Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Shmitta

Once in every seven years there is a whole new set of laws that come into effect all over Israel. These laws affect every single fruit and vegetable grown in Eretz Yisrael, and is commonly reffered to as "shmitta" (although here you also here it reffered to as "kedushat shevii".

The laws all start from a biblical commandment that one year out of seven farmers should allow their fields to go fallow, and all of the fruits and vegetables that are produced are considered holy. This rule is, in effect, still in force today all over the state of Israel. This means that throughout the country, there is a special consideration given to how fruits and vegetables are planted, prepared, brought to consumers, used and then disposed of.

Shmitta applies to things grown in the seventh year both if they were picked durring the year or not. Therefore, fruit which grows durring the 7th year but may not be picked or used until the 8th year (think grapes for grape juice) is considered "holy" until midway through the 8th year (and sometimes longer).

There are a number of ways of getting access to fruits and vegetables durring this time. It can either be grown in hothouses where it is not directly connected to the ground (thus not technically on Israeli soil- talk about a loop hole!). It can be grown by non-Jews. It can come from countries outside of Israel. It can come from fields worked by jews but "sold" (on paper only) to a non Jew (like we do for chametz at Pessach time).

It can also come from farmers who obey the laws of shmitta and harvest only in permitted ways. when this is the case the fruit is "holy" and must only be used in "normal" ways (so, say, banana soup would be a no-no). It also can not be disposed of until it is revolting. Seriously, you have to let it compost in a bag on your counter for a couple of days until it is gross enough to throw away.

Oh, and like every other part of Jewish life, various people hold various oppinions. I am so not even going to try to get into who knows what. Jason and I are still not quite sure what we hold.

The upshot of all this is that fruits and veges are confusing ot the point of traumatic and incredibly expensive.

2 comments:

rachelb99 said...

Wow - that's confusing. It's almost over though, right?
BTW I am totally loving your blog. I am finding it very interesting to see what a family making aliyah goes through day-to-day, in the first weeks pre and post arrival.
I hope to follow in your footsteps one day!

happyduck1979 said...

there are various things still affected by shmitta for the next year or so.

Thanks so much :) Look forward to seeing you then!