This is one article in a seven-part series, recapping a shmita study group, sponsored by Hazon and Kevah. You can find other posts in the series on the shmita blog.
Shmita (the sabbatical year), on the theoretical level, is a radical movement towards social equality, awareness of land ownership, understanding of good agricultural practices, and a major reconsideration of a monetary system.
Sounds like an interesting thought-experiment, right?
Well, Shmita is also a real-life system that is currently implemented in Israel, the only place where following the laws of Shmita are traditionally required. The various systems in place in Israel right now are quite complex. There are essentially four options to choose from when a farmer is deciding in what capacity he will follow the laws of Shmita:
- Continue life as normal
- Use the rabbinical tool of Heter Mechira
- Use the rabbinical tool of Otzar Beit Din
- Import food from outside of Biblical Israel
For someone just trying to buy food, this could get quite confusing. Do I follow the laws of Shmita? Do I trust the Heter Mechira certification? Should I just be extremely safe and buy only imported food (despite the harm to the Israeli economy). Why so many options? Why can’t we just follow Shmita the way the Torah explains it?