Shemittah is from Mars; Yovel is from Venus

I gave my first class on Sheviit today. We went through the different places where the Chumash discusses, or might discuss, Shemittah. All in all, it went pretty well, I think.

I did notice one thing, however. As opposed to most other areas of Halacha where there’s some basic familiarity and application to life, this is an area which is completely and totally foreign to the average Chutznik. It was like we were discussing Buddhism.

In truth, I had similar sentiments while learning Masechet Sheviit. It’s hard to get into the head of a farmer, let alone one from late antiquity. Yet, this is a very real and contemporary issue. My goal is that these students experience shemittah and all of its socio-religious implications. After all, Shemittah was intended to accomplish something; in an agrarian society, the meaning of Shemittah would have been truly experienced. The vast majority of us really only experience Shemittah as consumers (yes, even those of us who ‘buy’ small plots of land in Israel in order to let them fallow for the year). I want to try to learn what it would be like to experience it as a producer.

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