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Shmittah: the 6th year bumper crop


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#1 meirgoldberg

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 12:02 AM

I was wondering if you had an approach to why it is that we don't see a bumper crop in the 6th year, even for farmers keeping shmittah, as the Torah promises. Even in Sanhedrin 26 Rav Yannai allowed farmers to plant on shmittah in order to pay the Roman tax.
I have heard an answer that today Shmittah is Derabonon but there are shittos (e.g. Kesef Mishna Perek 9 Hil Shmitin V'yovlos) who hold that shmittah is d'oraysah today.


Another approach I've heard is that the havtachah in the Torah depends on Klal Yisroel being zocheh to that. I was wondering if there is a source for that, or a way of explaining that in a way that doesn't sound like apologetics.


#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 06:15 PM

I was wondering if you had an approach to why it is that we don't see a bumper crop in the 6th year, even for farmers keeping shmittah, as the Torah promises. Even in Sanhedrin 26 Rav Yannai allowed farmers to plant on shmittah in order to pay the Roman tax.
I have heard an answer that today Shmittah is Derabonon but there are shittos (e.g. Kesef Mishna Perek 9 Hil Shmitin V'yovlos) who hold that shmittah is d'oraysah today.

Another approach I've heard is that the havtachah in the Torah depends on Klal Yisroel being zocheh to that. I was wondering if there is a source for that, or a way of explaining that in a way that doesn't sound like apologetics.

Both approaches are legitimate.

That there is no Bracha because Sheviis is Derabonon is the opinion of the Sma (חו"מ ס"ז סק"ב).

It's not only those two Shitos that hold Shmitah is D'Oraysa today. There are many more. Add the Shagas Aryeh, Pri Chadash, Chasam Sofer and the majority of Rishonim. According to Sefer Chareidim (Mitzvos HaTeluyos BaAretz 2:4) the majority of Poskim hold Shmitah nowadays is D'Oraisa

In any case, you pointed out the Chazon Ish (Sheviis 18:4) that says the Bracha can be nullified if גרם החטא. That applies even if Shemitah is D'Oraysah.

This is not difficult to understand, because גרם החטא can in general negate generic Brachos. But regarding Shmitah it is even easier. Because the Bach (OH 220) says that when a person sins in Eretz Yisroel, he actually de-sanctifies the land, and the unholiness of his sins penetrates into the fruits of Eretz Yisroel (and so too when a person does Mitzvos in EY, the fruits absorb the holiness). Rabbeinu Bachya (quoted in Tzemach Hashem LeZvi Parshas Reah) says that if people sin in Eretz Yisroel, polluting the land, then Eretz Yisroel on that spot loses its holiness and becomes Chutz LaAretz. He explains that this is how it is possible that a Mosque should currently be occupying the space of our Bais HaMIkdash on the Har Habayis. He says that spot may not be Eretz Yisroel any longer. (This is the converse of Hashem folding up Eretz Yisroel under Yaakov Avinu. In this case, Hashem puts Chutz LaAretz into the boundaries of Eretz Yisroel.)

If that is the case, there is no question as to why if the Jews don't act properly in EY the Bracha will not help. The Bracha was tied to EY and its holiness. Once that holiness is removed or reduced, the Bracha would not come.

#3 achasshoalti

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 01:32 PM

It would seem that this would negate the "Aish" proof of Torah MiSinai (that no human could make such a promise & the Torah wouldn't have lasted past the 1st shmitta cycle when the promise wasnt fulfilled, because Moshe could simp[y say "shema garam ha'cheit")

#4 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 08:12 PM

It would seem that this would negate the "Aish" proof of Torah MiSinai (that no human could make such a promise & the Torah wouldn't have lasted past the 1st shmitta cycle when the promise wasnt fulfilled, because Moshe could simp[y say "shema garam ha'cheit")

Well that's not really the argument. It is not that the Torah would not have lasted, but rather why would a faker make such a bizarre and harsh demand on people knowing that the blessing will never come. Even if he could explain it - year after year, because it would never ever come true! - why would anyone do such a thing in the first place? It makes no sense that someone would ruin his people's economy, leave them basically starving, vulnerable to enemy attacks -- and for what? He gains nothing by it. Even if he could explain it away (which he'd have to do every year), it makes no sense that someone would subject the nation to that if he couldn't deliver.

But also, we need to be realistic. You can't just randomly say גרם החטא. In those days, when suffering happened, our sages and prophets fettered out exactly what the sin was in order for us to do Teshuva. Take Achan as a simple example. A claim of גרם החטא would have been met with demands of who what where and when, as it always was. And answers would have been expected. And accountability. That's how it worked in those days. It is just too much trouble, and nonsensical for a person to promise something like that, where he'd either have to deliver the bumper crop, or the culprits. And there really is no big motive to make such promises if they are not going to be kept - what's the point?

And also, you need to understand that these type of proofs are not meant to be incontrovertible but circumstantial. They work by piling on more and more evidence until a reasonable person comes to a conclusion. Like in a court case. As opposed to let's say the proof that the formula for the area of a circle is (pi)r^2, which is designed to be irrefutable in and of itself.

So yes, someone could make a promise of extra crops and then claim גרם החטא, but it would not make much sense to do that if you are faking. Is that a drop-dead A=A kind of proof? Not at all. It was never meant to be (anyone can claim even without גרם החטא that someone made the promise regardless of the גרם החטא explanation). It was meant to be taken as a piece of evidence together with all the other strange "coincidences" that support Torah MiSinai and combine to form a case that is compelling beyond a reasonable doubt to a rational and objective person.

#5 danceInTheRain

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 04:44 AM

all else being true, the farmers in israel that trully keep shmitta DO see many miracles and there are many stories!