Notice about Shmittah – Sabbatical Year Observant Greengrocers in Jerusalem in 1993
This is a wall poster from an ultra-Orthodox street in Jerusalem, which was published in 1993 during the shmittah – Sabbatical year.
The purpose of the advertisement, signed by the "Shemitah Committee of the Eda Charedit Yerushalayim", is to inform the Jerusalem public whether greengrocers are observing the laws of shmittah according to the rulings of the Hareidi Rabbinate. The notice explains that it is possible to identify a "Kosher for Shemitah" vegetable store by the presence of a "kosher certificate", which is displayed at the bottom of the notice. The name of the store is mentioned on the kosher certificate and a signature appears demonstrating that they are under the supervision of Badatz HaEida haCharedit.
In the Shmittah year, there is a commandment from the Torah to cease from work on the land. The mitzvah of shmittah is practised only in the Land of Israel, and therefore the haredi public tends to buy imported produce from abroad, which it considers to be the best solution, since there are possible problems. The haredi public also buys products grown by Israeli Arabs or the Palestinian Authority, which they consider less ideal because the produce still originates in Israel.
In contrast, the religious-Zionist public values the continuation of Jewish agriculture, and thus generally prefers to rely on various permits rather than on foreign produce.
The Badatz (rabbinic court) is a body that decides on questions of Jewish law but also serves as a court in every respect for those who wish to bring their case before it in accordance with Jewish law. As far as the state is concerned, this court has no valid jurisdiction, and it draws its authority solely from the consent of the litigants who appear before it to be heard in its rulings.
In addition to Badatz, many private courts operate in Israel, such as Badatz Beit Yosef, Badatz Agudat Yisrael and Badatz Yoreh De'ah, headed by Rabbi Shlomo Mahfod.
Connection to the Parasha
In our parasha, we learn how the Torah orders us to cease from work on the land throughout the entire period of the shmittah year, which occurs once every 7 years in the Land of Israel.
At the same time, we are commanded to forgive all debts and free any Jewish slaves whom we may own. Although many different explanations are given for these laws, some commentators stress that the Torah expects us to dedicate a year to textual study, free from worries about the land.
This source can be used in a Jewish Studies class to discuss the intricate laws of the shmittah year, and the reasons that can be suggested for these laws.
A Sociology teacher can use this resource to discuss the charedi society in Israel today, and the communal structures which guide life within the community.
An Israel Studies class can use this notice to discuss the rejuvenation of the agricultural industry in the Land of Israel.
In what language is this source written?
What unique laws are being discussed?
Which organisation has created this notice?
What is the point of the notice?
Reading Between the Lines
Where would such a notice have been found?
Why would the Badatz decide to create this poster?
What message is being sent about those people who aren’t certified by the Badatz?
How widespread in Israel today is the practise of shmittah?
Would you follow these laws if you were a farmer in Israel today? Why/why not?
Create a slideshow for your fellow students in which you explain the basic laws of the year.