A Temple-State Clash in Israel

December 7, 2007

Author: Ashraf Khalil

Source: Los Angeles Times


Yochay Sorok and thousands of his fellow farmers should be taking the year off right now, allowing their land, and themselves, to rest in observance of a Jewish tradition that dates to Leviticus.

It is the Shmita year, an agricultural Sabbath that comes every seven years, during which, according to the Old Testament, Jewish farmers in the land of Israel must let their fields lie fallow.

But Sorok, customer relations manager for the Chubeza organic farm outside Jerusalem, is working -- as are the vast majority of Israeli farmers. Just before the start of the Jewish New Year on Sept. 13, Sorok signed papers at the offices of his local chief rabbi, technically selling the farm to a non-Jew.

He never met his farm's "buyer" and doesn't need to. Next September, the purchase check will be torn up and everything will return to normal.

"It's a trick. But it's a smart trick," Sorok said of the nominal land sale. "That's the Jewish way of dealing with the Torah. You reinterpret -- not for small, selfish reasons but for good reasons. . . . Giving people a living is a higher cause."