from the heart of jerusalem: rabbi binny freedman

Shemittah’s role in terror halt, and atonement


Yom HaKippurim: The day of atonement. That is how we usually translate it, but is that what it really means? I heard a remarkable story this summer, in the midst of all the fighting in Gaza, though in all honesty I have not troubled to corroborate the story.


Apparently a group of ultra-Orthodox residents from Bnei Brak came to a field near the Gaza strip to harvest wheat for Pesach. Every summer they search for wheat ripe enough to harvest in August — when the sun dries the wheat most intensely as part of the process in producing shmura matzah (matzo made from wheat specially guarded against moisture to prevent it from rising and becoming unleavened). The wheat is then stored till its use in baking matzos in the spring.

Since this is a Shemittah (sabbatical) year, they needed to harvest enough for two years’ worth of matzos. At Kibbutz Sufa, right next to the border with Gaza, they found a large field sown in mid-January (apparently a rare occurrence) with 2,000 acres of green wheat — was exactly what they needed.

With Operation Protective Edge’s air campaign under way, they could see the pillars of smoke over Gaza, and the Israeli air force hitting back against the Hamas missile launchers, but were nonetheless able to harvest the wheat and load it onto trucks for the cleaning and storage process in the plant located further north. 

Two days later, in what is now a well-documented event, 13 terrorists, armed to the teeth, emerged from a tunnel which led from the Gaza strip and opened into the wheat fields of Kibbutz Sufa. The terrorists had been counting on emerging unnoticed amidst the tall wheat stalks all of which had just been cut down by the Bnei Brak Matzoh bakers. As such, they were immediately spotted by the Israeli army and were prevented from launching what would have been a horrendous terrorist attack intended to hit nearby homes all at once.

Indeed, one could say a lot of Jewish lives were protected by the mitzvoth of Shemittah this summer.

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