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Shemitah 101

Shemitah 101

The Sabbatical Year

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As soon as the Jews settled in the Holy Land,1 they began to count and observe seven-year cycles. Every cycle would culminate in a Sabbatical year,2 known as "Shemitah,"3 literally: to release.

The year following the destruction of the second Holy Temple was the first year of the seven-year Sabbatical cycle. In the Jewish calendar, counting from Creation, this was year 3829, 68-69 CE in the secular calendar. By counting sevens from then, we see that the next shemitah year will be the year 5775 after Creation, which runs from Sept. 25, 2014 through Sept. 13, 2015.

The Shemitah year waives all outstanding debtsThe observance of Shemitah has several dimensions. In the following paragraphs we will outline the basics of Shemitah observance. For more detailed information, please see our Loan Amnesty and Deserting the Farms sections.

Give Your Friend a Break

At the end of seven years you will make a release. And this is the manner of the release: to release the hand of every creditor from what he lent his friend; he shall not exact from his friend or his brother, because the time of the release for the L-rd has arrived -- Deuteronomy 15:1-2

The Shemitah year waives all outstanding debts between Jewish debtors and creditors.

[Nowadays, a halachic mechanism called pruzbul circumvents this loan amnesty. See Loan Amnesty for more information on the pruzbul.]

This aspect of Shemitah observance is known as shmitat kesafim, "release of money [debts]."

Take a Break from Farming

For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce, but in the seventh year, the land shall have a complete rest, a Sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field, you shall not prune your vineyard, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth of your harvest . . . And [the produce of] the Sabbath of the land shall be yours to eat for you, for your male and female servants, and for your hired worker and resident who live with you... -- Leviticus 25:3-6.

During the Shemitah year, the residents of the Land of Israel must completely desist from cultivating their fields. They also relinquish personal ownership of their fields; whatever produce grows on its own is considered communal property, free for anyone to take.

This aspect of the Shemitah year is known as shmitat karka, "release of the land."

Refocus

The nation collectively took a breather and focused on higher, more spiritual pursuitsIn the ancient Israeli agrarian-based culture, the Shemitah year proved to be a difficult challenge for the people's collective trust in the Creator, the One who bequeathed them the Land of Milk and Honey.

And if you should say, "What will we eat in the seventh year? We will not sow, and we will not gather in our produce!" -- Leviticus 25:20

Yet, those who put their trust in G‑d were richly rewarded:

I, [G‑d,] will command My blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will yield produce for three years. And you will sow in the eighth year, while still eating from the old crops. Until the ninth year, until the arrival of its crop, you will eat the old crop! -- Leviticus 25:21-22.

As well as giving the people an opportunity to put their faith in G-d and see it fulfilled, the yearlong abstention from farming also allowed them to collectively take a breather and focus on higher, more spiritual pursuits -- as the people packed the synagogues and study halls. Even today, when the vast majority of Jews are not involved in the farming industry, the lessons of Shemitah are very germane. During this holy year we are expected to concentrate more on our spiritual mission in life, and a little less on our material pursuits. More on why we are needed, less on what we need. More on faith in G‑d, less on faith in our own talents and wiles.

FOOTNOTES
1.

The first cycle started after the fourteen years of conquering and dividing the land -- the fifteenth year after they crossed the Jordan River (1258 BCE).

2.

While the Torah ordinarily counts months starting from Nissan (in the spring), the years of this cycle -- and the Shemitah, too -- begin with Rosh Hashanah, at the start of the autumn month of Tishrei.

3.

When all the twelve tribes lived in Israel, in their ancestral estates, the year following seven complete Shemitah cycles – the fiftieth year – was observed as Yovel, the Jubilee year. During Yovel, too, the land was not worked, as during Shemitah. In addition, during the Yovel year all slaves were freed and all fields and houses sold during the past fifty years were returned to their original owners. Unlike Shemitah, however, the Yovel year is no longer observed. See When is the next Jubilee year?

