FOO (Frequently Offered Objections)

This page is written at a somewhat more abstract level than the book itself, as it adresses the considerations of those already familiar with the Sabbath for the Land, or feel that it has no bearing because of the New Covenant. If either of these are true for you, please take a look at the contentions listed below with their respective answers. If you are not familiar with these issues, please do not worry that the book will go over your head; it provides plenty of background, both clear and concise.

Most people coming across this site for the first time have probably been told about this book already (hopefully by somebody who has read it). If not, I thought it might be productive to address some of the usual religious objections I've encountered when describing it to people.

You are right to be skeptical. There are so many badly-supported Biblical interpretations out there, that to hear someone touting something "new" has been found in the Bible should have your eyes rolling, "Not another one." Witness all the quasi-Gnostic babble from Dan Brown and his ilk. From what I can tell, some of that stuff is designed and promoted to cause people to doubt the Biblical message.

What else is new?

So, as to whether this is Biblically supported, please go to the Tables of Cited Verses (Table 1 & Table 2). After looking at those lists, I doubt seriously you will worry any longer whether this book is Biblically supported.

To those who recoil at the idea that this interpretation takes issue with the predominant historic translations of the Hebrew, and particularly those who regard the King James as "inerrant," I have this to say:

I am not holding that these older translations are "wrong." I am saying that while what these translations say is true, they lead US to an understanding that is incomplete, especially when we read them from our latter-day perspective. Hence, when the KJV or the JPS (Jewish Publication Standard) translate Exodus 23:11 to the equivalent of, "rest and lie fallow," they are absolutely correct. Such is what the LAND would do, as is in agreement with the instructions in Leviticus 25. However, I am saying that "rest and lie fallow," is NOT all of what WE are to do pursuant to the more explicit understanding of Ex. 23:11 discussed in Shemitta. There is much more to it.

If that makes you squeamish, it should. So, I invite you to subject this book to all due scrutiny, because I am confident that it will satisfy your entirely-justifiable concerns.

So, here follows a list of the most common objections:

    The Sabbath for the Land WAS observed in the Second Temple Period

    But none of this matters because Jesus fulfilled the Law

    You can't know Torah; your're not a rabbi

    The Sabbath for the Land only applied in Israel

    This is all just hype. How can you say that this is unprecedented in 3,500 years?

The Sabbath for the Land WAS observed in the Second Temple Period

The Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Sheviit does indeed recount how the Sabbath for the Land was enforced during the Second Temple Period. The exegesis starts with a ruling upon which both Shammai and Hillel agreed: Exodus 34:21 forbade plowing on the Sabbath Day; therefore, there must be no plowing during the Sabbath year. In that entire, two-volume discussion, involving minute details of compliance, the founding verse for the Sabbath for the Land, Exodus 23:11, was not mentioned at all (it was cited in the discussion of debt release, but not with respect to the land). Nor did the Gemara mention a similar earlier prohibition on work during a Sabbath Day in Ex. 23:12, it being immediately adjacent to the verse in question.

There had to be a reason for such an obviously-deliberate omission.

Had Ex. 23:11 truly meant to let the land ‘rest and lie fallow’ there would have been no reason for the omission, as the consequent practice would have been identical to what was enforced at that time and as is commonly understood today. Unfortunately, for that idea, the two roots in Ex. 23:11 (shamat and natash) are literally translated as ‘release and abandon’ not ‘rest and lie fallow.’ This book demonstrates in detail that this distinction would have had massive consequences. This alternate translation is confirmed by the Septuagint Greek, which is as accurate a representation of rabbinic Second Temple Period understanding of the verse as could be obtained.

Recall that these rulings were made under Roman rule. If what I am saying is correct that the Sabbath for the Land had enormous strategic value as a means to prepare Israel to sustain total guerilla war (in addition to numerous other blessings), there is absolutely no way the rabbis of that time would have survived long enough to teach it to the people. They would have been led away in chains and the Torah would have been lost forever. Remember: to the rabbinate, keeping the book was their first obligation. Unfortunately, because the Talmud was the only surviving Jewish documentation on the Sabbath for the Land, and because European Jews were constrained to an urban lifestyle, that record constrained the Sages throughout the subsequent exile to interpret Ex 23:11 according to the Talmudic record.

Still, it is unmistakable in that same record, that the manner in which the Sabbath for the Land was enforced was a serious burden to a people already under very heavy burdens, particularly after the bar Kokhba revolt when rabbi Yochanan and his students wrote most of the discussion. As a student of regulatory law and its counter-intuitive consequences, I can say with some authority that the rulings systematically benefitted the wealthy at the expense of the poor. Whether this was intentional or not, no one can say.

As a Gentile, I must acknowledge that in some respects I am accountable for this misunderstanding. For having forced the Jews into subjugation, and alienating them from the land, the few surviving records of a process conducted under severe duress were all they had.

