Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Uptodate Shemittah Information - Beth Medrash LeToras Eretz Yisroel - Rav Efrati

Bat Zion from self sustaining Shokeda asks FaigeRayzel
If you wish, please tell the group about Shmitta and the people and organizations that are promoting and supporting this mitzvah.
Do you know of any English-language seforim or pamphlets on the subject "How to Keep Shmitta?"
I would like to understand the basic halachot before I would start asking questions.
What other resources are you aware of for farmers and gardeners who want to keep Shmitta?
Thank you!
The Shemittah year is a year that is a Taste of the World to come.  Hebrew it is called Shabbat Haaretz.  It is a year that the Land rests.  It is a Sabbatical year that one is not allowed to work the Land.  The Land returns to G-d as it says Ki Li Kol Haaretz, The whole Land belongs to Me. (Exodus 19: 5) and we are to be a Mamlechet Kohanim Vegoy Kadosh, a Nation of Priests and a H-ly Nation.  It says Ki li Haaretz again in Leviticus 25:23 following the Laws of Shemittah and Yovel.  "The Land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is Mine; for you are sojourners and residents with Me.  In verse 18 in Chapter 23 it says "You shall perform My decrees, and observe My ordinances and perform them; then you shall dwell securely on the Land.
So from these Pesukim, the Torah states a direct connection between keeping the Mitzvah of Shemittah and dwelling securely in the Land. 
There are two parts to the Mitzvah of Shemittah.  On part is called Shemittah Karka  (the laws are discussed in Parshas Behar in Leviticus) and the other part is called Shemittas Kesafim (the laws are discussed in Parshas Reeh in Devarim). 
My discussion here will not be specific about the kind of work one may or may not do in the Shemittah year if you are a farmer.  I will focus on the proper spirit that I believe is inherent in keeping of the Mitzvah of Shemittah.  It is the spirit of Shabbat, a taste of the world to come.  It is a Sabbatical year a time to rejuvenate.  I believe that this year is a year of community.  It is a year where what's mine is subjugated to whatever I/we possess comes from our Creator. This spirit manifests itself both in Shemitas Karka as well as Shemitas Kesafim.  Therefore I believe this Mitzvah affects the entire nation whether or not one is a farmer.
The Shemittah year starts next Rosh Hashana in the Hebrew Calendar 5768.  From that time on the farmer must not work the Land.  He/she must allow his/her field to lie fallow. The fields are open to all.  One is obligated to loan to needy people whatever they may need and is not allowed to demand retribution at the end of the Shemittah year.  One must forego their loans. 
This Mitzva is considered one of the most difficult to keep and only the most faithful are able to keep it.  Much blessings are promised in the 6th year, enough to last for 3 years.
In the time of Hillel (after the destruction of the 2nd Temple, people were unwilling to give out loans.  Hillel instituted a Takana called the Pruzbul.  It is a way to get around foregoing loans).  Heter Mechira, selling the Land to Arabs for the Shemittah year was another loophole.
I am convinced that we should try to keep the Mitzvoth of Shemittah w/o loopholes in order to grow in faith and fear of G-d and we will be showered with blessings.  To do so is truly revolutionary and hasn't been attempted since the time prior to the 1st Temple.   It is written that there were 70 years of Galus between the first and 2nd Temple to represent  70 years of Shemitta not observed.  Since Shemittah is every 7 years does that mean that Shemittah was not observed properly the 490 years prior to the destruction of the 1st Temple?  If that is so,that brings us back to the time of the Judges even before the time of King David! Was Shemittah never really observed properly!?!? In the year 5747 I tried an experiment regarding Shemittah.  You can read about it http://shemittahrediscovered.blogspot.com/2005/09/how-it-began-how-i-became-interested.html
I have a pamphelet in English written by Rabbi Kalman Kahana z"l Rabbi of Kibbutz Chofetz Chaim, an authority on the laws of Shemittah and a pioneer activist for Shemittah observance in modern day Israel, called "A guide for the year of Sh'mittah.  My copy was printed in 1979 by the "Institute for Agricultural Research according to the Torah of Poalei Agudath Israel".  The publishers of this pamphlet is Feldheim Publishers, J-M 

Feldheim Publishers Israel Office:
POB 46163
Jerusalem, Israel 91431

Phone: (02) 651-3947
Fax: (02) 653-6061

 Another pamphlet that I have is called Shemittah What It's All About, Compiled by Rabbi Eleizer Gevirtz byTorah Umesorah Publications Copyright 1983.  5723 Eighteenth Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11204 718-259-1223  publications@tupublications.com
I know that there was a Keren Shviis where farmers were being paid not to work on the Shemittah year.    The Torah Umesorah publication mentions National Center for  Shemittah Observing Farmers originating in Moshav Komemiyus.  Other communities mentioned are Beit Chilkiya, Kfar Gideon and Yesodot.
In Mishpacha Magazine this past week it mentions that Rabbi Efrati, confidant of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and world expert on the mitzvos of Eretz Yisroel,  has dedicated a Center called Beis Medrash Toras Eretz Yisroel in Har Nof Jerusalem.  His own great mission is a campaign to bring the special mitzvos of Eretz Yisroel to all sectors of the Jewish Nation. Financial backing came from a Poalei Agudas Yisrael municipality member, Reb Shlomo Druk z"l.   He also bought land on the outskirts of Har Nof. Three years ago the cornerstone was laid, this past Sukkos the dedication ceremony was held.  Other donors from NY and others contributed but the building is not yet finished and they are heavily in debt.
At this years Agudah Convention in Ct. I picked up a brochure for Kinyan Ha'aretz who mentions Rav Shaul Reichenberg known for his expertise particularly regarding seder Zeraim.  Rav Reichenberg is mentioned in the Mishpacha Magazine article Issue 136 December 6th, 2006.  "The new center is yet another accomplishment in Rav Efrati's continued campaign to elevate the halachos of Eretz Yisrael to their deserved place.  Plans to further that goal include learning the specific halachos, delivering lectures, and imparting the message to the greater public via the Keren Maasros headed by Rav Shaul Reichenberg, and the new halachic literature published by the Beis Medrash.....
In 1978, when talk spread of a new Beis Medrash in Jerusalem devoted to these halachos, many eyebrows were raised.  The initiative took off when Kollel Avreichim was transplanted from Shaalavim to Jerusalem.   Rav Kalman Kahane, zt"l then appealed to Rav Efrati, who at the time was a young Avreich and Maggid Shiur in a yeshivah in central Israel, to serve in the Kollel."
So this is the info that I have.  It seems that this Beis Medrash has it's roots from Rav Kalman Kahane zt"l from Kibbutz Chofetz Chaim. 
If anyone has any more info please email me.   I will post this on my blog http://shemittahrediscovered.blogspot.com/
I hope this was helpful.
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