Thursday, September 06, 2007

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Shemitta - Preparations for YOU

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

Shemitta is the 7 year growing cycle and mitvah in the Torah, where on the 7th year a number of special rules apply about leaving the land fallow, specifically the Land of Israel. (Similar to resting on the 7th day, for Shabbat, we allow the land (and ourselves) to rest on the 7th year.)

Nowadays, when most of us are not farmers in the Land of Israel, there are not too many practical impacts to one's life, especially if you are outside of Israel. But, here are two you should pay serious attention to...

1. Forgiving of Debts. There are a number of specific required mitzvot relating to the forgiving of personal debts in the 7th year. While there are differences of opinion on whether this activates at the beginning of the shemitta year or at the end, if you have personal debts owed to you that you're not prepared to forgive, you should consult your competent orthodox rabbi immediately about a pruzbul. Immediately means BEFORE the start of Rosh Hashanah.

2. Consuming the produce of the Land of Israel. Fruits (and vetitables) of the 7th year are considered to have a special level of holiness, and therefore special rules. G-d forbid, one should not avoid Israeli food products or the fruits/vegetables, rather one should learn a bit and/or consult one's competent orthodox rabbi. Hirhurim has a nice brief overview here. Naturally, this only applies to Israeli produce from Jewish farms harvested after Rosh Hashanah.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe specifically noted in the past...

We must encourage, motivate and stimulate the proper preparations for the observance of the laws of Shemittah in Eretz Yisroel. Many of the pertinent laws apply during the period starting with Rosh Chodesh Elul.

The observance of Shemittah incurs financial sacrifices on many levels, for this reason it is good and proper that everyone should contribute, as soon as possible, to the "Keren HaShemittah" (fund to support the observance of Shemittah). In this way the donor will be counted among the "guardians of Shemittah," who are referred to as:

His messengers, armed with strength that fulfill His word, to obey the voice of His word. - (Tehillim 103:20) ...

Another important practice connected to the Shemittah year applies in contemporary times for all Jews in Eretz Yisroel as well as in the diaspora. This is the "Pruzbul" contract which transfers all debts receivable to a rabbinic court.

The Alter Rebbe writes in the Shulchan Aruch:

Every G-d-fearing individual should be strict to make a Pruzbul in which there is no loss and which is easy to do. He should gather three qualified men and form a Bais Din and he should make the following declaration: "I hereby transfer to you all debts receivable which I have, so that I may be permitted to collect them whenever I wish." ...the proper time for the enactment of the Pruzbul is at the close of the sixth year before Rosh Hashanah of the seventh (Shemittah) year. - (Shulchan Aruch Harav, Choshen Mishpot, Loans, 1:35-36)

It is likewise a mitzvah to publicize this rule in all places. Since the appropriate time for the Pruzbul is Erev Rosh Hashanah, it will be good and proper to make the Pruzbul immediately after Hataras Nedarim (absolution of oaths) on the morning of Erev Rosh Hashanah; at that time the three competent people will be available.

L'Shana Tova, may Hashem grant you a good year!

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