Shemitah in Jerusalem
The opening verse of the parsha seems to indicate that once the Jewish people enter the Land of Israel they are immediately obligated to observe shemitah: “When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a Shabbat of God.” The midrash, though, subjects the verse to a close read and concludes that shemitah is only obligatory after the Jewish people both conquered and fully divided the land to each tribe, family and then individual – “until each person recognizes his own vineyard.” Practically speaking, this process took fourteen years.
This requirement poses a problem regarding Yerushalayim. The Talmud contains a debate if Yerushalayim was part of this division and allotted to a specific tribe or remained the joint property of the Jewish people. According to the opinion that Yerushalayim was never divided and allocated to a specific tribe, how can there be an obligation to observe shemitah in Yerushalayim? While clearly the Jews are Yerushalayim always observed shemitah, what is the source of this obligation if in addition to entering the land we also need a division and subdivision to trigger the mitzvah of shemitah?
Rabbi BenTzion Uziel, the first Sefardi chief Rabbi of Israel, offers the following explanation. It is true that Yerushalayim was never given to a specific tribe and remained, therefore, under the collective ownership of the Jewish people as a whole. However, the Jewish people as a whole or a body that represents them such as the king or Sanhedrin, have the ability to bestow a plot in Yerushalayim to a specific person. This is the reason that even if Yerushalayim was never