More than 2,000 years ago, when ancient Israel was an agrarian society, the shmita year was a huge national happening. Commencing with Rosh Hashanah, the people of Israel would gather in the fields to partake of the produce left “ownerless” by farmers who, heeding the biblical commandment, would allow their fields to lie fallow during the seventh year of the agriculture cycle. In addition, all debts were forgiven, enabling the people of Israel to start fresh.
In today’s Israel, farmers make up only about 2 percent of the population. Computer mice and keyboards have replaced plows, while corporate offices and nonprofit workplaces have become today’s “fields.”
So how can Israelis observe shmita in the Startup Nation?
Jewish educators and Israeli leaders from across the religious spectrum are coming up with answers, hoping to pave the way for a country whose spiritual strength can match its economic strength.