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Frugal food shopping for the Anglo Israeli

Archive for the category “Shmitah”

Shmita and derech eretz- free conference on Tu B’shevat

In honour of Machon HaTorah v’Ha’aretz’s 30th anniversary, they will be holding a free conference (yom iyun) on various topics relating to shmita and derech eretz.  The yom iyun will take place on Wednesday February 4 in the conference center of the Ganei Yerushalayim Hotel, Kiryat Moshe, Jerusaalem from 11:00-19:30.  There is no charge for the event and there will be light refreshments served.  Click on the picture of the schedule for a larger image.




Shmittah Supervisor’s Car Stoned Near Tira

The vehicle of the supervisor over Rabbi Yosef Efrati’s “mehadrin” kosher status for vegetables during this Shmittah year was stoned near the Arab-Israeli village of Tira, resulting in the supervisor leaving the area.

As the kashrut supervisor left the area for which he was responsible for,  Arab minors opened up on him, throwing rocks. Following the incident, the Shmittah Committee announced that the area was no longer under its supervision until further notification.

Source: Arutz 7

The Shmittah App

The Shmittah App has just come out for Android devices (iPhone coming soon).  The Shmittah App is a “free app designed to be an extra tool in your pocket to enhance your shmittah observance. The Shmittah App was designed to get you answers right when you need it.”

To download the app, go to Google Play.

For more iPhone apps for the frugal shopper, click here.

The Shmittah App - screenshot thumbnailThe Shmittah App - screenshot thumbnailThe Shmittah App - screenshot thumbnail

Seven shmitah-related tiyulim

Looking for a way to connect to the land during shmitah?  Here are some ideas for activities related to shmitah- start planning your next holiday now.

1. Leket Yisrael

Most of us are familiar with this organization that collects fruits and vegetables from farms and leftover food from various events to distribute to the needy.  During shmitah, collecting produce will take place in the fields of Moshav Nahalal which is under heter mechira.  For more information, call 09-7441757 extension 112, email, or go to their web site.

2. Halakatim- The Gatherers

During shmitah, when it is forbidden to plant or to harvest, the people would go out and gather plants and vegetables that grew without human intervention.  Yaron Sherman can take you out for a tour to see the bounty that this land has to offer- both in quantity and in quality.  The tour includes a theoretical part after which you collect foods to create a meal.  The tours are by prearrangement only and take place throughout Israel.  They are appropriate for groups of all ages.  For more information, call Yaron Sherman at 052-7400587, email, or go to his Facebook page.

3. Midreshet Haaretz UMitzvoteha at Kibbutz Chafetz Chaim

During shmitah the Midreshet invites everyone to come to learn, do, and try.  The visitors will enter a greenhouse that is an example of how vegetables are raised in a permitted manner during shmitah, will prepare a seedling and meet with a farmer who will tell of how he works during shmitah.  You will also be able to go into “Our Kitchen” to learn about the halachot of shmitah, watch a sound and light show, and ride around in a tractor to the refet and other parts of the kibbutz.  For more information, call 08-8593870, email, or go to their web site.

4. Kibbutz Hannaton

The educational center of Kibbutz Hannaton invites youths and students who speak English and Hebrew to learn and work according to the values of Judaism, nature, and peace.  The kibbutz offers tours of the different methods used during shmitah in the orchards, hefker fields, and heter mechira fields.  You will also have a chance to meet the Arabs working in the fields to understand how the heter mechira fits into the National Zionist ideology.  For more information, call 04-9059605, email, or go to their web site.

5. Keren Kayemet L’Yisrel (KKL-JNF)

KKL offers a wide variety of activities related to shmitah based on ecological, social, and Zionist values.  You can choose between shmitah tours in the forests and nurseries of KKL or activities that value the preservation of nature through preserving and treating the KKL forests.  The activities are appropriate for students and groups.  For more information, call “Kav L’Yaar” at 1800-350-550, go to the KKL web site, or read a previous post of mine.

6. Vertigo Eco-Art Village

Vertigo is a village of ecological artists in Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Hay.  For the shmitah year they offer a way to get closer to the earth through meditation, directed breathing, movement workshops and art.  The activities are accompanied with a textual study of shmitah, using it as a foundation for practical exercises. The activities are appropriate for groups of all ages.  For more information, call 02-9900235, email or go to their web site.

