Dusty Phrases

Hi! Welcome to “Dusty Phrases.” You will find below an ancient phrase in one language or another, along with its English translation. You may also find the power to inspire your friends or provoke dread among your enemies.

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This Hebrew word literally meaning release refers to something called “the Sabbath year.” From wiki:

The sabbath year (shmitaHebrew: שמיטה, literally “release”), also called the sabbatical year or shǝvi’it (שביעית‎, literally “seventh”), or “Sabbath of The Land”, is the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah in the Land of Israel and is observed in Judaism.

During shmita, the land is left to lie fallow and all agricultural activity, including plowing, planting, pruning and harvesting, is forbidden by halakha (Jewish law). Other cultivation techniques (such as watering, fertilizing, weeding, spraying, trimming and mowing) may be performed as a preventive measure only, not to improve the growth of trees or other plants. Additionally, any fruits or herbs which grow of their own accord and where no watch is kept over them are deemed hefker (ownerless) and may be picked by anyone. A variety of laws also apply to the sale, consumption and disposal of shmita produce. All debts, except those of foreigners, were to be remitted.

Chapter 25 of the Book of Leviticus promises bountiful harvests to those who observe the shmita, and describes its observance as a test of religious faith.

The most recent shmita year was 2021–2022 or Anno mundi 5782 in Hebrew calendar. The next shmita cycle will be in 2028-2029, year 5789 in Hebrew calendar.

Ancient Israel

It is still discussed among scholars of the Ancient Near East whether or not there is clear evidence for a seven-year cycle in Ugaritic texts. It is also debated how the biblical seventh fallow year would fit in with, for example Assyrian practice of a four-year cycle and crop rotation, and whether the one year in seven was an extra fallow year. Yehuda Feliks suggests that the land may have been farmed only 3 years in seven. Elie Borowski (1987) takes the fallow year as one year in seven.

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