We will be updating this page with further information during the course of the Shemitta year.
This coming year of 5775 (2014-2015) will be a Shemitta year when the land of Israel enjoys a Sabbath rest, as the verse states '...and the land shall rest a Sabbath to the L-rd' (Leviticus 25:1). During this year there are restrictions on both the agriculture and trade of produce from the Holy Land. Produce which grows in Israel during this period takes on an added level of holiness which means that it may not be wasted, mistreated or traded in the usual fashion, and some vegetables become forbidden under Gezerat Sefichin (see below).
LBD policy, in keeping with that of the other European Batei Din, the OU and other American kashrut authorities, is that given these considerations, it is preferable to avoid using products that are grown in Israel.
Literally 'Holiness of the Seventh Year'. This refers to produce from the seventh year, grown in Israel, which takes on an elevated level of holiness. It is analogous to kedushat Shabbat, the holiness of Shabbat: Just like the seventh day of the week has an added level of holiness and some associated restrictions to honour the day, the seventh year has an added level of holiness and some associated restrictions to honour the year. Produce with kedushat shevi’it should not be traded commercially nor sent outside Israel, it may not be wasted nor used in an unusual manner. It may however be eaten and treated in a respectful way i.e. leftovers should not be thrown away with other rubbish but should be wrapped first.
Prohibition against Consuming (certain) Vegetables. According to Biblical law, produce that grew by itself during the Shemitta year, whilst having kedushat shevi’it, could still be eaten. However the Sages were concerned that individuals would plant vegetables in the seventh year and claim that these had grown by themselves. They therefore forbade consumption of Shemitta vegetables where the planting may have been during the Shemitta year itself. The date that this restriction starts depends on the type of vegetable and how long it takes to grow.
The Heter Mechira
Over 100 years ago, in order to protect the fledgling new settlements in the land of Israel, some leading rabbis in Israel devised a method of selling the land of Israel to non-Jews in order to avoid the restrictions of shemita – the heter mechira. Other authorities debated its validity. The generally accepted view amongst both European and American authorities was that one should avoid relying upon the heter mechirah outside Israel where other products are readily available. This was the position of Rabbi J B Soloveichik ז"ל , well known as the leading centrist/modern orthodox halachic authority in America, as well as other leading Rabbis.
Please note: For those wishing to continue buying Israeli produce, we recommend the Alei Katif vegetables which are grown in such a way that Shemitta restrictions are alleviated.
If you have any further question please contact Rabbi Shimon Black in the Shemitta department firstname.lastname@example.org