Court backs shmita status quo

Israel’s high court upheld a long-standing practice granting kashrut licenses to Jewish produce during shmita.

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday found in favor of a petition lodged against the Chief Rabbinate, which had allowed municipal rabbis the freedom to yank the kosher certificates of stores that sold fruit and vegetables from Jewish-owned farmland during this shmita year.

Biblical law requires that during shmita, which falls every seven years, agricultural soil in the Land of Israel be allowed to lie fallow. Israel’s status quo has kept Jewish farmers in business by allowing them to symbolically sell their land to gentiles, but this was disputed in recent years by some Orthodox rabbis who said only imported produce should be kosher during shmita.

Under the High Court ruling, the Chief Rabbinate will be required to replace any municipal rabbi who refuses to recognize the symbolic sale of Jewish-owned farmland during shmita.

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