This Rosh Hashanah began a new Shmitta year here in Eretz Yisroel. My third one. My second one owning land along with two fruit trees, so I get to follow all sorts of halachos.
What makes it more … interesting… is living outside of Yerushaliyim, and all the more so, outside of the center of the country where most of the religious population lives.
There are two customs regarding produce grown on land owned by non-Jews. According to the minhag kept in Yerushaliyim, the produce has no kedusha, holiness, to it. Therefore, Shmitta does not apply to any produce grown on Arab lands. The prevalent minhag outside of Yerushaliyim is that it DOES have kedusha to it. Therefore, one must be careful on how one buys it and how one treats it.
When you live outside of the center of the country, it gets even more complicated, since many of the big stores stop selling produce that are kosher for Shmitta. So, we're very limited on where we can buy vegetables at the moment. And in another nine months or so, this will apply equally to fruits. It gets a bit complicated, but… it makes the mitzvah more… real.
Ahhhh… I love Shmitta.
I read an interesting piece by Rav Mordecai Ilan from Tel Aviv. The Torah commands us, regarding Sukkos, that it's a "time of our simcha". In fact, it's mentioned three times, concerning Sukkos, twice concerning Shavous, and not even mentioned concerning Pesach.
The Tosfos write that during Pesach, no produce, whether from the trees or from the fields, are ripening. On Shavous, the produce of the fields are ripe and are still sitting in the field, however, the fruits are not yet ready. So… there is some simcha… but just not a 'complete' simcha. Comes Sukkos, and both fruits and produce are not only ripe but also gathered into the warehouses, awaiting the winter. This is when the farmer has true simcha.
However, the pasuk in the Torah states that "you shall be happy BEFORE HASHEM", being that one's happiness over his spiritual situation should be even greater than that of his physical situation. And that is why, explains Rav Ilan, that we read Koheles on Shabbos of Sukkos, which teaches us how temporary our physical pleasures are and how permanent out spiritual pleasures are.
I personally would like to suggest that perhaps it's not about pushing the physical to the side for the spiritual, but rather seeing them together. When one has the physical pleasures of having steady income, one should contemplate that goodness that Hashem has given him. On Sukkos, when the entire harvest is brought in, one should rejoice in brachos that he has received in the past year. In fact, Koheles says (7:11) "Wisdom is good with an inheritance and a boon to those who see the sun…". The Alshich writes on this, "It is good for the scholar to be self-supporting and free from financial worries so he can immerse himself in his studies"
Being that when one has financial stability, one is able to concentrate on what truly matters, his spiritual pursuits. So, while the spiritual is certainly more important, the physical brachos we receive help us attain the spiritual brachos.
With that, I wish you all a wonderful Sukkos/Shabbos!