Former Rosh Kollel (Warsaw, 2013-17)
Currently Head of the English department at Machon HaTorah Ve’Haaretz, the Institute for Torah and the Land of Israel
The Tosefta (Shevi’it 8) cites Chazal’s solution:
Initially the agents sent by the beit din (rabbinical court) would sit at the entrances to the villages. People would come and bring produce, and they [the agents] would take the produce and give the person food for three meals. The rest, they bring to the otzar (storehouses) in the city.
The time came to harvest the olives. Agents of the beit din would hire workers, who would harvest the olives; then crush them in the olive press; then transfer them into casks; then place them into the town’s otzar. On Fridays, they would distribute the oil to all the families according to the number of people.
That is, instead of each person harvesting their own field, the beit din would be in charge of this on behalf of the public. This solution is called otzar beit din.
Otzar beit din
The largest otzar beit din today is Otzar Ha’aretz, established three shemitot ago by Torah VeHa’aretz Institute, based on the following principles:
- Supporting Jewish, Israeli agriculture
- Cultivating fields in a halachically permissible manner
- Bringing produce with kedushat shevi’it to private consumers
Otzar Ha’aretz also brings produce from other sources:
- Vegetables and fruit that grew during the sixth year, stored for the short or long term.
- Growing in pots disconnected from the ground (detached platforms), based on the directives of the Otzar Ha’aretz rabbis.
- Growing vegetables in Olei Mitzrayim territory, where, according to halachah, kedushat shevi’it applies on a lower level. Coupled with heter mechirah for the area, the beit din also allows planting there (via non-Jews). In this way, fruits and vegetables are provided all year long.
Buying from Otzar Ha’aretz makes the customers partners in keeping the land in Jewish hands and supporting Jewish farmers, while observing shemitah laws. It also affords them the merit to eat produce with kedushat shevi’it.