Unique Inyan for Women to Purchase Land in Order to Keep Shmita

by / Wednesday, 06 August 2014 / Published in Shmita Articles
women and shmita

The mitzva of shmita is comprised of both ‘mitzvos asseh’ (positive commandments) and a ‘mitzvas lo ta’aseh’ (negative commandment). The mitzvos asseh are that: one must let the land lie fallow, give the field a rest and render the produce of the fields ‘hefker’ (ownerless). And the ‘mitzvas lo ta’aseh’ is that one may not work his field, to plow and sow it.

Regarding the ‘lo ta’aseh’, it goes without saying that women are obligated in this mitzvah just as they are in all other ‘lo ta’aseh’ mitzvos. Regarding the ‘mitzvos asseh’, one must determine as to whether or not they are exempt from this ‘mitzvas asseh shehazman grama’, being that the mitzvah of shmita comes around once every seven years making it a time-bound mitzvah.

The Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 84) wrote the following regarding the ‘mitzvas asseh’ of rendering one’s field hefker (ownerless) during the shmita year: “This is practiced by both males and females.” And the Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 112) learned from the words of the Sefer HaChinuch that women are commanded with the ‘mitzvas asseh’ of Shviyis, and added that even according to the words of the Rambam it is understood that women are obligated in this mitzvah; that the Rambam did not differentiate between men and women with regards to the laws of shviyis. The Minchas Chinuch wondered why women were not given the usual exemption of time-bound mitzvos when it comes to the mitzva of shmita.

The Minchas Chinuch there explained this difficulty according to the words of the Ritb”a in Kidushin (p. 29) that women are exempt from time-bound mitzvos only when those mitzvos are not dependent upon other factors, however when it comes to mitzvos that must be performed upon someone or something else, such as a bris milah, the typical exemption for women from time-bound mitzvos does not apply. The Minchas Chinuch solved this issue: so too with the mitzva of shmita, being that it is not a mitzva for her to do with her person, rather it’s a mitzva for her to stop working the land, therefore the usual exemption relating to time-bound mitzvos does not apply here.

The Shu”t Sha’arei De’ah (s. 19) proved from the gemara in Kidushin 52 that women are commanded to keep the mitzva of shmita (refer there). [Refer to the Shu”t Chasam Sofer (Orach Chaim s. 150) who wrote that women are obligated in the mitzva of ‘issur schorah’ (the prohibition of commerce) with shviyis produce and the obligation of ‘biyur’ (nullification). Inspect what Maran Sar HaTorah HaGaon Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky shlita wrote in his sefer Derech Emunah ‘Hilchos Shmita and Yovel’ (ch. 1 Biur Halacha d”h ‘mitzvas asseh lishbot).]

It’s important to note that in answer to The Shmita Association’s directors regarding this issue, Maran Sar HaTorah HaGaon Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky shlita ruled that there is even an inyan for women to buy land in order to fulfill the mitzva of shmita.

To conclude, the mitzva of shmita is a unique mitzva for women, because, in opposition to the mitzvos of shofar and lulav, women are obligated to perform this mitzva. Therefore, it is fitting for women to buy land in Eretz Yisroel in order to fulfill this rare mitzva which they were commanded to fulfill in the same vein as men.