Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Shmittah Is Coming!

Next year will be the seventh year in the shmittah cycle. Arutz 7 has an article about how the Rabbinate is preparing for Shmittah. Here's a peek:
Following a special session of the Chief Rabbinate Council on the topic, the Rabbinate decided to make "great efforts to reduce the reliance on the dispensation to a minimum."

Every seventh year, the Land of Israel must lie fallow, forbidden to be worked to produce its fruits. The year is known as Shemittah, from the root meaning to "drop" or "abandon." In the Shemittah of 1889, rabbis of the Land of Israel agreed to temporarily sell parts of the Land to non-Jews, so that certain agricultural activities could be carried out. As the national economy grew and the potential losses - including the very destruction of the fledgling Jewish community - became more threatening, the dispensation became more widespread and institutionalized.

The dispensation, called the heter mechirah, was never universally accepted, and continues to be a matter of controversy even now. Among the scholars who accepted it were Rabbis Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor, Avraham I. Kook, Tzvi Pesach Frank, Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky and Shlomo Yosef Zevin, while Rabbis Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, Yechiel Michel Epstein and the Chazon Ish opposed it. Among living rabbis, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef supports it, explaining that Shemittah applies nowadays only by Rabbinic dictum, while Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv opposes it.

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