Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sh'mittah Year

Question from a reader:  I have been looking at the shmita year and can't find enough information.  Is it only practiced in the "land of Israel" or do you practice it no matter where you live?

Answer

The reason you find so little information is that the Sh'mittah is followed these days only in the smallest of circles in the Jewish world.  The "short answer" is that it is (or should be) followed all over the world, but it is intended to be "established" in Israel (i.e., they set the year of the Sh'mittah).  But I have to say they've made a mess of it!  They (meaning "those who are supposed to know") are saying this current Hebrew year, Tishri to Elul, (Sep 2014 - Sep 2015), is the year of the Sh'mittah, but they are wrong!

The error is that they simply count a continuous 7 years, therefore announcing every 7th year as a Sh'mittah, but the Sh'mittah is, in actuality, "woven" around the Jubilee year - the 50th year.  So all one needs to do is determine the Jubilee year, and the years of Sh'mittah are established.  But, there is a rub!  That rub is that the Jubilee year count has been lost!  I'm no expert in Israel history, but suffice it to say, they've endured turmoil and there were Jubilee years "missed", and then those looking into it have had little success in properly recovering it.  That may go a long way toward explaining why you find so little about the Sh'mittah and why so many simply "throw in the towel" and simply count a continuous 7-year cycle. Sadly, Judaism today no longer observes the Jubilee year.  The rationale for abandoning the Jubilee is basically the rabbinic interpretation of Leviticus 25:10 which reads: "...and you are to consecrate the fiftieth year, proclaiming freedom throughout the land to all its inhabitants." Among many and circuitous reasons for denying the Jubilee, the rabbis decided this command is applicable only to the land of Israel, and only if "all" the 12 tribes are living in Israel.  Thus, today they only count 7 year cycles continuously.

But Andrew Roth (One Faith One People Ministries), has recovered the Jubilee years!  (I know...I built his spreadsheets, hundreds of thousands of lines, which revealed the alignment [using the Gregorian proleptic calendar] with the known ancient dates of the Jubilee year, and thus enabled him to carry the proper Jubilee year forward.)  He found the last Jubilee year was 1995, and that makes Sep 2015 to Sep 2016 the next year of Sh'mittah since 1996 would have been the 1st of the 49 year count. 

Thus the remaining years of Sh’mittah to the next Jubilee in 2045 are: Sep 2022-Sep 2023, Sep 2029-Sep 2030, Sep 2036-Sep 2037, and Sep 2043-Sep 2044.

It is not just a continuous 7-year count

To understand that the Sh'mittah is not simply a continuous 7-year count, consider this:

"For six years, you are to sow your land with seed and gather in its harvest.  But the seventh year, you are to let it rest and lie fallow,..." (Exodus 23:10-11)

So we have the "7th" year is established as the Sh'mittah.

"The 50th year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields. In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property” (Leviticus 25:8-13)

So we see that the 50th year is the Jubilee, and it, too, is a Sh'mittah because you do not sow or reap.  Since the 49th year was a Sh'mittah, and the 50th year, there is a dilemma!  The land is fallow for two years!  What to do!  Torah explains:

"'If you will say, "What will we eat in the seventh year? - behold! we will not sow and not gather in our crops?” I ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year and it will yield a crop sufficient for the three-year period.  'You will sow in the eighth, but you will eat from the old crop; until the arrival of its crop, you will eat the old." (Leviticus 25:20-22)

Let's look at this provision for a "regular" 7-year count, where the 7th year is the Sh'mittah:


So we know from these scriptures there is a "land sabbath" every 7 years, but we also know the 50th year (the Jubilee) is also a land sabbath. 7 x 7 = 49, so the 49th year is a land sabbath but the 50th year is also a land sabbath!  There are two, consecutive land Sabbaths in years 49 & 50!  If you simply count 7 years continuously, the 50th year would not be a Sabbath year, rather it would be the 1st year of a new 7-year cycle, and the 7th-year land Sabbath gets "out of sync" with the Jubilee!  The 50th year must be a land Sabbath as well, so the NEXT 7-year cycle cannot begin till the 51st year, when the Jubilee count starts over!  Scripture even clears-up the obvious dilemma this causes!  With two years in a row the land laying fallow, what are the people to do? Go back and read Leviticus 25:20-22!  So here is the provision for the Jubilee year:


As stated above, the last Jubilee was 1995, so the "count" for the 7-year cycles had to have begun in 1996, and that makes the Hebrew year from Sep 2015-Sep 2016 the Sh'mittah year, and not 2014-2015.  (MANY sites, some well-known and respected, incorrectly teach that the 7 years is simply a continuous count from creation.  Andrew Roth's work though shows this is not true, so it is pretty certain that 1995 was the last Jubilee in our time.)

