||Rare pamphlet on the subject of shemittah and their practical application today. Shemittah refers to the Sabbatical Year, when, according to the Bible, during the seventh year, all land has to be fallow and debts remitted (Ex. 23:10–11; Lev. 25:1–7, 18–22; Deut. 15:1–11). R. Levine reviews the arguments concerning observance of and at the end renders his decision, which is on the side of those who are lenient, permitting the sale of land in Erez Israel to non-Jews. Ma’amar on the Subject of Sheve’it at Present is not recorded in the Bet Eked Sefarim nor is it in major American collections.
The issues and positions at the time were as follows: When the Zionist movement began to encourage agriculture in Palestine, the observance of shemittah became a problem for solution. The leaders of the movement feared that the shemittah might jeopardize their existence, claiming that the law was obsolete. The Jewish periodicals, especially "Ha-Meliz," strenuously objected to enforcing the laws of shemittah upon the colonists. When the shemittah year 5649 (= 1888-89) approached, the question was submitted to the chief rabbis in Europe and Palestine. Rabbi Isaac Elhanan Spector was inclined to be lenient, and advocated a nominal sale of the land to a non-Jew and the employment of non-Jewish laborers during shemittah. The Sephardic hakam bashi, R. Jacob Saul Elyashar, concurred in this decision (see his "Simhah la-Ish," p. 107). But the Ashkenazic rabbis in Jerusalem opposed any subterfuge, and issued the following declaration:
"As the year of the shemittah, 5649, is drawing nigh, we inform our brethren the colonists that, according to our religion, they are not permitted to plow or sow or reap, or allow Gentiles to perform these agricultural operations on their fields (except such work as may be necessary to keep the trees in a healthy state, which is legally permitted). Inasmuch as the colonists have hitherto endeavored to obey God's law, they will, we trust, not violate this Biblical command. By order of the bet din of the Ashkenazim at Jerusalem. [Signed by the rabbis] J. L. Diskin and Samuel Salant".
An appeal, signed by prominent Jews in Jerusalem, for funds to enable the colonists to observe the shemittah was directed to the Jews outside the Holy Land. Dr. Hildesheim as president of the society Lema'an Ziyyon, in Frankfort-on-the-Main, collected donations for this purpose. Baron Edmond de Rothschild, being informed by Rabbi Diskin that the law of shemittah is valid, ordered the colonists under his protection in Palestine to cease work during the Sabbatical year.