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The Myth of Shmitta LeChumra
It's widely known that stringencies in one area of Jewish law can involve leniencies in other areas of Jewish law. For example, being stringent about the sin of lashon hara can often involve being lenient about the sin of Lo sa'amod al dam reyecha.
Shmittah is no exception. Four shmittah cycles ago, I asked Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach about eating at the home of a relative who relied on leniencies regarding the laws of Shmittah. His response was that if I refrained from eating at their home, I would be committing the much bigger problem of being lenient about the laws of interpersonal relationships.
But actually, shmittah provides an even more striking situation. Because, notwithstanding how various organizations and institutions and individuals proudly proclaim that they are observing "shemittah lechumra," there is no agreement about what that actually means.
For some people, shmittah lechumra means altogether avoiding concerns about produce grown in the Land of Israel, and instead only buying from abroad, which usually means from Arabs. But for others, this is a serious Torah sin of failing to support one's fellow Jews and instead supporting our enemies.
For others, shmittah lechumrah means avoiding heter mechirah and using Otzar Beis Din. But Rav Eliezer Melamed persuasively argues that Otzar Beis Din is not just a legal fiction but a legal fantasy.
For yet others, shmittah lechumrah means avoiding Otzar Beis Din and using heter mechirah. But others claim that selling the land undermines the idea of shmittah and is of questionable validity.
Rav Aharon Lichtenstein lamented many years ago that in the modern era, there is simply no ideal way to observe Shmittah. It would be beneficial if people would bear that in mind, and it would help us be more respectful of the ways that other people decide to observe it.