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Sanctified For Its Time…
‘Within Thirty Days Of The Shemittah Year’
(Rosh Hashana 10b)



Our Daf asks whom the Tosefta [which asserts that less than 30 days cannot possibly count as a year] is following. A possible answer is that it follows R. Eleazar. However, according to him we need 60 days before Rosh Hashana to be counted as a year, as in the Mishna. Further, R. Eleazar maintains that one may not plant, bend the runner of a plant into the earth to take root, or graft, within 30 days of the start of the Shemittah year; if one did so, the plant must be uprooted. Among other suggestions is the opinion of R. Yehuda, who maintains that one may do this until three days before the Shemittah year. R. Yossi and R. Shimon maintain that one may do this until two weeks before the Shemittah year. Yet another possibility is the view of R. Nachman, citing Rabbah bar Avuha, that 30 days must be added to all these opinions in order to account for the time needed for the plant to take root.

The designation of such periods, of course, is wholly dependent on when the Shemittah year is designated, and the method of such Shemittah and Yovel (Jubilee) calculated designations.


Calculating The Shemittah Year

The residents of Eretz Yisrael are used to the cycle of the Shemittah year, which comes every seven years. The Shemittah year is determined according to the system of the Geonim, Rashi, and Rambam (Hilchos Shemittah VeYovel 10:6). Rabbenu Tam, however, made his own calculations and claimed that the Shemittah should be observed one year earlier, while according to Raavad (Hasagos, ibid.) we should include the calculation of the Yovel year as was customary in the Temple era: Every 50 years there were eight years between one Shemittah and the next. As for the halacha, all the poskim follow Rashi and Rambam. The Maharsham (Responsa, Y.D. 192) asserts that the rabbis of Safed imposed a ban on the observation of Shemittah according to more than one calculation.


A Weighty Question

The Kesef Mishneh (Rambam ibid.) addresses Rambam’s statement in a letter about this topic and asks a weighty question. Rambam states that according to the Geonim, “the first sanctification consecrated the land both for its time and for the future.” In other words, the sanctification of Eretz Yisrael that took effect with the entry of the Children of Israel into Canaan did not lose its effect when they left the land. If so, why do we not calculate the Yovel in our era?

The Chazon Ish (Sheviis 3, s.k. 5) addresses Rambam’s statement and explains the above matter at length. Apparently, if we amended the statement to read “not for the future,” we would have no problem: Since Eretz Yisrael is not sanctified in our era, the Yovel year, which depends on that sanctification, should not be observed, and the Shemittah years should be calculated without it. Nonetheless, since the halacha rules that the first sanctification consecrated the land for the future, Rambam’s letter cannot be corrected and the question remains. [Had the land been consecrated forever, the calculation of Shemittah should incorporate the Yovel even though the observance of the laws of Yovel applies only when most Jews live there.]


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.