15620 W. 10 Mile Rd., Southfield,MI 48075 Detroit Zmanim

Shmitta Project FAQ

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Q. Which mitzvos does one fulfill by owning a plot of cultivated land in Eretz Yisroel and leaving it fallow during the shmitta year?

A. One can fulfill five uncommon mitzvos! First of all, one fulfills the positive mitzvah of “allowing the land to rest” based on the verse (ויקרא כה,ב) – וְשָׁבְתָה הָאָרֶץ שַׁבָּת לה’ שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים תִּזְרַע שָׂדֶךָ וְשֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים תִּזְמֹר כַּרְמֶךָ וְאָסַפְתָּ אֶת תְּבוּאָתָהּ, וּבַשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן יִהְיֶה לָאָרֶץ שַׁבָּת לה’ (see Sefer HaChinuch [mitzvah 112]). Note: There is a sixth mitzvah pertaining to harvesting vineyards, however, the plots we are selling contain only vegetables.

In addition one fulfills two mitzvos lo saaseh contained in the verse
(ויקרא כה,ג) – שָׂדְךָ לֹא תִזְרָע וְכַרְמְךָ לֹא תִזְמֹר (see Sefer HaChinuch [mitzvos 326 and 327]).

When one refrains from harvesting the produce grown in the shmitta year, he also fulfills the mitzvah lo saaseh of אֵת סְפִיחַ קְצִירְךָ לֹא תִקְצר – (ויקרא כה,ה) (see Sefer HaChinuch [mitzvah 328]).

When one declares all the produce ownerless and allows others to take it, he fulfills the positive mitzvah of “abandoning the produce on shmitta” contained in the verse
(שמות כג,י) – וְשֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים תִּזְרַע אֶת אַרְצֶךָ וְאָסַפְתָּ אֶת תְּבוּאָתָהּ, וְהַשְּׁבִיעִת תִּשְׁמְטֶנָּה וּנְטַשְׁתָּ (see Sefer HaChinuch [mitzvah 184]).

Q. If someone owns uncultivated land in Eretz Yisroel on shmitta, does he fulfill all the above mitzvos?
A. Obviously one can’t fulfill the mitzvah of “abandoning the produce on shmitta” with barren land, because nothing was grown. According to Rav Nissin Karelitz shlita (Chut Hashani, shivies 1,1 p. 53), one does fulfill the other four mitzvos, because it is theoretically possible to plant on this land on shmitta but he refrains from doing so. However, if a structure is built on the land, making it impossible to plant, then perhaps one would not fulfill the mitzvos. Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita and others contend that one fulfills those mitzvos only if the land was usually cultivated prior to the shmitta year.

Q. Are women obligated in the above mitzvos?

A. Even though the positive mitzvos are time bound, women are still obligated in their fulfillment according to most opinions (see Minchas HaChinuch [mitzvah 112] and Derech Emunah [1:2] for a detailed explanation).

Q. How large must the plot be in order to fulfill these mitzvos?

A. According to Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita, there is no specific shiur, just the size necessary to sustain plant growth (see Peah [3:6]).

Q. Are the mitzvos of shmitta nowadays min HaTorah (biblical) or m’drabanan (rabbinic)?

A. The majority of poskim rule like the opinion of R’ Yehuda in Gittin (36a) that nowadays shmitta is only m’drabanan (see Tur [Y.D. 331]). It is important to remember that many of the mitzvos we fulfill today are m’drabanan, such as lulav on Sukkos after the first day, and many others.

Q. Does the Torah’s special blessing given to those who keep shmitta apply nowadays?

A. According to the Chazon Ish (Shivies 18:4) that blessing applies today, even according to the opinions that shmitta is only m’drabanan.

Q. Is there a point in pursuing rare mitzvos that really don’t pertain to us?

A. According to the Chofetz Chaim (Mamar Torah Ohr, chapter 4) quoting Rav Chaim Vital, a person should try and fulfill every single mitzvah that is possible to fulfill, even those that are uncommon, in order to achieve complete rectification of all 248 spiritual limbs of a person’s soul (see a detailed explanation of this concept in Orchos Yosher [chapter 27]). The Chazon Ish (Y.D. 175:2) also advocates fulfilling every unique mitzvah at least once in a lifetime (see Maaseh Rav [103] which describes the Gra’s efforts at fulfilling the rare mitzvos).

Q. How can I confirm that the seller really owns the land?

A. Ahavas Olam has a copy of the deed and the accompanying legal documents available for review.

Q. Can maaser money be used to purchase a plot?

A. Since only a perutah’s worth is needed to affect the kinyan (acquisition) and the rest of the money goes to Ahavas Olam as a donation, the full amount of money less a perutah can be deducted from one’s maser obligation.

Q. By signing the accompanying contract, is one actually buying the land from Ahavas Olam?

A. No. By signing this contract, the purchaser is merely authorizing Mr. Gabi Grossbard (or his agent) to purchase the land on his behalf. The actual purchase from the landowner will take place right before Rosh Hashanah in a separate contractual transaction with Mr. Gabi Grossbard and the owner.

Q. How does the purchased land revert back to the original owner after the shmitta year?

A. Included in the enclosed contract is the irrevocable authorization for Mr. Gabi Grossbard to sell back the land to the original owner after the shmitta year is over.

Q. What methods will be used to be koneh (acquire) the land in Eretz Yisroel?

A. Four independent modes of kinyan will be used to affect the kinyan between Mr. Gabi Grossbard and the owner of the land – kesef, shtaar, chalipin, and odeesa. The entire process is being done according to the instructions of Dayan Avroham Gutman shlita of the Vaad HaDayanim of Lakewood (see accompanying letter).

Q. At the onset of the shmitta year, how does a buyer declare the produce of the land they purchased hefker (ownerless)?

A. Most poskim are of the opinion that the hefker status of shmitta produce happens by itself (see Chazon Ish [Shivies 19:24]). However, according to Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Y.D. 3, siman 90) the owner must still verbally declare in front of three people that the produce of the field is hefker. We have therefore enclosed in the contract the authorization for Ahavas Olam to make the declaration on the purchaser’s behalf.