Now to the question: "Is it only practiced in the 'land of Israel' or do you practice it no matter where you live?"

"Tell the people of Isra'el, 'When you enter the land I am giving you, the land itself is to observe a Shabbat rest for ADONAI.  Six years you will sow your field; six years you will prune your grapevines and gather their produce." (Leviticus 25:2-3)

This verse tells us the 7th year is a Shabbat for the land itself! It is YHWH's land, so it is "for YHWH" as well, but the "rest" is for the land! So, yes, absolutely, we should be observing the Sh'mittah wherever we live!  Some will argue, as the rabbis do, that since verse 2 says "When you enter the land I am giving you...." means only Israel has to observe the Sh'mittah.  Really?  No matter where you live, isn't it YHWH's land He has given you?  And despite the rabbinical arguments, why would the blessings of the Land Sabbath and the Jubilee only apply to Israel, and only if "all" the tribes still lived there?  After all, YHWH tells us in Leviticus 25:18-19 "...you are to keep my regulations and rulings and act accordingly.  If you do, you will live securely in the land.  The land will yield its produce, you will eat until you have enough, and you will live there securely."  

Now we have a problem.  We in the US live in a nation which does not revere or obey YHWH.  And our "man's laws" which we are obligated to, don't mandate the Jubilee year, and land is not returned to its original owner.  (The list of what we do, as a nation, against YHWH, goes on and on.So we probably should not expect YHWH to honor His end of the deal.  If we, on our own, observe the Sh'mittah year, and the Jubilee year, then we probably can't expect YHWH to provide as He said he would. Again, Leviticus 25:18-19:  "'Rather, you are to keep my regulations and rulings and act accordingly. If you do, you will live securely in the land.  The land will yield its produce, you will eat until you have enough, and you will live there securely."  His expectation is for ALL, the whole nation, to be keeping His mitzvoth. He might show us favor, but since we live in such a godless nation, why would we expect his favor on our tiny property, when the nation as a whole is being punished by drought, fire, flood, tornado, etc.? Interesting thought.

Perhaps the answer is that we, ourselves, as we obey as best we can, can expect only the blessings we may receive from anything we've done which might be credited to us as righteousness, while we do the best we can as our nation flounders.  So yes, if you farm or grow crops, then give the land its Sh'mittah!  We need not be concerned about how to observe the Jubilee since the next one is in 2045, but we can certainly honor the Sh'mittah, on our own property wherever we live. (And, if we are not observing the right years, don't stress about it! None of us are charged with the responsibility to determine the correct years! But each of us is expected to do our best to obey the mitzvoth. And the commandment of the Sh'mittah can still be followed individually if they apply to you.)

And finally, besides the Land Sabbath, the Sh'mittah has a "commerce" component.  Deuteronomy 15:1-15 provides for the release of debts for fellow members of the community of faith and to renew the commitment to providing for others.  This is just one of the many ways a community flourishes when all share in the blessings of the same faith and living by His guidance.    

13 comments:

  1. So then for the Sh'mittah, are we to be eating the previous years stock? What about buying food at the grocery stores? Do we just stock up? Does that mean we eat no fresh produce for a year and watch dates on containers if we do buy, to make sure they are older? What about people who don't have enough money to stock up a years worth of food? I ask these things because there are people in my group who sincerely what to do this but had 2 months of warning about it, being unaware of it before hand. They think this year is the Sh'mittah and next year is the Jubilee.
    No one owes us anything to return that I know of, and we are directed to help the orphans and widows and give to the poor but many people would have to take a loan out to get 1 year's worth of food let alone two. What are your thought on that?

