By the command of the Lord, each seventh yearthe fields were to be left fallow (Leviticus 25:1-7) and debts were to cancelled or released (Deuteronomy 15:1-11) In Hebrew, this is called Shemitah (“Release”). The seven years are counted in the cycle of fifty culminating in the Jubilee.
Today, the laws of the Sabbatical Year as it relates to the crops of the field, apply only within Israel. The Bible laid down these laws in Exodus, in advance of the nation’s entry into the promised Land, stating that these were to be observed after they arrived, conquered and settled in the land.
After the dispersion of the Jews by the Romans, there are no written records pertaining to every seventh-year Sabbatical year, precisely because the Jews were no longer in the Land.
But the laws relating to cancelation of debts did apply through all these centuries.
Today, which year is the Sabbatical year is known by tradition. The year 2000/1, for instance, a Sabbatical year, hence 2007/8 was the next Sabbatical Year, and the next will be in 2014/15.