This year is the Shemitah year, the Sabbatical year. What are the rules in Israel and how does it affect us? The start of this week’s Torah portion talks about the Shemitah year, the fallow year for planting land. During that year we are supposed to leave our land (in Israel) untended. We are allowed to pick the fruit for our own use but not in a commercial manner and not to store it up for the future. The produce which naturally occurs without human intervention is considered hefker or belonging to nobody, and is intended for anyone to use. The implication is also that there is no need to tithe the produce either, it being outside the normal scheme.
The implications of this would be very serious in Israel if it were not for several factors. For a start, we are not definite about which year is the Shemitah. The practice is rabbinic today rather than Toah, as it is very possibly the wrong year. Moreover there have been several efforts to ensure that the Shemitah is not a serious problem for farmers, notably by the Chief Rbabinate in Israel, which organizes the land ot be sold to someone who is not Jewish thereby allowing cultivation during this year.
There are, however, several companies which grow food for export on non-Shemitah proofed land. This means that today we need to check the origins of our Israeli produce if we want to buy it during the year 5775, so that we can ensure that it is Shemitah friendly.
Perhaps another use for our smartphones?
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Rabbi Zvi Solomons
The only Orthodox Rabbi in Berkshire