Shmitah: Are you rooting for the home team?
Today is your birthday. Your closest friend, knowing you use your computer all the time, decides to surprise you by getting all of your friends and family together to chip in and buy you a brand new laptop. This laptop just came out on the market and is the fastest, has the largest memory and the highest resolution screen. It is sleek, beautiful and is very special to you-not only because of its value but because of who gave it to you. Of course you will have to take extra special care of it, but it is worth it, right? Do you take the present and thank your friends profusely or do you yell at them in anger because of how delicately you have to treat their gift? Do you leave it on the shelf because it is too much trouble to deal with it?
I know it isn’t really your birthday today. The birth of the new year, however, is coming up soon with the advent of shmitah. Produce from the land of Israel (פירות שביעית, peirot sheviit) will become holy. This means that special rules apply to this produce which has to be treated differently than during other years. You have to take care not to waste it and not to intentionally cause it to rot. This is not simple, especially with young children. Produce becomes more expensive. It is not easy to remember all of the rules involved. It is much easier and simpler to buy produce from chutz l’aretz or produce sold through the heter mechira alone which does not have kedushat sheviit- the holiness of the shmitah year. But what are you saying to our Creator when you decide to avoid peirot sheviit? Are you putting this mitzvah on the shelf because it is too difficult to deal with?
In contradiction to most poskim who say that eating peirot sheviit is permissible but not mandatory, the Ramban says that it is a mitzvah to eat kedushat sheviit. This is based on the following sources:
ויקרא כה, ו “The year of shabbat ha-aretz shall be for you to EAT.” “והיתה שבת הארץ לכם לאכלה”
שמות כג, יא “The poor will EAT the shmitah produce.” “ואכלו אביוני עמך”
In a few short weeks we will be required to make a decision regarding what type of produce we choose to purchase.
- We can buy produce that was grown in countries such as Jordan, Cyprus and Europe.
- We can buy produce that was grown in the Palestinian Territories.
- We can buy produce grown on Israeli land that was sold to a non-Jew.
- We can buy produce grown on Israeli land that was outside the original borders of Israel.
- We can buy produce grown in Israel by Jewish farmers but not in the ground (e.g. hydroponics).
- We can buy produce grown in Israel by Jewish farmers who are observing shmitah as strictly as we are.
As olim chadashim and vatikim, one of the special blessings of living in Israel is being a part of mitzvot hatluyot ba’aretz- mitzvot that can only be performed in Israel. The question to ask yourselves when shmitah is here is which team will you be rooting for- the visitors or the home team?
- A Journey into the World of Shmitah by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon
- Masekhet Shevi’it By Rav Moshe Taragin, Shiur #12: Eating Shemitta Fruit, YESHIVAT HAR ETZION ISRAEL KOSCHITZKY VIRTUAL BEIT MIDRASH (VBM). vbm-torah.org/archive/sheviit/12fruit.rtf