7. “Mischak Chozer”

Mischak Chozer are activities that are based on games made from recycled materials.  Some of the games will bring back fond memories from the adults of their childhood. The games are meant to encourage creativity and curiosity for a relatively low price.  Dina Eitan-Lior will bring the games and activities to you.  Preference is given to communities in the periphery and weaker communities.  The activities are intended for preschools, schools, senior citizens, and communities.  For more information call Dina at 054-5649554 or email

EXPOSED: Heter mechira produce or worse sold as “nochri” produce

During shmitah there is a dramatic increase in the use of “nochri” produce (produce grown by non-Jews) by the haredi population.  This is provided by the Palestinians, who receive 2-3 times the regular non-shmitah price.  Despite the increase in need, there is no subsequent increase in production which creates a strong motivation to provide produce from other sources in order to fulfill the demand and receive double/triple compensation.  This week a produce wholesaler was caught doing just that.  “Kvutzat Siam L’Peirot v’Yerakot” sells fruits and vegetables to restaurants in Jerusalem along with direct sales of produce in the Machane Yehuda shuk.  The owner of this business, Kfir Issa, has a brother who sells Palestinian produce under the business name “Peirot v’Yerakot Mishor Adumim”.  Kfir Issa was caught this week by the Pitzuach unit of Misrad HaChakalut purchasing large quantities of produce from Jewish farms under the heter mechira as well as other farms under no supervision whatsoever.  On this produce he put a fake rabbanut stamp and stored it in cold storage in Mishor Adumim.  From there it was sold to haredi centers as produce under “shmitah l’chumrah”.

Haredi consumers and mehadrin restaurants who thought they were purchasing kosher l’mehadrin produce discovered that under the best situation, they purchased heter mechira produce at 2-3 times the regular price.  In the worst case scenario, they purchased product of unknown origin, under no government or rabbinic supervision at the same price.

The produce came into Israel with travel documents that were for previously purchased Israeli produce that were re-purposed.

Rabbi Rafi Yochai, in charge of kashrut fraud in the rabbanut stated: “This is a revolving door of whitewashing merchandise in large quantities, and the great majority of it we will probably never know about.  Businesses such as these are likely to turn the matter of ‘yivol chul’ into a laughingstock.  This expose shows how important it is to strengthen and to empower the rabbanut, and to put effective tools in their hands for dealing with and supervising kashrut on a national basis.”

Source: Mekor Rishon 24/10/2014

Helpful shmita lists

If you want to know if the produce you are buying is from a farm that is under the heter mechira, check out these lists from the rabbanut and Misrad HaHaklaut arranged by yishuv and by the name of the farm.

For a comprehensive list of when shmita starts and finishes for each fruit, vegetable, and spice check out this chart.  It also has dates for sefichin and biur.

שנת שמיטה תשע"ה

Shmita: Heter Mechira

Heter mechira is one of the most controversial aspects of shmita.  I will try to present all sides of the issue so each of you can form your own opinion.


In the 1500s there was a debate between Rabbi Yosef Caro and Rabbi Moses ben Joseph di Trani (ha Mabit) as to whether agricultural products grown in Israel by non-Jews were subject to shmita observance.  Rabbi Yosef Caro permitted Jews to eat this produce while ha Mabit did not.  This issue was of great importance in that day because there was no Jewish agriculture- the Jews were reliant on Arab produce for their subsistence.

Moving ahead to the late 1800s, where the Jewish settlers of the first aliyah movement were producing wine and citrus fruits.  The settlements had previously been under threat of collapsing and were saved by Baron de Rothschild.  The year 1889 was a shmita year and the settlers were genuinely afraid that they would not survive.  They petitioned the Rabbanut at that time to issue a heter- permit- to allow them to work the land but were refused.  They then took their campaign worldwide stating that it was a case of pikuach nefesh- saving a life- to which all law is to be put aside.  Three rabbis in Eastern Europe- Samuel Mohilever of Bialiystok, IJ Trunk of Kutno, and Z. Klepfish of Warsaw agreed to a heter which permitted the land to be sold to Arabs for two years on the condition that work would be carried out in specific ways.  Firstly, if affordable, non-Jewish labour should be used.  If the settler was to poor, he/she could work on the land under the supervision of the Rabbanut which would permitted only work that was forbidden under rabbinical law.  They also required the approval of the Gaon of Kovno, Rabbi Isaac Elhanan Spector, who agreed.  Despite that, there was great controversy amongst prominent rabbis who felt that the Jewish community was not in such dire straits at that time.  There were also rabbis who felt that observing shmita was a Torah law and not a Rabbinic law and therefore it is impossible to allow legal loopholes.