But none of this matters because Jesus fulfilled the Law

There is a common belief taken from Romans 10:4 and elsewhere (such as Galatians) that hold phrases such as, “Christ is the end of the Law” as if they denote a point of termination. “End” also means a number of other things that are more coherent with the whole Bible. In this instance, “the end” is meant as a goal, culmination, or purpose, similar to the usage in the false maxim, “ends justify means.”. I hold that in that sense Paul's observation is true, in that whole sections of seemingly obscure practices in the Torah, from a priest being defiled by contact with purifying ashes, to the massive hidden prophesy discovered in the process of writing Shemitta, the deeds of Yeshua (Jesus) are demonstrably the culmination and focus of each. Given that such is not the topic of this book, my preference is to refer those interested in the topic to others, particularly Mark Nanos' work on both Romans and Galatians.

Yet without any consideration of the merits of this "end of the Law" argument, there is a much more important reason for you to defer this concern whether you believe what I say on the current validity of the Law or not.

The Laws of G_d work the way He promises that they do, whether we believe in them or not, or whether we will be judged by them or not. For example, it is obvious that keeping His Ten Commandments leads to a happier life, simply because the principles they articulate are true: A society composed of liars, cheats, murderers, and thieves doesn’t hold together very long, nor is it likely to be comprised of happy people peaceably going about their business. In that sense, keeping or violating the principles underlying the Shemitta year produce the national blessings and curses described in Leviticus 26 just as assuredly as gravity. This book shows that they operate without temporal or spatial constraint, as true here today in the USA as they were in Israel 3,500 years ago. However, their operation is very slow and very subtle, which is yet another reason why they have remained misunderstood for so long. To learn how they work and how elegantly they are constructed is awe inspiring, as one would rationally expect of a Divine source.

The Sabbath for the Land only applied in Israel

The Talmud indeed recounts that the Sabbath for the Land was enforced only in Israel. That does not mean the principles underlying the Law of Moses do not hold where they are not enforced. For the same reasons mentioned immediately above, I would argue that using G_d’s Laws to guide our choices works precisely as He promised Israel.

Moreover, Israel's Divine mandate was to be a light to the nations. I promise you: Had Israel kept Torah, and especially Shemitta as originally designed, the news of a prosperous anarchy surviving amid great and rapacious empires would have spread like wildfire amid the downtrodden people of the world. They in turn would have thrown off their despots and joined Israel in liberty through true brotherhood. This was a revolutionary idea, and a system of inscrutable elegance beyond any human political design I've ever seen.

You can't know Torah; your're not a rabbi

Indeed I am not. Neither do I read Hebrew like a native nor am I Jewish. So, in general, I wouldn't argue this contention.

In this particular case, however, to argue from traditional Judaism is to adopt a self-imposed alienation from its pashat, or "plain meaning." Besides the exculpatory argument above re Second Temple Period practices mentioned above, with the additional functional discussion pursuant to "replacement theology," the textual and contextual evidence for this interpretation in the Scriptures is simply overwhelming. More important, the breadth of supporting physical and historic evidence demonstrating the functional mechanics the book describes are demonstrated in systems operating without human volition at all. I have never encountered such an amazing correlation in Biblical analysis in so many completely disparate fields of human endeavor also confirming the interpretation.

I understand that the Jewish tradition is extremely reluctant to tolerate new theories deviating from the rulings of the Sages, especially coming from a Gentile. In that sense, it is the very same passion for analytical rigidity and attention to detail by which the Jewish people so faithfully preserved the Torah, which so inhibits them from considering interpretations other than those found in the Talmud. It is a paradox that has tempered considerably my enthusiasm for this project. Hopefully, the critical import of Behar Sinai to the survival of modern Israel will over-ride understandable Jewish circumspection about the source sufficiently for Jewish scholars to consider it seriously. The clear historical observation is that neither the Ancient Sages nor those of the Middle Ages possessed the latitude to posit anything remotely similar to what is discussed here even if some of them knew or suspected it.

Interestingly, the systematic failure to account for the temporal nature of a historic opinion when citing the Sages is precisely the same mechanism by which Paul was misconstrued, out of which replacement theology was first proposed.

How can you say that this is unprecedented in 3,500 years?

If anybody else knew about this, they sure didn't write it down.

This contention presumes that I'm making wild claims in order to sell books. That presupposes that I wanted to write this book at all, perhaps to get a big ego thrill. Sure, I'm excited about the discovery and awestruck by the immense gulf of time and enormous scale involved in its import. Who wouldn't be? But if you think for one minute that I wanted to deal with the likely twin extremes of either being ignored, or the hoopla, anger, argument ad nauseum, kissing rings, fawning followers, helpless people asking me "But what do I DO???" and the resulting distraction from my land and family, you don't know me very well. After quitting a career that required living much of my time out of the country, I came to dislike airports, long highways, hotels, and restaurant food with a passion. I get my thrills out of learning from our land, inventing tools and equipment that help people, seeing my kids turn into wonderful adults... Really, I'd rather be designing new greenhouse technology. I'm not a promotion artist, I hate selling, and I loathe asking for people's money, but I do like to teach out of the sheer joy of seeing people get it.

So I wrote this book, and especially the picture books, in such a way that you could get it on a very deep level. I hope you enjoy it. If there's an ego thing in it for me, it's the idea that it just might make a difference in how people care for the land. That matters to me, because I'm tired of looking at weeds, out of control fuels, and poor fertility, while beautiful farmland gets paved over. I really want to see it fixed.

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