Is Shemittah a mitzvah that’s only meant for farmers? Or does it apply to any Jew who owns land in Israel? What do you think of the idea of buying a plot of land in Israel and letting it rest during the Shemittah year. "The Shmita Association" offered to sell me a plot of land for the upcoming Shemittah year and I’m wondering whether or not I should go for it.
Shalom, Thank you for your question. It is wonderful to start getting questions about Shmitah (the Sabbatical year) that starts next year (5775). May we all merit to fully appreciate this great mitzvah that connects Am Israel with the Land of Israel with the holiness of the Torah of Israel! The mitzvah of Shmitah is certainly not limited to the farmer (though they merit to have a greater connection to the mitzvah on a daily practical basis than most of us). For starters, the laws of Shmitah apply to all gardens in Israel, as well as to even potted plants (in many situations). So even if you only have a small flower pot sitting outside your window ledge, you will get to practice the laws of Shmitah. The laws of how much you may water the garden, cut the flowers, fertilize, weed, and so on, will all become part of your halachic world! Secondly, the laws of Shmitah will also apply to any Jew who plans to eat any produce from the land of Israel – that's all of us who merit to live here (and those overseas will also have this connection by being careful with exported foods). Every time we buy, prepare, and eat Shmitah food we will merit to come into contact with the laws of Shmitah. None the less, those who own land in Israel and merit to keep the laws of Shmitah on it, certainly have a special portion in this great mitzvah. The program you are referring to will sell you a small plot of land in Israel, and then make sure to tend it properly in the Shmitah year on your behalf. In this way, you merit to personally fulfill the commandments of Shmitah on the soil of Israel. The program also is a means of financially supporting the farmers, who will certainly take a loss during the Shmitah year by not tilling the soil. This is certainly a wonderful idea. Even though the secret spiritual benefits of each mitzvah are not revealed to us – it is safe to say that taking part in such a program is certainly a great thing. It allows one to do the mitzvot of charity to the farmers, settling the land of Israel, strengthening Shmitah observance, and love of your fellow Jew. It also builds a strong and healthy connection between you and land of Israel and those holy Jews who merit to work the land with their hands and hearts. I am not personally involved in the particular you mentioned – but I have seen their advertising and they seem to be well supported by many great Rabbis. May they, and all the Jewish farmers in Israel, be blessed with every success in the coming Shmitah year. May the blessings of this great mitzvah shine forth for all Am Yisrael. And may we all merit to connect to the Land of Israel in every way possible. Blessings.