In 1895 a new version of the heter mechira was presented.  It applied only to fruit trees and not the land, which allowed the settlers to still sell their fruit.  This did not apply to other agricultural products.  It also did not allow performing work on the trees unless it was to save the life of the tree, which is permitted anyway.  The Arabs were supposed to cut down the trees, but if they didn’t the contract would be void and the ownership would return to the Jews.  This heter was also applied in 1902.

In 1910 Rav AI Kook renewed the general heter mechira, albeit reluctantly.  In a letter to the Ridbaz, Rabbi Kook wrote:

“I have said before that the halachic validity of the heter mechira cannot be doubted. Nevertheless this fact does not absolve us from our duty to seek out all opportunities the Almighty affords us and which enable our brethren who have settled in the Holy Land to observe shmita fully without having to resort to the heter mechira and any part of the Holy Land be it ever so small, where Jewish settlers keep the mitzvah of shmita in its entirety- כהלכתה- should be a cause of jubilation for us as if we had discovered the greatest treasure.  But far be it from us to level accusations against those Jewish settlers who make use of the heter mechira.  Although this heter is not an ideal thing- משנת חסידים- and our hearts ache because of the deplorable plight of the Jewish settlers in our Holy Land who are forced to take recourse to such legal devices which temporarily suspend the holy and beloved mitzvah of the Sabbath of the Land, nevertheless what has been done out of dire necessity is ‘perfect Torah’- תורה שלמה.  And it behooves the great Sages of Israel to comfort those of our brethren who, with broken hearts, find themselves constrained to make use of such legal devices, so that they should not appear as law-breakers, God forbid, in their own eyes.  To enlarge the Jewish settlement in the Holy Land is a religious duty that devolves upon all Jewish generations and the strengthening of the Yishuv brings nearer our final redemption when we can fulfill the law of shmita in its entirety.”

The Ridbaz disagreed with Rav Kook and claimed that eating shmita produce as a result of forbidden activities was akin to eating pork.  Divine redemption, he said, will only come if we are observing shmita and not looking for excuses not to observe.  Rav Kook felt quite strongly that if people saw farmers struggling to survive, it would prevent people from wanting to move to Israel; one of the most important concerns of his time.

In 1935, the Chazon Ish published a review of all of the previous discussions regarding shmita and came to the conclusion that there is no halachic basis for the heter mechira.

Modern Israel

The Chief Rabbinate continues to renew the heter mechira each shmita year.  There are fundamental differences between the heter mechira of colonial Israel and the modern state of Israel.  In previous times, each farm performed a heter individually.  In modern times, the Rabbinate performs a mass sale to one Arab, which leaves doubt as to whether the intention is for it to be a real sale.   In addition, we would be hard-pressed to say that observing shmita would cause physical ruin to the Jewish State.  Finally, in comparison to the religious Jews of colonial times who petitioned for a heter mechira because they were afraid for their lives, the great majority of farmers in Israel are not Sabbath observant.  What is the most acceptable method to deal with non-religious farmers? One cannot neither force them to observe shmita nor forbid their produce from entering the market.  Therefore using the heter mechira is considered the best alternative.

The most difficult issue with the heter mechira is the visceral reaction most people have to the State of Israel selling its land to an Arab.  So many people have died to preserve the State of Israel that it seems criminal to sell it.  In addition, the heter is only valid if the sale is intentional and not symbolic, which makes matters even worse.

There are people who believe in the validity of the heter mechira based on the opinion of Rav Kook.  The Kibbutz HaDati movement is the largest movement that supports the heter mechira in this time.  Another group of people who use the heter mechira are farmers who live in areas that are in doubt as to whether they are within the borders of Israel- the south and the Beit Shean area for example.  They use it as a safeguard in cause the doubt is incorrect.

Charedi farmers do not hold by the heter mechira and observe shmita by leaving their land fallow and hefker (ownerless).    They receive subsidies from the Ministry of Agriculture during shmita to prevent them from falling into dire financial straits.

Source: Shemittah and Yobel by Dayan Dr. I. Grunfeld.


