Planning for the Sabbatical year

Written by Schalk_and_Elsa on. Posted in Preparing for the Sabbatical year

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This is our first article in a series about how we are going about preparing for the Sabbatical year. This coming sabbatical year will be our first and we plan to share our journey with you in order for you to glean from what we learn.

We have copied all our subscribers over to this list too, so all who are subscribed to our weekly article will also receive this series. However, if it is not for you, you can unsubscribe from this list while still retaining your regular Setapartpeople subscription. You will thus continue to receive the normal weekly article.

In this series, we will look at ways to preserve food, perennial vegetables and herbs and many interesting subjects. Even if you do not share our understanding regarding the Sabbatical year, you will enjoy the content.

This article is about planning. Success starts with planning, setting goals and then working towards it.

We have a year to prepare and we need to plan carefully because we want to make sure we do our very best. Before we look into this, we need to understand what is required of us. It is always best to go to the source of wisdom to find out. We find our first reference in Exodus 23:10.

Exodus 23:10–11
10 “You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, 11 but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

From this we learn that we are to let the land rest, and lie fallow and not harvest the vineyard or olive grove. It also implies that we are not to sow our land or harvest its yield in the seventh year.

Leviticus 25:3
3 ‘Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, 4 but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to YHVH; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 5 ‘Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. 6 ‘All of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you. 7 ‘Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat.

Here we learn that we are not to sow our field, nor prune our vineyard. We are neither to reap the aftergrowth and not gather the grapes of our untrimmed vines. We have written detailed articles about this before. You can find it on the site under the category Appointed times/Sabbatical year. I will also list it under related articles underneath.

It is written here that we shall have the “sabbat ha eres” for food. What does this mean?

שַׁבָּת הַ־ אֶרֶץ (šǎb·bāṯ hǎ- ʾě·rěṣ) volunteer produce, i.e., harvestable crops of all kinds that are grown as a result of natural processes and not intentional agricultural practices (Lev 25:6+)2

The question is asked “what are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather our crops?” Here is YHVH’s answer.

Leviticus 25:20–22
20 ‘But if you say, “What are we going to eat on the seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops?” 21 then I will so order My blessing for you in the sixth year that it will bring forth the crop for three years. 22 ‘When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in.

Most of us are not farmers, we don’t have fields or vines, however, when we just go out and buy what was sown and harvested in the Sabbatical year, we participate with people in not keeping the Sabbatical year. We have for this reason decided to store food for the Sabbatical year and seeing that we are in the sixth year, this is the year to do it. We are planning to store enough for 18 months. In this way, we will be more accurate in not consuming produce that was harvested during the Sabbatical year.

This is not an exact science and we can make ourselves crazy by wanting to do it perfectly. However, we do live in the nations, and the Sabbatical year is not kept by everybody which makes it difficult for us. It is for this reason that we have decided to do it like this. It may vary for different kinds of produce due to imports. Here in the Netherlands, we can see from the label of fresh produce where it was imported from. If you have an idea when produce is harvested, you can determine if it would have been harvested during the Sabbatical year. Take that into account when you plan. Here is a link to an alphabetical list of fruit and vegetables’ harvest times per season. This may be helpful to you.

Which food are we to store?

The passages about the Sabbatical year gives us the information. It pertains to what is sown and harvested or gathered. This will include all fresh produce like grains, vegetables, and fruit, herbs, spices. It does not include meat, fish, eggs or dairy products.

It also does not pertain to paper products as these are acquired by cutting down big trees. There is no sowing or harvesting involved. If you want to include paper products, you won’t be buying anything, because almost everything has a paper label attached to it.

Strictly speaking cotton and linen would have to be included because it is sown in the field, but we have no way of knowing when the cotton or linen we buy, was harvested. Cotton and linen cloth may sit years on a shelf in a warehouse or shop. For this reason, we will exclude this.

I have said before that this will be our first Sabbatical year. We will therefore focus on the basics and not get into the figurative tithing of mint, dill and cumin(Matt 23:23.)

Now that we know what is involved, we can start our planning.

