I used to find nothing at all good about Sh’mitta year, that seventh year when we’re not supposed to farm the Land or garden either. No, it’s not because I love gardening; we have the most ignored, neglected patch of land in all of Shiloh. It’s because I really hate how some people think that only their psak rabbinic/halachik (Jewish Law) way of keeping Shmitta is the right one. I don’t want to get into the pros and cons of the various methods, heter mechira (technical selling of the Land,) eating only non-Jews produced produce or eating only Jewish that has the status of Otzar Beit Din. As of late, more and more people are getting a variety and trying to keep track and treat each suitably. That is good, since the “only” business keeps people apart.
In rather rural/suburban places like Shiloh, many of us have gardens with fruit trees, and the fruit grows without any real care needed. I’m going to simplify all of the Halachic (Jewish Law) stuff. The fruit, whether grapes, apples or also herbs and vegetables are of a status called Otzar Beit Din and must be treated with great respect.
You can’t throw leftover or peels or whatever in a regular garbage, and you can’t profit from it. The owners don’t own it; the produce of the Land is owned by G-d. So the custom here in Shiloh and many other places is to announce that it’s hefker, ownerless, and invite all to partake. But remember that you can only take what you need for the day, not store for days or the week. Think of the Biblical Gd given Mahn that Jews had while wandering in the wilderness. They could take for only that day and double on Friday for Shabbat.
Last week I was happy to see an announcement in our local email list inviting us to take ripe figs from our neighbor’s tree.
And I did, as you can see. These were the largest figs I’d ever seen. And bli neder when we finally have ripe grapes, we, too will invite our neighbors to partake.
That’s how it works. Shemittah should bring us together and not separate us.