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    1. My first thought is "Stop over-analyzing this!" Take a deep breath and think about it! Does the Sh'mittah even apply to you? It would, for example, if you grow your own crops. If you do grow crops, then it should not be a problem for you to maximize your yield from the 6th year (plant more, and canning for example) and leave the 7th year uncultivated, and buying what you need the 7th year if you did not store enough from the 6th. If you don't grow your own crops and rely instead on the market, then simply continue to rely on the market as the 7th year Land Sabbath does not apply to you! And, if you have not loaned money to anyone in your community of faith, then you have no debt to forgive in the 7th year! (See, if the commandment does not apply to you, then you needn't be concerned about it. For example, the fair treatment of slaves in Deuteronomy 15:12-18 does not apply to you because you don't own slaves!)

      This problem you have identified is also a struggle within Israel! Over the centuries, they have come up with some bizarre workarounds such as "selling their land to a non-Jew for 2 years so the crops from that land can be grown during the Sh'mittah", or "turning the land over to a beit din - so the worker working the land is not working 'his own' land, and the beit din sells the produce and pays the farmer". If you examine these "workarounds", you find a key ingredient missing. Faith.

      You see, the Sh'mittah was clearly intended for a simple agricultural society. Most obedient in the Land of Israel in biblical times grew the food they required. During the Sh'mittah year, it was relatively easy to stop working the land and eat whatever grew on its own (which is permitted). The crops in the field were left unclaimed, and the poor and the city dwellers could come and eat, while those who had an abundance could share the excess. By their faith, the whole process of the Sh'mittah year "worked" and by the community coming together to obey YHWH like that, they were blessed as YHWH said they would be.

      But, today, the majority of the country's inhabitants live in cities, far from food sources, and we have no communities of common faith in YHWH. Our agriculture is one of "mass farms" where the produce is sold and exported and if all the farms of the nation observed Sh'mittah, an economic collapse situation would likely develop. In other words, our society is not set up the way YHWH intended, and unfortunately the Sh'mittah has become most difficult to observe as a nation - Israel included.

      This is why I said that we, as individuals, can only obey YHWH as best we can. So if you grow crops, plan your sixth year and leave the 7th year fallow. If you don't grow crops, then you have no land to rest so it is not a concern to you.

      So, no, you do not have to "stock up" for the Sh'mittah and you don't have to check dates on products at the market. If you do have a community of faith, then support each other and during the year of the Sh'mittah be extra generous as scripture calls for in Deuteronomy 15.

      As to the Jubilee year, don't worry about that. Absolutely no one in our society today must observe the requirements of the Jubilee because our society does not treat land by YHWH's rules. No one owns land in perpetuity, so there is no one to "return ownership" of the land to.

      Relax!

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    2. I Like your comment Liam. Makes sense.

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  2. Hi these, how does this work in the context of Galatians 4:10-11?

    Thanks,

    Andrew

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    1. Well, Galatians 4:10-11 changes nothing! If you are reading only verses 10-11 and concluding that Paul is negating Torah commands, then you have not understood the context of the letter. If you would go back to Galatians 1, and look who Paul is writing to, you quickly find the issue:

      1:2 To all the brothers who are with me in the congregations that are in Galatia: ... ... 6. I am stunned into silence, as if dead (dead of speaking), 3 that you have so quickly forgotten Mashiyach who has called you to his grace and (have) gone to another gospel 7. That is non-existent, but there are men who agitated you and desired to pervert the Good News of Mashiyach.

      So we learn that the congregations in Galatia are off observing bizarre stuff. So now read Galatians 4, but start in verse 1 and understand what Paul is saying when he continues in verse 4:

      4:1... ...4 But when therefore the fullness of time had come, Elohim sent His Son who was born of a woman, and was subject to Torah, 5. To redeem those who are under Torah that we might receive adoption as sons. 6. But because you were sons, Elohim sent the Spirit of His Son to your hearts, that calls the Father “Our Father.” 7. And because you were not servants but sons, and if sons, inheritors of Elohim by Y’shua the Mashiyach. 8. Then, for when you did not know Elohim, you served those things who, by their very nature, are not Elohim. 9. Now that you have knowledge of Elohim, and especially have knowledge from Elohim, that you have returned to those weak and poor principles, wishing to come under their bondage. 10. You have observed days and months and times and years. 11. I am afraid that perhaps my being among you has been in vain.

