This Shabbat we learn about the requirement to observe a year of SHMITAH. This means that every seventh year the land of Israel is to lie fallow; no work is to be done in the fields and the produce is to be free for all to take. One of the explanations for this law is to establish that the land is ours only as a gift from Hashem. We are to demonstrate this understanding during the year and we cannot work the land and we proclaim the year a Sabbatical year for Hashem.
Biblically this law prevails only when all of the Jews live in Israel under their own rule. Today, when many Jews are dispersed throughout the world, the law of Shmitah is observed as a Rabbinic decree and not Biblical. Economic conditions today are not like what they were during biblical times when farmers produced small amounts of food for their own neighborhoods. Today farming is a big industry and the food is not only consumed locally but may be sold internationally. Under such conditions it would be an economic disaster to totally adhere to the laws of Shmitah.
This fact has been recognized by leading world renowned Rabbis for many decades. They proscribed a method of circumventing the law similar to what we do when we sell our Chametz. We transfer the Chametz to a non-Jew and hence it is not considered ours. Similarly, these Rabbis suggest that the land be sold to a non-Jew and is thus exempt from the laws of Shmitah. This is observed today officially throughout the land and is known as “Heter Mechirah”.