What is the shmita or sabbatical year?

Answered by
Rabbi Victor S. Appell

The sabbatical year, shmitaShmita שְׁמִטָּהA year of “release,” described in the Torah (Ex 23:11; Lev 25:2,5-7; Deut 15:1-2) as occurring every seventh year, during which the land of Israel is not farmed, debts are remitted, and slaves granted freedom. in Hebrew, finds it roots in the Torah. Hebrew for "release," shmita takes place every seven years. It is the Torah's attempt to correct some of the social ills of the world. In the seventh year, debts are to be forgiven. Farmers in Israel were to allow their land to rest, growing no new crops. Whatever grew on its own was communal property and anyone could help themselves to it. Finally, Hebrew slaves were freed.

Today, Reform Judaism is breathing new life into this concept in order to alleviate economic disparity and advocate for better stewardship of the earth's resources. The new year, 5782 (2021), beginning this Rosh HaShanah, will be a shmita year.