      So let's look at these verses in some detail:

      In verse 4, we read that the Messiah was "subject to Torah". Then in verse 5, we read that the Messiah is to redeem those "under the Torah". What's the difference? To be "subject to Torah" is a good thing! (Indeed, if the Messiah is "subject to Torah" then that certainly can't be bad!) To be "subject to Torah" means you do not intentionally sin because you live as a "subject of the Word of YHWH".

      But to be "under the Torah" is the problem. To be "under the Torah" means you are obeying only because you have to or you've been told to, and you have to do what the Rabbi says because you are under his authority. That is, your obedience is all by rote. And that is bad.

      See verse 7. If you are "not servants but sons", then you are not obeying YHWH because you've been told to, rather, you are "sons" - and sons obey their Fathers out of love!

      Now look at verses 8-9. Paul is now back to addressing the Galatians directly, admonishing them for "serving" under false teachings and observances. He says to them, "now you know Elohim, but you are returning to your rote actions and observances which is bondage to false authority".

      Paul then gives an example, in verse 10. Paul says: "You have observed days and months and times and years". Paul is clearly referring to what he just said in 8-9! The "days and months and times and years" he's talking about are "not of Elohim"! (Remember, Galatia is Roman! Roman cities are FULL of paganism and false gods - and false "days and months and times and years"). But we know Torah "days and months and times and years" (moedim) ARE of Elohim! So Paul is NOT dismissing Torah! He is admonishing the Galatians for not getting rid of old practices.

      (concludes next reply)

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    2. Paul concludes here by saying he feels what he has tried to teach them was in vain. This statement is not as simple as it sounds. What Paul is referring to is that the Galatians know that Paul was not always a "good guy". Paul previously taught and demanded "rote" Torah obedience, before he came to understand the Messiah and he is afraid that his former reputation is impacting his ability to get them to see who the Messiah was and what the Messiah means to them. (Go back and read Galatians 1:13-23).

      I hope this helps you see that Galatians 4:10-11 in no way negates our loving obedience to the Word of YHWH. Torah is "teaching and instruction" - very much what any father does for his children, and his children obey because they love him. And they grow up to be good, strong, people in the community. Desiring to obey YHWH and His Torah is not a bad thing, and is something we do for YHWH.

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    3. Well explained. Thanks Liam!

      Shalom -

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  3. So many veggies dont reseed themselves very well...r we supposed to do without our own fresh vegetable gardens during shmitah year? Used to try to observe a 7th year rest on my 1/5 acre lot in the burbs, but just on my own before finding sightedmoon.com, which says aviv 2016 is when shmitah year started. Like a lot of his stuff, and there is just so much of it....not sure i could ever disprove him. Do crops in Torah pertain to fresh vegetable gardens as well, which r a staple for those of us with health issues? Also, we just moved to an uninhabited property that has been "resting" for several years. I worked like crazy to get about 50 to 60 fruit trees and vines planted before shmitah year started, planted a lot of stuff that grows of itself, using sprouted potatoes, cut up tomatoes and peppers, onions, carrot tops, etc. before shmitah year started by sightedmoon reckoning...i see where Roth figures the shmitah year differently...think i saw ur info regarding leaven, and that was more logical to me than other sites that want u to get rid of dog and cat food, as well as stock it up for the shmitah year...just cannot afford all that....thank u...

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  4. Well, you are in a pickle aren't you? Does the shmitah year begin this year (in March - oy vey! - per sightedmoon.com), or did the shmitah year begin last September (2015) running till August (2016) per Roth? Or was the shmitah last year (Sept 2014 to Aug 2015) per traditional Judaism?

    If you read our blog here, which I presume you did, you learned that the shmitah of traditional Judaism is wrong because they abandoned the 50th year Jubilee and simply count 7 years repeatedly which is clearly wrong. If you follow sightedmoon.com (I'm sorry you found them and decided to rely on them), you should know that the shmitah CAN'T begin in the spring because by spring all the crops are already planted! The shmitah must begin in the fall, after the harvest so the land can be left fallow for the next year.

