Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sabbatical Year!!!

In case any of you did not know, part of my research includes Sabbath traditions, and starting Wednesday evening at sundown is the sabbatical year. That's right--beginning with Rosh Hashanah, for an entire year, according the the biblical and rabbinic mitzvah (commandment), one should leave one's field fallow for an entire year. According to a newspaper article from the Alton Telegraph (that's Alton, Illinois, for you bi-coastal people) sent to me by my mother, this is causing some concern among Israelis about bankruptcy. Since, for most farmers, a profit margin is rather minimal, an entire year without any crops could put many, especially farmers and kibbutzes with small amounts of land, too far in the red to recover.

Interestingly enough, more moderate Israeli Rabbis have created a loophole: Jewish Israelis can sell their fields and orchards to non-Jews for the duration of the year. According to the article, "Under this arrangement, farmers can keep working the land because it's technically 'owned' by someone who isn't bournd by Jewish law."

Not surprisingly (for reasons I may lay out later), more ortho,dox (or "ultra orthodox") Rabbis oppose this policy, claiming it is a desecration of the Sabbath mitzvah. The alternative solution suggested by them is that the government set up a charity foundation for farmers for the upcoming year. They are also more willing to trade and gain produce from the Palestinian residents in the Gaza strip and the West Bank rather than abrogate the Sabbatical commandment: a rare circumstance of trade with Hamas-controlled territory (and not only that, but that very territory).

Thus, while the Sabbatical year may give many difficulties for Jewish Israeli farmers, it is an economic boon for Muslim farmers in Gaza, except border crossings are a bit more difficult now than seven years ago.

In ancient times, there is only minimal evidence that the Sabbatical year was ever observed (by the rule of prescription is not description), although the lack of observance was thought to have catastrophic effects. Indeed, the Chronicler blames the Babylonian exile on the failure to observe the Sabbatical year, and the 7o years of exile (Jeremiah) were to give the land its long overdue rest (2 Chron. 36:21-22), in turn relying upon Lev. 26:34-35.

Shanah Tovah!

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