When speaking at a seminar about Shemita earlier this year, I acknowledged this weakness, and explained to the participants how I think Otzar Bet Din would work in an ideal world. The costs for running the farms would be paid in full by the government, with funds from the State budget. The produce would be distributed to the consumers genuinely free of cost (I have a whole idea of how this can be done with a computerized database indicating how much of each type of produce each person is entitled to each week and distribution points where magnetic cards can be swiped to ensure that everyone gets only what they are entitled to), and in that way actually accomplish more of the socio-economic aspect of what the Torah actually envisioned. I told the participants that I am sure this is how it will be done when the Messiah comes.
It was at that point that one girl raised her hand and said “I don’t understand. Why does this have to wait for the Messiah to come? Why can’t we implement that system right now?” I thought about it for a moment and said, “You are right. In principle, there is no reason we can’t do this right now – if the Jewish People would want to. The problem is simply that most people aren’t yet ready to agree to such a concept.”
A few weeks later on a Shemita tour, I quoted this girl to a group I was leading, and one of the women suggested that this could be a project we should all work on. We have seven years to convince people to do it – let’s get the Knesset to pass a law implementing and funding a national Otzar Bet Din for the Shemita of 5782.
Is this realistic? I don’t know. But it did make me realize one fundamental truth: many aspects of what we are waiting for in the Messianic Age are not up to God; they are up to us. If only all of us wanted it, we could make it happen by just doing it ourselves. So who is going to bring the Messiah anyway? Is it something that God needs to do for us? Or something we need to do for ourselves?
Certainly there are aspects of both. But Shemita observance gives us an opportunity to see how much of this is really in our control. Maybe that’s why Shemita is so closely connected to the Redemption.
So as we prepare to “make Havdalah” and move on to the auspicious post-Shemita year, let’s all contemplate that and think about what each of us can do to make this the Motzaei Shviit she-Ben David Ba (the post-Sabbatical year in which the Messiah comes).