For the Jewish community around the world, Wednesday at sundown marks a new year–5775. It will also begin a sabbatical event that occurs only once every seven years.
The shnat shmita, a Hebrew phrase for “a year let go”, is a time when observant Jews in Israel allow their land to rest. As Jews observe the Sabbath, or Shabbat, on the seventh day of the week, so too do they let their crops rest every seventh year. The publication Haaretz stresses that shmita applies only in the Land of Israel, and “nowhere else.”
Every seventh year land cannot be worked, and the produce of the land cannot be bought or sold; the land should instead be left alone. People are however, permitted to pick what is grown naturally in fields and orchards as needed, as reported by Haaretz. Basic maintenance work to keep plants alive is also allowed. This is biblically based from Exodus 23:10-11 which reads:
“For six years you may sow your land and gather in its produce. But the seventh year you shall let the land lie untilled and fallow, that the poor of your people may eat of it and their leftovers the wild animals may eat. So also shall you do in regard to your vineyard and your olive grove.”
During Shmita, anything grown on land in Israel is theoretically free, especially for the poor, according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA).
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Haaretz also notes another biblical basis for Shmita–that God will give plentiful bounty if the rules are kept (Leviticus 25:1-7, 18-22). Debts are also to be forgiven during Shmita. Deuteronomy 15:1-11:
“At the end of every seven year period you shall have a remission of debts, and this is the manner of the remission. Creditors shall remit all claims on loans made to a neighbor, not pressing the neighbor, one who is kin, because the Lord’s remission has been proclaimed.”
Banks in Israel do not forgive debts, however.
As per the Israeli Agriculture Ministry, vegetables grown hydroponically–in water rather than soil–or on elevated platforms, such as greenhouses, are considered kosher during the sabbatical year, The Blaze reports.
Rony Rosenzweig, a member of the religious cooperative community Kibbutz Lavi, located in the northern Galilee region, tells The Blaze this is a special opportunity for Jews to grow their spiritual side.
“As religious Jews, during the year, we learn more Torah, we free our farmers to learn more about our faith. Our religion says: leave work and work on your spirit. Our decision on the kibbutz is to allow our members to grow their spiritual side, and that’s also a sabbatical.”
Photo Credit: Marc Smith (Flickr)
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