Thursday, September 06, 2007

Virtual Shmita?

You may be concerned this shmita about whether to rely on 'heter mechira' where the land is sold to non-Jews for the year. There are many problems with this in practice, politics and philosophy (though nobody questions that it does 'work' and the produce may be eaten).

Shomrei Shvi'it have come up with a brilliant idea. (They thought of it last Shavuos night in the wee small hours while learning).Instead of selling the land to non-Jews and working it, how about selling it to Jews and not working it!

Shomrei Shvi’it is an innovative new project that allows Jews in Israel, and throughout the Diaspora, to properly fulfill the mitzvot of shmitta. The Torah's commandments to allow agricultural land to lie fallow every seventh year, can now be observed in a simple, powerful and inexpensive way.

For the first time for many people, shmitta can become an actual, practical mitzvah, rather than a theoretical commandment for discussion and learning.

As shmitta approaches this coming Rosh Hashana (September 2007), the observant Jewish world is searching for ways to uphold the mitzvah while allowing for regular consumption of agricultural produce. Rabbis, farmers, yeshivot, agricultural organizations, major corporations, small businesses and millions of kosher consumers are studying methods to avoid transgressing the many laws of shmitta.

While this search is important, necessary and even praiseworthy, Jews everywhere are missing out on the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of actually letting the land lie fallow.

Shomrei Shvi’it has created a simple and powerful tool for Jews to once again observe this commandment, one of the few in the Torah where the reward, G-d’s blessing, is specifically mentioned.

Shomrei Shvi’it has purchased a large tract of land that is currently being used for agricultural purposes. All work on this land will come to a complete stop by this Rosh Hashana, 5768.

Jewish people are invited to purchase small tracts of this land, measuring “dalet amot” (2 x 2 square amot), for a nominal fee of $180 per tract . In so doing, each person will be the rightful owner of agricultural property in the Land of Israel, and will fulfill the mitzvah of shmitta by letting that land lie fallow for the entire seventh, shmitta year.

I have no idea whether this actually does anything in terms of shmita. I am highly skeptical that the purchaser has really done the mitzvah of shmita. But they have certainly helped support the Israeli economy, and supported three poor kollel guys. (I don't know why they don't put a webcam overlooking the field so that the purchasers can actually watch their piece of land not being worked all year long!)

With that in mind - what do you think of the idea of virtual shmita in second life? Perhaps everyone could purchase pieces of virtual land and virtually not do anything with them for the whole year. That would be virtually the same as purchasing land in Israel. The only problem I can think of is how to define the borders of virtual Israel (there was no conquest by a virtual Yehoshua or virtual Babylonian exiles, so it becomes a bit tricky). Also, since this is theoretical, would we follow Rambam's theoretical calculation of when Shmita is (this year) instead of his halachic p'sak that we follow the Gaonim (next year - even though he holds that they are wrong)

Any takers?

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