Rabbi explains the laws of shmita, how they bring blessing to Israel
The shmita or Sabbath year of the land ended as the new Jewish year began on Sunday night.
In Leviticus 25:3-4, God told Moses on top of Mount Sinai to instruct the Israelites that “For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord.”
To this day, this practice of a sabbath year is observed in modern-day Israel. Every seventh year, farmers cease from agricultural activity, leaving the land fallow and allowing it to rest.
But it is precisely because of this that the land and the Jewish people are seeing “tremendous blessing,” one rabbi told ALL ISRAEL News.
“More Israeli farmers were observing shmita this year than in any year in history,” according to Rabbi Tuly Weisz, founder and CEO of Israel365. “As a result, we are seeing tremendous blessings and, God willing, we will have more blessings in store for us this coming year.”
Any foods that grew naturally during the year are still considered holy and must be treated with sanctity even in the eighth year, which is the first year of the next cycle.
During shmita, farmers cannot work the land or plant anything that grows on the land. Anything that naturally grows belongs to the community, and any Jew can come to take it and eat it.
“You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your untrimmed vines,” Leviticus reads. “But you may eat whatever the land during its Shabbat will produce.”
Weisz said that not only is the observance of shmita a Torah law, it also has spiritual significance. It is meant to be a “challenge of faith” and a “test of obedience to God,” he said.
Some Torah commentators say that one of the reasons the First Jewish Temple was destroyed in the 6th century B.C. and Jews were exiled from Israel for 70 years, was because they did not properly observe the shmita.
“We know they were not as careful as they should have been to observe the sabbatical year,” Weisz said.