Monday, March 13, 2017

Armstrongite Promotion of the Land Sabbath (Shmita)

Recently Banned by HWA released a post about the writings of Paul W. Syltie highlighting a book of his he had published last year entitled The Bridge to Eden: The Arduous Passage from This Age of Chaos to the Next Age of Perfection (released July 10, 2016).

One of the sections of Chapter 6 is entitled "Farmers ... Keep the Land Sabbath." (Shmita in Hebrew.) This topic has been mentioned in a previous post concerning an article by PCG's Richard Palmer which promoted observing the land Sabbath. It is worth mentioning that back in the days of HWA's WCG some farmers actually tried to put that into practice and went bankrupt over it. Here is what Richard Plache had to say on this topic in a sermon in 1976.
Several years ago, we [WCG's leaders] finally discovered that one particular law that we'd taken from the old covenant, and we sliiiiiiiid it over into the new -- or if you like the word, "transplant." In case Dr. Christian Bernard may be here.

We took over into the new -- that was the seventh-year land Sabbath -- and we imposed that upon Christian farmers. We said it was a law. We said it was "a test of faith," didn't we? And farmer after farmer went to the wall financially and some went into bankruptcy!

Why didn't someone over the years say "wait a minute! Let's go back and study this law more carefully. It seems to me God is reneging on his part of the bargain." Because you see, God said he would give a three-fold harvest in the sixth year. But I know of not one case of a Christian farmer receiving a three-fold harvest in the sixth year. Now why then did we impose upon people their part of the bargain, and never, ever ask "why isn't God fulfilling his part?"

Oh, we are great "blue pencilers" of Law. We pick and choose various laws out of the old covenant that, somehow, we think are convenient, suitable, or should be imposed. We will take whole sections of Law and slide them -- or we will pick and choose parts of laws and them slide them. By what method do we do this? (Richard Plache, 1976 sermon, as archived by the Painful Truth.)
Consequently I feel compelled to advise against Syltie's idea.

Furthermore that teaching was given to Jews. Claiming that non-Jews are required to observe that teaching is taking the land Sabbath practice out of context. There is no need for Christians to observe that practice.

Furthermore there are conflicting opinions about the land Sabbath among the Jewish community. Some are secular. Some say it is a rabbinical obligation and therefore not a Biblical obligation. Some say it is a Biblical obligation.
There is a major debate among halakhic authorities as to what is the nature of the obligation of the Sabbatical year nowadays. Some say it is still biblically binding, as it has always been. Others hold that it is rabbinically binding, since the Shmita only biblically applies when the Jubilee year is in effect, but the Sages of the Talmud legislated the observance of the Shmita anyway as a reminder of the biblical statute. And yet others hold that the Shmita has become purely voluntary. An analysis by respected posek and former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef in his responsa Yabi'a Omer (Vol. 10), accorded with the middle option, that the Biblical obligation holds only when a majority of the Jewish people is living in the Biblical Land of Israel and hence the Shmita nowadays is a rabbinic obligation in nature. This approach potentially admits for some leniencies which would not be possible if the Shemitah were biblical in origin, including the aforementioned sale of the land of Israel. Haredi authorities, on the other hand, generally follow the view of the Chazon Ish, that the Shmita continues to be a Biblical obligation. ("Shmita," Wikipedia.)
Also some Jewish religious authorities allow some leniency in how it is observed. For example it become a practice to sell the land to non-Jewish owners during the land Sabbath so that the Jewish farmer may observe the land Sabbath.
The rabbis of the Talmud and later times interpreted the Shmita laws in various ways to ease the burden they created for farmers and the agricultural industry. The Heter Mechirah (leniency of sale), developed for the Shmita year of 1888–1889, permitted Jewish farmers to sell their land to non-Jews so that they could continue to work the land as usual during Shmita. This temporary solution to the impoverishment of the Jewish settlement in those days was later adopted by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel as a permanent edict, generating ongoing controversy between Zionist and Haredi leaders to this day. ("Shmita," Wikipedia.)
Considering the diversity of opinions within the Jewish community what right do the COGs have to make decisions on this matter?

And leaving aside the questions about how to observe the land Sabbath it is worth mentioning that the COGs stemming from HWA are not Jews and believe many things contrary to what is taught in the Jewish religion. There is no obligation for non-Jews to observe this practice.

But anyway there is no need for a Christian to observe the land Sabbath. It would be better if those associated with the COGs stop promoting this practice which was never intended for non-Jews.


  1. It's ridiculously simple: There's no temple.

    That's it. No temple, no Levitical law... and by the way, since the records were all destroyed in 70 A.D. no one really knows who the Levites are any more. It's not like you can take DNA test and compare it with someone named 'Levine' or something.

    No temple, no sacrifices, no paying of tithes, no one knows when the real jubilee year is any more, the calendar's wrong, no land Sabbaths.

    No one seems to know this.

    They could have come and asked me.

  2. "It seems to me God is reneging on his part of the bargain"

    A very good way to stimulate people to become atheists.

  3. Replies
    1. Covered amply by 'or something'.

      Besides, that those names actually represent the Levitical line is more or less speculative.

  4. Gerald Waterhouse had fanciful stories of HWA's agricultural knowledge, but his only farming experience was when he was broke and mooching off his in-laws.