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Letting the land lie fallow in olei Mitzrayim territory

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Dear Rabbi,

I live in Naveh, a development in the Eshkol Regional Council. I am a private farmer and raise an orchard of tangerines. The Ministry of Agriculture published a policy to support shemitah-observant farmers. I wanted to know if I am supposed to observe shemitah in my area due to the doubt regarding the status of my area, or if I would be needlessly stringent. In any case, what is the proper way to observe shemitah laws where I live?


Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy Amichay

As you know, you live in olei Mitzrayim territory. It is forbidden to work the ground or the trees. With regard to kedushat shevi'it of the produce there, however, some are stringent while others are lenient. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz"l ruled that the produce has kedushat shevi'it, and it is proper to handle it as such.

Based on this, it seems that it is best to work through otzar beit din, not to let the land lie fallow. On the contrary, we need to concern ourselves that the Jewish People has good produce during the shemitah year without halachic problems, grown by Jews who make personal sacrifices to observe the mitzvot. Your fruit is the best for all mitzvah observers to eat. I believe, if it is possible, selling your fruit through otzar beit din is preferable to avoid working the land—which would mean that there wouldn't be fruit at all. I'm not sure that this is the intention of the Torah when it states that the shemitah produce is for us le'ochlah, "to eat it."