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Discussion (17)
September 1, 2014
Michael Rood does not believe this idea that the Four Blood Red Moons are a prophecy of many great events in the near future. When the Monaco Colloquium plans to create the BRICS monetary group will cause the IMF and World bank to fall. A Jubilee will begin when the London bank and the Banks of New York city fall. Major prophetic war for Israel in 2014 or 2015. For several reasons there will much celebration in Jerusalem on the Feast of Tabernacles, September 28, 2015. Much of the whole world will celebrate with Israel.
Dennis Richardson
california
June 25, 2014
To anonymous, regarding Shemitah during the Babylonian exile. The exile was caused by God because of the previous 490 years of disobedience to the Shemitah, so the land (and the people) were forced to make up those years (of desolation). That is why Daniel knew the 70 years of desolation were up in Dan 9:2, so no Shemitah would be observed because it was a continuous 70 year Shemitah.
Anonymous
Idaho
June 12, 2014
Re:
The mitzvah of annulling all debts in the year of Shmittah is applicable everywhere, even outside of Israel. Letting the land rest, however, is a mitzvah unique to the land of Israel.
Shaul Wolf
June 12, 2014
I would like to know if the Shemitah is only meant for Israel to obey or the entire world?
Linda
USA
February 22, 2014
shemitah
I would like to know how many shemitah's have there been since the first one was observed? And were they observed during the 70 years Israel was in Babylon? Just really have to know what number this 2014/2015 year of the shemitah is!
Anonymous
November 15, 2013
Solar Eclipse to coincide with Elul 29 / September 13, 2015
So, the last day of the Shemitah is September 13 (Elul 29) in 2015, which is also the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah). There is a partial solar eclipse that day visible in southern Africa and Antarctica. Two weeks later on 28 September 2015 (Succot - Feast of Tabernacles) is a total lunar eclipse (sometimes called a Blood Moon for its reddish hue). Interestingly, six months earlier exactly on Passover (April 4 2015) there is another total lunar eclipse. Two weeks before that is a total SOLAR eclipse on March 20, which is 1 Nisan (the day Israel left Egypt in the Exodus). 2014 has total lunar eclipses exactly on Passover and Tabernacles. So, four blood moons and two solar eclipses that land exactly on six Jewish Holy Days, with no other lunar or solar eclipses occurring during that time frame. Coincidental? Or, could these be signs of something incredible about to happen?
Matt Allen
Arkansas City, KS, USA
September 9, 2013
Shmita & Jubliee years
I thought we were currently on Shmitah year (5774) = 7 x 7 years = 49. And Jubliee year is the Sabbatical Year (5775)
Can someone please confirm this statement. (I did read the above posts)
Anonymous
USA
December 22, 2012
Shemitah's end
1. The last day of the year is the day prior to Rosh HaShannah.

2. Where is the Holy Scripitures does it say that the concept of shemitah is only for the land of Israel? All the earth belongs to God, why would he have one law for one portion and another law for a different portion.

3. Search the internet for "Behistun Inscription" and "Los Lunas Commandment Stone". We are the lost tribes and we are in the land that God has sent us to. Why would it not apply to us? Our names have been changed but God will call us back in the very near future, if He is not calling now. Do not be stiff necked, listen for his small voice.
Richard Nellis
New York
December 18, 2012
Shemitah
also at "doris" and "MarkinIdaho"

If one must read "The Harbinger" then one should also read "The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?" by David James as, between the two books, on should be able to get an idea of Shemitah from the Torah, and therefore learn why "The Harbinger" misses so wide of the mark.

As Rabbi Menachem Posner has so kindly clarified elsewhere concerning this discussion: Shemitah only applies in the biblical land of Israel.
Paul E.
Wisc.
October 13, 2012
To doris
Read "The Harbinger" - that may answer your question, or it may bring up more questions.
MarkinIdaho
Whoknows, USA
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