in order to help make the laws and concepts of Shemita more understandable and accessible to the English-speaking public. It’s my hope that by investing a few minutes to read about and understand the various options available, the reader will not only be able to ask informed halachic questions and understand what he or she is buying and eating, but will also be inspired by the great opportunities modern Shemita observance provides.
During the course of the Shemita year, I run customized tours for groups and families exploring different aspects of Shemita.
The tours can take place in various locations in Israel, and depending on the needs and interests of your group, the tour can combine any of the following elements:
- A visit to an archeological site that enables an understanding of the reality of Shemita observance in ancient times, as envisioned in the Torah and detailed in the Talmud (this could also include a short nature walk)
- A visit to and walking tour of Mazkeret Batya, one of the first modern agricultural settlements and the scene of a dramatic showdown and bitter controversy during the Shemita year of 5649 (1889). This tour enables an understanding of the historical circumstances and difficult dilemmas that led to the controversial Heter Mechira
- A visit to a Shemita-observing farm; one in which the fields are either left completely fallow, or managed according to Shemita laws under the Otzar Bet Din system, or where vegetables are grown in permissible ways on special detached surfaces (Matza Menutak) inside greenhouses
-A discussion with a Shemita-observing farmer, enabling a deeper understanding of the economic and human sides of the contemporary Shemita challenge.
Shemita Charts – dates of kedushat shviit and issur sfichin for various produce (Hebrew)
Otzar HaAretz – sign up here for a subscription plan that will enable you to obtain Otzar Bet Din and other Jewish-grown shemita-observing products. (Website currently only in Hebrew). Even without subscription, you can buy at any of the stores listed on this page (Hebrew).
Hirhurei Shemita, a very important Hebrew-language article written by my esteemed teacher Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l, in 1972, prior to his first Shemita after immigrating to Israel. He laments our contemporary need to employ various halachic loopholes to avoid completely observing the mitzvah. Food for thought as to whether we have moved any closer to the ideal in the 50 or so years since the article was written….
Shemita Wine – the following is a list (courtesy of Dr. Chaim Schochet from Bar Yohai, a small town in the Meron area) of wineries that have produced wine from the 2022 vintage of grapes that were grown in halakhically permissible ways, and being marketed through Otzar Bet Din:
PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING POINTS:
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