Fast for the Sinners
תני כשם שמתריעים עליהן בשאר ימי שבוע כך מתריעין עליהן בשביעית מפני פרנסת אחרים מהו מפני פרנסת אחרים חברייא אמרי מפני פרנסת עכו”ם…
A beraisa: Just as we blow shofar [and make a fast day] for [a lack of rain] on the other days of the seven-year cycle, so too we blow shofar for them during shemittah for the income of others.
What is “for the income of others”?
The peers said: for the income of idol worshipers.
— Yerushalmi Taanis 3:1 (vilna 13b-14a)
This alone reflects more Universalist values than we are used to seeing in today’s Orthodoxy. When there is a drought during shemittah, even though Jews are not permitted to farm this year anyway, we are to be pained enough over the plight of the non-Jew that we fast to appeal to Hashem to bring them relief. But look at this second answer:
ר”ז אמר מפני פרנסת חשודים.
Rabbi Zei’rah [known in the Bavli as Rav Zeira] said: for the income of those suspected [of violating shemittah].
Someone sins and farms crops despite it being shemittah. Because of the drought, it is likely that his contra-halachic business will fail. Rather than being happy the sinner got his just deserts, the whole community fasts so that the sinner will not suffer a lack of this-worldly benefit from his sin!
This sugya teaches us just how far our love of others has to extend.