Same chips, different hashgacha and therefore different sources of potatoes.

No more procrastination!

Today is Friday.  Rosh Hashana is Wednesday night.  Are you ready?  If not, use this list to help you get organized for the new year.


If you have school-aged children, know that there are only three days of school next week- Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.   Right now- make sure you have three sets of school outfits washed and ready, three sets of meals for school, and three water bottles if you can. (We fill the bottle about 1/4 – 1/3 full with water and put it in the freezer.  In the morning we add cold water and the water stays cold all day.)  Make sure they don’t need to bring anything special to school for the holiday- if so, put it on the calendar and get it now.  Now hopefully you can “forget” about school for now.


Do you have any last-minute haircut appointments, doctor appointments etc. to schedule?  Be efficient- call  at night and leave a message or book on the internet.  I was surprised to call a hair salon and discover that they have a full messaging service at 11:00 at night!


Get your last minute gardening/pruning/fertilizing done this week.  If you signed up for Otzar HaAretz, you should get your card by Sunday.  If not, call them at 073-2206323.  For more information, read my previous post.  Try and get as much produce as you can now before the prices go up after the first of Tishrei.

Rosh Hashana

First things first- make a list of what still needs to be done.  Break it down into the following categories:

  1. Guests– if you have, confirm if they have allergies.   Get the guest rooms and bathrooms ready.  What time are they coming?  Do you have to pick them up?  If so, from where?  If you are a guest, find out what you can bring/make/do to help your host.  If you really want to make your hostess happy, offer to bring some already-seeded rimon 🙂
  2. Going away?– if you are, make sure your neighbor has your key in case of emergency, timers are set, pet/plant sitters arranged.
  3. Laundry– make sure your tablecloths, towels, linens and holiday clothes are washed.   If you have a European machine, you know how how long it takes so plan your time accordingly.
  4. Table– do you have enough tables and chairs?  if not, arrange to borrow from a gamach or a friend now.  Do you have enough tablecloths, silverware, plates, serving dishes, napkins, bowls and cups?  If not, figure out how many disposable items you will need to purchase and get it soon. We found very nice biodegradable plasticware that looks just like the Solo brand and wasn’t too expensive.  Don’t forget candles, matches and long-lasting candles.
  5. Food– Make an inventory of your freezer and start planning meals if you haven’t already.  We all need to purchase fruits and vegetables this week- don’t forget apples, rimon, dates and a new fruit.  Most stores are open Saturday night and have extended hours this week to get your last minute shopping done.  If you use fresh chicken, don’t forget that because the Muslim and Jewish holidays collide this year, there won’t be fresh chicken being produced from Sunday-Monday until after the holidays.  Pack your freezer now!  You might be tempted to shop for groceries online, but just remember that you are one of thousands so expect many items to be out of stock.  You don’t want your order to come Tuesday night missing half the items and you have to run out Wednesday morning for them.
  6. Clothing–  do you have enough for a three day holiday?  I know my son already outgrew the last set of clothing we bought him and we have so far been unsuccessful in dragging him in to purchase another -gasp- three outfits.
  7. Kids– make a list of everything they can do and have them do it.  If it makes your life easier, bribe them.  We have offered 10 agorot- 1 shekel per chore (depending on their ages; can be done multiple times) or three levels of rewards- ice cream, pizza, movie depending on how many they do and whether they work together or not.   I will post some recipes/activities to keep them busy Wednesday while you finish your last minute chores.
  8. Beit knesset– if you go, do you have your seat/membership paid for?  If you can, find out where your seat is beforehand so it will be easier to find it during services.  Do you have enough machzorim?  Do you know where they are?  If you are not going, do you know who can blow the shofar for you?   If your beit knesset has a tzedaka campaign during the holidays (selling honors or having someone come in from another agency), budget now what you are willing/able to spend.   Discuss it with your husband/wife so there are no surprises.

That’s it for now-don’t forget to take breaks and eat healthy!

Shmitah: Otzar Beit Din

Observing shmita can be difficult both for the farmer and for the consumer.  The farmer has to rely on the harvest from the sixth year to support him/her during the shmitah year or find alternative sources of income.  The consumer still needs to eat fruits and vegetables (although my kids would debate that last point).  In an agrarian society, one could walk up to the ownerless field and take what you need for your meals.  Today we are much further removed from the fields- our produce comes from supermarkets and it is unrealistic to drive out to the country to pick a few tomatoes.  Plus, as we learned yesterday, the point of shmitah produce (peirot sheviit) is not to have it sit and rot but to eat it.