How to start

I have started off by keeping record of what we eat on a weekly basis. I think that if you have done this for a two-month period, you will have an indication of what to store. After this period of assessment, we can do some calculations to determine how much we would need for a period of approximately 18 months. 18 months is the ideal, because then we are sure that we will be buying products from the new year. This will not be a precise science because we know that food is stored and can have a long shelf-life sometimes up to three years. However, this is our first time, and in order not to be totally overwhelmed, we have decided to do it this way.
I have mentioned a few times that this is our first time observing the Sabbatical year. This is not used as an excuse, but it is totally new and we can easily become overwhelmed and that may cause us to make a total mess of it.

I was thinking the other day of our first Sabbath observance and I realized that we didn’t do in perfectly at all. On the contrary, compared to how we observe the Sabbath now, we can barely call it a Sabbath observance :). I am telling you this to help you to realize that it is a learning and growing experience. We want to do our best, but we have to be realistic too. We can over-analyze and try to do it so perfectly, get overwhelmed and give up half way never to try again. We would rather set ourselves attainable goals and work towards that.

This is, however, not a license to do it half-baked. We are to do our best according to our ability and finances. There may be people who can’t afford to buy extra food for storage. Our advice is to just buy one extra item per week and put it away for the Sabbatical year. You would know what you can do. Our hearts is more important than perfection, YHVH is a merciful Father, not an angry God sitting and waiting to smite us for every wrong doing.

What next?

After we have determined our usage, we can start looking at a storage area and ways of preserving the food. If you don’t have huge areas for storage, be creative, maybe use the area under your bed for example. Once again, do the best of your ability. Things like dry herbs or frozen food with a long self-life we will start to buy extra every week.

I have also started to wash and keep used-glass containers. These will come in handy to store almost anything. Tea, dry herbs, dehydrated fruit and vegetables and nuts can be stored in these containers.

Planning your garden

The next step is to plan your vegetable garden according to your usage. Plant what you can store and will use. Storing food can be expensive if we have to buy everything to keep in storage. If we can supply some of our own food from our garden, it may save us a lot.

Start now

Make a decision to start today. Don’t put it off. We are already into the sixth year. At least, start with you list of what you use. Get a book and put it in the kitchen. Whenever you prepare food, write down the non-meat, non dairy ingredients on your list.

Rotate what you store

Find a cool and dry area to store your food and make sure once you have started, to rotate. Store what you eat and eat what you store.


We hope this has given you some ideas on where to start. This is a great challenge, do your best. We will learn a lot along the way. If you have ideas, please share it with us. Our next post will give a brief overview on methods of preserving various fruits and vegetables.


  1. All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD and Y’shua for Jesus.
  2. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
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Comments (6)

  • Ellen


    can we eat bananas or coconuts during the sabbatical year since these plants don’t need pruning or cultivating?

    Thank you


    • Schalk_and_Elsa


      Good question! I was thinking Ellen, they will need to be harvested and that may pose a problem. If you are able to pick what you need, you may, but if the fruit is harvested en masse, we wouldn’t.

      Hope this helps,



  • Michelle


    Greetings to you both. Phenomenal web site. Thanks for sharing your faith and ministry. I do not have my own property and just started learning about growing my own food this summer. I rent an apartment, but I do not know how someone in my position should prepare for the Sabbatical year. For now, I live in New England where the growing season is very limited. What would you prayerfully suggest? Can I grow what I can indoors until Aviv? Or am I missing the essence of the commandment entirely? Is it okay to buy from others who farm, or volunteer help to farmers?


    • Schalk_and_Elsa


      Shalom Michelle,

      The Sabbatical year is about letting the land rest. It is to be left to lie fallow, no sowing, no pruning and no harvesting. You may already know this, but it forms the basis of my answer. We have decided to store food (everything that comes off the land – fruit, grains and vegetables) in order not to buy produce that was sown, pruned or harvested as we do not want to partake in the sin of others. This is how we are going to do it, it is not commanded to be done this way, so we are not putting it on anybody.

      We have written a few articles on the Sabbatical year that goes in much more detail. You can find it under appointed times/ Sabbatical and Jubilee

      Hope this helps,

      Elsa and Schalk


  • Vivian Macias


    Shalom Elsa..Should container perenial edibles in our gardens (like oregano, chives, peanuts, basil) be treated in the same way as if they were growing directly from the ground? Many thanks.


    • Schalk_and_Elsa


      Shalom Vivian,

      Yes, we have some perennial vegetables and herbs which we will use during the sabbatical year. This sabbatical year is a great experience. It is so lovely to see the volunteer plants coming up. love to all,



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