Friday, 2 September 2016

Parshat Re'eh - Journeys in Shmitta / Sabbatical

1.     Elements of Shmitta
Six years farm, seventh year let go, so the needy may eat. – Shmot 23
Six years farm, seventh year an ultimate Shabbat for the land and for God – Vayikra 25
Seventh year release all debts, don’t harden heart by not lending – Devarim 15
Seventh year assemble and read this Torah before all of Israel – Devarim 31

2.    TB Sanhedrin 39a
A student came and asked Rabbi Abbahu, ‘What is the reason for the Sabbatical year?’ Now, said Rabbi Abbahu, ‘Sow for six years and let go of the land in the seventh year in order that you know that the land is Mine[R1] .’

3.    Rashi Vayikra 25:6
The produce of the Shabbat of the land shall be yours to eat[R2] . Although I have prohibited the produce of the Shmita Year to you, I did not prohibit you from eating it or deriving benefit from it – only that you should not treat it as its owner. Rather all should have equal rights to the produce of the seventh year, you, your hired worker and those who reside with you.

4.    Rambam MT Hil Shmita v’Yovel 4:34
Anyone who locks his vineyard or fences off his agricultural field in the Sabbatical year has nullified a positive commandment. This also holds true if he gathered all of his produce into his home. Instead he should leave everything ownerless [hefker]. And the hand of all is equal in every place as it says and the poor of your people will eat. One may bring in a bit to their house as is the way of bringing from hefker property[R3] .

5.    Avot 5:10
There are four types of people. One who says, ‘mine is mine and yours is yours.’ This is neutral (beinoni), some say this is the way of Sodom[R4] .
One who says, ‘mine is yours and yours is mine.’ This is an idiot.
One who says, ‘mine is yours and yours is yours.’ This is pious.
One who says, ‘mine is mine and yours is mine.’ This is wicked.

6.      Kli Yakar
The year of Shmita promotes a sense of fellowship and peace. For one is not allowed to exercise over the seventh year produce the right of private ownership. And this is a primary factor in promoting peace since most dissension comes from the attitude of ‘mine is mine.’ One person claiming ‘it’s all mine’ and the other also claiming, ‘it’s all mine.’ But in the seventh year all are equal, and this is the real essence of peace[R5] .

7.     Rambam MT Hil Shmitah 6:3
When the produce of the Sabbatical year is sold, it should not be sold by measure, weight, nor number, so that it will not appear that one is selling produce in the Sabbatical year. Instead, one should sell a small amount by estimation to make it known that [the produce] is ownerless. And the proceeds of the sale should only be used to purchase other food.

8.    Arthur Waskow, Towards a Jubilee Economy and Ecology, from “God-Wresting”, 1996
Three intertwined social illnesses are eating at the heart of America and of the earth as a whole:
·       An extreme, and worsening, maldistribution of wealth and income;
·       An overwhelming, and worsening, threat to the environment;
·       A collapse of love, compassion, social solidarity at the levels of family, neighborhood, workplace, and society as a whole.
If we took seriously the Jubilee program of Leviticus 25, we would see these not as three separate ills but as one, to be dealt with precisely by applying the approach of Leviticus: The one illness of unceasing acquisition, exploitation, and mastery.

 [R1]Stewardship, responsibility vs rights
 [R2]But thought couldn’t have? Have to eat something. Actually eat much the same thing. The difference is how treat that which grows in own fields.
And others who need food.
 [R3]Does owning make us rich (who is rich?)
Does ownerlessness make us free?
 [R4]Ambivalence about sufficiency of libertarianism.
 [R5]Sheli sheli v’shelcha shelcha doesn’t tell you to whom a resource belongs.

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