For my write-up today of Louis Newman’s The Sanctity of the Seventh Year: A Study of Mishnah Tractate Shebiit, I have two items:
1. On page 151, Newman states the following:
“Produce that grows during the Sabbatical year is sanctified, because during the seventh year ownership of the Land’s yield reverts exclusively to God. Since God owns these crops, they are subject to special restrictions that do not apply to the harvest of other years. These restrictions are of two sorts. First, produce of the Sabbatical year may be used only as God intends. He specifically designates these crops as food for Israelites and their livestock (Lev. :6-7). Second, all Israelites must share equally the agricultural products which God has provided for them. Individuals thus may not treat that which grows during the Sabbatical year as if it were their own.”
This quote is a good encapsulation of two themes that I read in this book today: that the yield of the Sabbatical year is to be used as food, not for anything else (i.e., straw is to be eaten by livestock, not used to fill out one’s pillow), and that the yield is to belong to everyone and thus is not to be hoarded. As Leviticus 25:6-7 states (in the KJV): “And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee. And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.”
And, speaking of hoarding, here is something that a friend of mine posted recently:
“I do not personally ascribe to the idea that God takes care of each and every one of us through specific provisions aimed specifically at us. God has given us an earth more than capable of meeting every one’s needs. If any one is going without (exception being temporarily after a natural disaster) then somewhere someone is controlling or hoarding something or someone is failing to do something that if they did it would result in their obtaining the provisions.”
2. When I was in high school, I had a ham, for some reason. I may have won it. I don’t remember. But I couldn’t eat ham on account of my religion, which was a variant of Armstrongism. My Mom suggested that I donate it to the local food pantry, and I wondered if that was enabling others to transgress God’s dietary laws. I asked what Jesus would do. My Mom replied that he would probably give it to a starving Greek! On pages 143-144, Newman touches on that sort of issue. Mishnah Shebiit 7:3 is about restrictions on the sale of sanctified or forbidden foods. Newman states: “The central point of the discussion is that people may not conduct business with sanctified or forbidden foods…Since people are not free to eat these foodstuffs, they also may not benefit from them in other ways, by deriving financial gain from their sale.” By “sanctified” food that cannot be eaten, Newman may mean tithes, the heave offering, etc., since people can eat the sanctified yield of the Sabbatical year; actually, that food is for everyone. But there are restrictions on doing business with that Sabbatical yield. The Mishnah then goes on to delineate what constitutes doing business, and what does not.
In a parallel (albeit not an exact parallel) to M. Shebiit 7:3, b. Pesachim 23a, it says that unclean animals accidentally caught can be sold to Gentiles. The idea here may not be that a Jew can set up a business selling pork to Gentiles, for a Jew cannot derive benefit from selling unclean food (which, presumably, Gentiles are allowed to eat). But, if he finds that he has accidentally captured some unclean animals while hunting or fishing, he can sell them to a Gentile. R. Judah goes on to say that he can’t make that his livelihood, however. That’s my impression, and I welcome correction from anyone who knows better.