    The shmitah is for the land (Lev 25:4), so the answer to one of your questions is "yes" - it applies to fresh vegetable gardens as well. The land must rest, so we can't "split hairs" and decide the land can support one crop and not the other. Are you saying that you must have "fresh" vegetables each year and that canned will not suffice due to health reasons? If that is true, then my recommendation would be to buy your fresh vegetables from the market during the year of shmitah, or divide you garden into two areas staggered by a year. That is, one garden is fallow in the shmitah while the other garden is planted. That is sort of "cheating", as you are not putting your trust in YHWH, but you said it was for health reasons. The rabbis say that even a fast does not have to be an absolute fast for health reasons. If for health reasons, you must grow fresh vegetables, I'm sure there is allowance for that.

    I don't know what to tell you as you planted based on the sigthedmoon.com website during the year which is already a shmitah. Not that anyone has the 100% truth, but had you followed Roth, you would not have planted till next fall (August 2016). On the other hand, according to traditional Judaism the last shmitah ended in August 2015. So who knows?

    Right or wrong, you've picked your year, so I would recommend you stick to it. In the 7th year from now, be prepared to trust YHWH and not plant in the 7th. In the future, if you are convicted one way or the other to change the year that you agree should be the shmitah year, it should not be a serious problem, with some planning, to shift your planting to accommodate the change. I think what is missing, and I mean no disrespect, is the same problem we see in Israel today, and that is a bit of a lack of trust in YHWH. (Lev 25:20-22) In Israel, a large part of the reason they ignore the shmitah is that they do not put their trust in YHWH to provide.

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  5. Thank u for reading...and addressing some of my concerns. Guess i am still trying to figure out the logic of letting land rest that has been untended for many years...will pray about it some more....will continue to look at ur site...had Wheel of Stars at one time....not sure what happened to it in the move...

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    1. No problem. It's quite a difficult issue, especially since Israel does not properly observe the shmitah year and the Jubilee year is completely ignored, and there are so many opinions of when the shmitah year is to be observed!

      Put your faith in YHWH, and I think He will give you an answer.

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  6. More thoughts on Shemittah, since I am learning, and taking advantage of the differing viewpoints.....seems like there would need to have been a common storehouse, as in the days of Joseph when he stored up grain for the coming lean years. This would have helped the entire nation of Israel, if some did not have a large enough personal storehouse....how could they? I envision most folks living in small adobe style homes with flat roofs....what sort of means did they have for preserving veggies in large quantities? Fruit could be sugared and dehydrated, but how were these items kept in this condition for 12 to 18 months, and longer if a Jubilee Year? Did the Israelites have some fantastic way of doing all this, then an organized system for storing? I also envision a bartering system of sorts, if one fallow garden grew something that another did not, there could be community trade offs.....that would be a nice system for further community bonding and support, which I believe weekly Shabbat is also supposed to do. It would teach the Israelites how to plan logically, how to have foresight for group survival, thereby expanding frontal lobes/corpus callosum? May be one reason of advanced Jewish culture relative to other cultures. YHVH probably with many other reasons as well.....looks like Shemittah not meant to be observed in isolation, or any part of being a child of YHVH....tia for your time and attention....

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    1. There were common storehouses! The Levite Priest were to receive the tithes of each year and every third year and maintain warehouses or storehouses. We see this in Nehemiah 10:37-38 (10:38-39 in some versions) and in Malachi 3:10. And provisions were made for storing the 3rd year tithe in the communities where people lived, too far from Jerusalem to provide for the Levite in their towns, the poor, foreigner, widow and orphan. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)

      Also, whatever the land produced on its own during the Shmittah year could be eaten. Lev 25:6-7.

      Yes, the community of YHWH was intended to be a fully cooperative community where the Levites directed the distribution of food from the tithes of all - rich and poor alike. As to how and whether they had the ability to preserve fruits and vegetables, I don't know. When fruits and vegetables were not available, they relied on grains and meat.

      Anyway, all good thoughts, and thanks for commenting.

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