[Avodah] This Rosh Hashanah (5782) will be the beginning of a new Shemitah year.

Prof. L. Levine llevine at stevens.edu
Mon Aug 9 09:05:34 PDT 2021

>From today's OU Kosher Halacha Yomis

Q. This Rosh Hashanah (5782) will be the beginning of a new Shemitah year. The Torah forbids many agricultural activities in Eretz Yisroel during Shemitah, such as planting, pruning and harvesting. Chazal added many other restrictions. After the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, is the mitzvah of Shemitah still a Torah commandment, or is Shmitah now a mitzvah derabbanan (Rabbinic)?

A. The position of the Tur (YD 331) as well as the Rambam according the Chazon Ish (Shevi’is 3:8) is that Shemitah is currently a mitzvah derabbanan. This follows the opinion of Rebbi cited in the Gemara (Gittin 36a-b). According to Rebbi, the mitzvah of Shemitah is linked to the mitzvah of Yovel which was observed every 50 years. During the Yovel year, the land rested, slaves were freed and land that was sold was returned to its original owner. During the second Beis Hamikdash period, Yovel was not observed, since the Biblical mitzvah of Yovel is only in effect when the land of Israel is divided among the twelve Shevatim, with each tribe living on its ancestral land. Most of the tribes did not return to Israel after the destruction of the first temple, and therefore Yovel was no longer a Torah mitzvah. According to Rebbi, since Yovel is not observed, Shemitah is derabannan. However, the Ramban (Sefer Hazechus – Gittin 18a) and the Rambam according to the Kessef Mishnah, (Hilchos Shmita Viyovel 4:25) are of the opinion that the Halacha does not follow Rebbi, and the Torah obligations of Shemitah remain in effect even today. The Chazon Ish (Shevi’is 3:8) writes that Shemitah today is derabbanan, as per his understanding of the Rambam. Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Emunah, Shmita Viyovel, 9:10) concurs with the Chazon Ish, and this is the generally accepted opinion. In truth, in most situations, this disagreement is academic. We must keep all mitzvos whether they are from the Torah or derabbanan. However, in certain cases of doubt, we are more lenient because we follow the ruling that Shemitah today is derabbanan.

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