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This Week’s Torah Portion: Behar

Shoftim

Once every seven years, the Torah forbids any planting, pruning, plowing, or harvesting of the land in Israel. This year-long rest for the land of Israel, which is called the Shmita year, is one of the biblical agricultural commandments described in Parashat Behar that we still observe in modern times.  Jewish law explains how all of the fruits and vegetables that grow during the Shmita year possess a level of holiness. If you have ever visited Israel during a Shmita year, you may have encountered special garbage pales for your apple cores or banana peels. Leftovers of fruits and vegetables are placed in a separate garbage bin, since these leftovers are also considered “holy.” In order to dispose of them they must rot in a contained way (separated from regular garbage) until they become unfit for consumption. Why do you think the Torah commands the observance of the Shmita year? How does allowing the land to rest impact our relationship with food?

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