Firstly, one of my posts, my Dvar Torah for Rosh Hashannah (The Chosen Jew, The Chosen You) has been voted as a FINALIST in the JIBAwards
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Quickly, once again...
Back in Medieval times people would leave a portion of their field fallow on a rotation schedule.
The beginning of this week's double portion of Behar and Bechukotai make a similar request: that we observe a Sabbatical Year, a Shemita. In the serfdoms of the Middle Ages they realized that the Jewish practice of remission would be agriculturally beneficial.
It is a common misconception that one is not allowed to make use of the produce during the seventh year. If that were true our agrarian ancestors would have starved to death; rather, the field and the trees are free-for-all and landowners are not allowed to financially benefit from what grows during this year but may eat it themselves and give some away. This is the case in the Land of Israel to this day. I had a professor at Pardes who would hang up a sign during the Sabbatical year in his front yard saying something like "please come in and take from my tree". The Shemittah year is this coming year, 5768 and only pertains to areas within the biblical land of Israel (anywhere where they celebrate only one day of Yom Tov)
I won't discuss it because it requires a lot of preparation, but I suggest you check out an article on remission of debts that also occurs in the Shemittah year; particularly the rabbinic loophole/legal fiction known as the Prozbul. Hmm, there doesn't seem to be a Wikipedia article that even contains the word Prozbul... Well, that has to change. Perhaps I will take care of it after Shabbos. Eh, just google it for now.
Then there is the Yovel, the Jubilee Year, the 50th year, after 7 counts of seven years (sound familiar? Sefirat HaOmer has the same kind of counting system!) in which we "proclaim liberty throughout the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof" (Leviticus 25:10). Have you seen this phrase before? If you've ever been to the most famous landmark in the state of Pennsylvania (or a replica being approached by a dragon in Jerusalem), you have. It is inscribed on the Liberty Bell. America uses a bell, Jews use a shofar. The shofar is used to announce the beginning of the Jubilee on Yom Kippur. Let all slaves be freed, for nobody deserves a life of servitude. Unlike Shemita, Yovel is not observed in Israel today, not until, according to some, most of the Jews of the world return to Israel.
Shabbat Shalom and Chazak Chazak V'Nitchazek.