Beginning with Rosh Hashana 5775, 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 only once every seven years, and only in the Land of Israel. Below are some resources to help you understand more about this great opportunity.
The Kosher Consumer’s Guide to Shemita
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 am running customized group tours 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
- A guided tour of Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon’s special Visitors’ Center at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens where one can learn the basics of Shemita laws and values
For more information, or to book a tour, contact me here.
Articles and Websites
Halakhot of Otzar Bet Din Wine – a short summary
Otzar Ha’aretz – a wonderful organization enabling us to obtain fruits and vegetables grown by Israeli Jewish farmers who follow the laws of Shemita, and without reliance on Heter Mechira (see The Kosher Consumer’s Guide to Shemita for explanation). The Hebrew section of the website contains a list of local branches where this produce is available.
The above website contains charts that list dates at which various fruits and vegetables on the market will begin to have kedushat shvi’it and/or issur sfichin (see The Kosher Consumer’s Guide for explanation of these terms). An English translation of these charts (courtesy of the OU’s Torah Tidbits publication) accurate as of Elul 5774, is available here, beginning on page 65.
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 whether we have moved any closer to the ideal in the 42 years since the article was written.