So what is a modern society to do?

Machon HaTorah v’Haaretz–  The Institute for Torah and the Land of Israel- has provided us with a solution- the Otzar Beit Din.

מכון התורה והארץ

You might recognize the symbol on certain produce in the supermarket.

During the shmitah year the Oztar Beit Din becomes the middleman between the consumer and the farmer.  The farmer signs a contract that the Beit Din is permitted to remove produce from his/her land and store it in the Beit Din’s warehouse.  The Beit Din then distributes the produce to the members of its community.  The Beit Din compensates the farmer for transporting the produce to the warehouse (and other permitted activities).  The community members pay a fee to belong to the community.   Since it is forbidden to weigh, sort, categorize or do any sort of commerce with peirot sheviit, the Otzar Beit Din sets up a different system for people to collect their produce.  For example, the consumer pays a set price each month and the prices of the produce is set based on expenses only and therefore does not earn a profit.

It is important to pick an Otzar Beit Din that is reputable and large enough to meet the supply and demand of its community.  If a Beit Din is unscrupulous, it will simply become a legal loophole that allows commerce to continue throughout the shmitah year.  In addition, it is important to feel that you are truly part of the community that the Beit Din represents and not just through financial support.

The Otzar Haaretz Otzar Beit Din supported by Machon HaTorah v’Haaretz already has a significant number of rabbanim, farmers and consumers signed on.  I will repost here the information in English that they have on their web site. Most of the information is in Hebrew.

You can become members of the Otzar HaAretz Customer Club through a simple process. All you have to do is register at the site. During the course of the registration you will choose how much you intend to spend on fruits and vegetables during the coming Shmita year. We will load the sum you choose into a “smart card” which you will use as a means of payment for fruits and vegetables during the Shmita year. We will divide the sum into 12 even parts and you will be able to use the relative amount each month. For example, if you chose 600NIS for the year, you will be able to use the card to purchase up to 50NIS each month. Additionally, the card will grant you unique club benefits.

Our sources of supply:

  1. Vegetables which were picked during the sixth year:  During the course of this year, the sixth in the Shmita count, we purchase vegetables from Jewish farms and store the produce in various manners.  From a halachic perspective, this produce is preferable since it has no connection at all with Shmita labors.  Aside from this meticulous halachic observance, or “hidur” we encourage the Jewish farmers to increase their production, as long as it is still halachically permitted.
  2. Mounted trays in hothouses:  This is one of our original methods for agricultural production during the course of the Shmita year.  In the framework of this method we grow vegetables in closed hothouses, in sealed planters (with no openings) placed upon a sealed surface, having no direct contact with the ground.  From a halachic perspective, this method is based on a combination of two opinions:  (1) The opinion of those who permit planting during Shmita today in plain earth which is located inside a structure.  According to this opinion, this question can be related to more leniently since in any case, Shmita laws today are “Midrabanan”/(Rabbinic Decree) according to Pe’at HaShulchan Chapter 20 paragraph 52 and other Rabbinic authorities, and (2) the fact that planting in a perforated container (with an opening) outdoors is prohibited by Rabbinic decree.  Therefore a combination of the two opinions is initially permitted.  This solution enables us to increase the production of certain vegetables by Jewish producers specifically during the course of the Shmita year.
  3. Fruits and vegetables which have “Kedushat Shvi’it” [Shmita year produce sanctity]:  This refers to fruits in orchards which will begin to grow during the Shmita year and which will be picked during the Shmita year or the winter of 5776.  According to that same principle there will be a supply of vegetables which were planted in the sixth year and will be picked during the seventh (Shmita), based on the accepted opinions in halacha that vegetables which began to grow during the sixth year and were picked during the seventh are permitted to be eaten, however, they must be treated as having “Shmita Sanctity”.  (Based on R’sh M’Shantz Shvi’it, Chapter 9, Magen Avraham, text beginning with “All sfichin” [after-growth vegetables], Chazon Ish on Shvi’it 9:A, “Shabbat Haaretz” Chapter 4:3:B comment 11, “Yalkut Yosef Shvi’it” 23:14, in the name of the Rishon L’Zion, Rav Ovadia Yosef ZT”L, “Maadanei Eretz Shivi’it” Appendices Section 10, 11 and we also heard it from Rav Mordechai Eliahu ZT”L.  (It is important to note: The farmers who will grow vegetables having Shmita sanctity will be agents of the “Bet Din” [Rabbinical Court] from the beginning of the growth through its completion, as well as all those involved in the supply of this produce from the fields and orchards until it is received by the consumers, will be done by agents of the “Bet Din” of Otzar Haaretz in accordance with the halachic restrictions which exist regarding produce having Shmita year Sanctity.  Additionally, the consumption of those fruits must be in accordance with the laws regarding “Shmita Sanctity” (See an expansive explanation in our article “Halachic Fundamentals of “Otzar Bet Din” [Rabbinical Court Storehouse] in “The Torah and the Land” section 6 pps. 389-422.)
  4. Vegetable produce from the Southern Arava in addition to the strict interpretation of the “Heter Mechira”; the Southern Arava is indeed included in the boundaries of the Promise to Avraham Avinu at the Brit bein haB’tarim (the “covenant of the pieces”), however with regard to the commandments unique to the Land of Israel there is a disagreement among the commentaries and the halachic decisors (“poskim”) if it [that section of land] had ever been sanctified.  According to the decision of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel since the establishment of the State, the commandments unique to the Land of Israel are to be kept there (According to Rav Yechiel Mechil Tukichinsky, “The Land of Israel” pps. 34-35 and pps. 82-84; the Gaon Rav Zvi Pesach Frank ZT”L, the Gaon Rav Ovadia Hadaya ZT”L, “Yaskil Avdi Responsa” 6:2, and Rav Eliezer Waldenberg ZT”L in the “Tzitz Eliezer Responsa” 3:23).  Therefore, we use this produce with the addition of the strict interpretation of the “Heter Mechira”.  This way we act in a way that is acceptable according to all the approaches, and at the same time we strengthen the Arava producers and supply their produce during the course of the Shmita year.
  5. Vegetable produce grown in hothouses in the Western Negev including the strict interpretation of the Heter Mechira:  The Western Negev, an area which is located southwest of Ashqelon, was settled only by Egyptian immigrants during the First Temple Period, but not by Babylonian immigrants during the period of Ezra & Nehemia, through the end of the Second Temple period.  It is important to note that despite the fact that working the land in this area is prohibited during the Shmita year, and in fact, the produce from there must be treated as having Shmita Sanctity, there are mitigating factors as follows:
    1. They have no prohibition of “sfichin”.
    2. Even according to the strict halachic decisors who do not allow use of the “Heter Mechira” during Shmita, it is permitted to do so and to eat its produce without treating it as having Shmita Sanctity following the sale of the land (according to the Gaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ZT”L, “Minchat Shlomo Responsa” Section 3 158:3).  Through the use of this important area we can considerably increase the marketing of our fine produce during the course of Shmita and thereby strengthen Jewish Agriculture in the Western Negev.  At the beginning of the Shmita year, vegetables planted in the sixth year will be grown and harvested during the seventh, and as such will have Shmita Sanctity.
  6. Non-Jewish Produce: A small portion of the vegetables available in the Israeli market are purchased from Arab farmers all the time.  We will continue to purchase from the same supply sources during Shvi’it in a manner which will not expand their share of the Israeli market.
  7. Import:  If, during the course of the summer, the produce from the above sources shall run out, we will supply imported agricultural produce, although we will not supply produce from the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.


For a list of supermarkets that will be carrying Otzar Haaretz produce (confirmed and in the process of signing up), click here.

Of course, this being a couponing site, I have to mention that signing up for Otzar Haaretz gives you big discounts on things like the Chavaya at the Tzomet Institute,  Chavaya ba Shmitah at Machon Hatorah v’Haaretz, rafting, ice skating, the visitor’s center at Mitzei Keshet, the glass-bottomed boats in Eilat and more.  See all of the discounts here.

Next topic in the series: heter mechira.

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?


  1. A Journey into the World of Shmitah by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon
  2. Masekhet Shevi’it By Rav Moshe Taragin, Shiur #12: Eating Shemitta Fruit, YESHIVAT HAR ETZION ISRAEL KOSCHITZKY VIRTUAL BEIT MIDRASH (VBM).

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