Since Rosh Hashanah, at the end of September 2022, the Jewish year is now 5783. That means that the sabbatical year, or shmita, has ended. The next sabbatical year won’t begin until Sept. 20, 2028, or the Jewish year, 5789.
Just as Jewish law states that Jews can work for six days but must rest on the seventh, the law also declares that the land can be worked for six years but must be allowed to rest in the seventh year. After seven cycles of seven, the 50th year is the Jubilee year.
First mentioned in the Book of Exodus in the Torah, in Hebrew, shnat shmita literally means “a year let go,” or a year in which the Land of Israel is left to fallow. According to the Torah, the land may not be worked, nor the produce bought and sold. While the “land” in question applies only to agriculture in Israel, there are implications of shnat shmita for Jews in the Diaspora.
According to Chabad, produce that is imported from Israel must have rabbinical certification and is subject to some laws and restrictions due to their sanctity. Also, the aspect of shmita, that applies to debt absolution, affects Jews around the world. The Torah states that all private debts are forgiven, while public debts are exempt during shmita.
Some former Atlantans, now living in Israel, like David Arnovitz, told the AJT how his family is impacted by shmita. His family observes shmita in their own garden, doing only maintenance and improvement during the year.
“We buy produce at the grocery store that holds according to one of the shmita policies: either imported, heter mechira (most stores, restaurants and food manufacturers do this, but it is not deemed strict enough by stricter people), or otzar beit din (more strict people do this).”
Another former Atlantan, Rabbi Adam Frank, told the AJT that “unless a person directly engages in the growing or selling of produce, practically speaking the shmita year will not be an imposition or mean any change of behavior for Israelis. Like the greater Jewish population, people’s private practices vary, and there are both Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews who are less stringent on matters of avoiding planting on personal property. Without a doubt, the level of fervency that one expresses for Jewish ritual during the rest of the year is also expressed in the observance of shmita.”