On September 25, 2014 the sabbatical year begins in Israel. It is also called the "Shmita year" or a year that the land is allowed to lie fallow. During a "shmita year" Israeli farmers will not harvest or cultivate the land or prune any trees for an entire year.
The commandment to observe Shmita every seven years is given in the Torah: "For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land." - Leviticus 25: 3-6
This way one should stop working in the fields of Israel during the shmita year. One is also not allowed to own fields during this period. The shmita year poses a challenge for to farmers because their trust in the creator is tested. "What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?" - Leviticus 25:20. However, the Bible states that those who have their trust in God, will be richly rewarded: "I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives." Leviticus 25: 21-22.
In addition, the Shmita year offers one an opportunity to take a year break from material pursuits and to focus on the spiritual: on personal reflection, the meaningful study of the Bible and on environmental responsibility in Israel. The Talmud explains that the reason for observing Shmita is to realize that the land belongs to God.
By: Ora Shapiro