Posts in category "Shmita"
Shmita, literally translated as the ‘Year of Release’ and more widely known as the Sabbatical Year, is a biblical tradition, which, once every seven years simultaneously re-adjusted agriculture and commerce on a national scale, to ensure an equitable, just and healthy society. During the Shmita year, debts would be forgiven, agricultural lands would lie fallow, private land holdings would become open to the commons, and staples such as food storage and perennial harvests would be redistributed and accessible to all. Shmita was a radical notion that had profound impact on all aspects of life.
You are invited to come to Urban Adamah for a 3-part learning series, where we will explore together, through group study, the historical and spiritual significance of Shmita, as well as how we might begin to reclaim this tradition as a system for holistic cultural design much needed today. The learnings will be facilitated by Yigal Deutscher, manager of Hazon’s Shmita Project.
This learning series will meet on three consecutive Wednesdays, from 7-9pm in the Big Tent at Urban Adamah. Chai tea will be served.
April 10th: Cultural Rest & the Cycle of Seven
April 17th: The Agricultural Paradigm of the Shmita Cycle
April 24th: The Economic Paradigm of the Shmita Cycle
Each class will build on the previous session, so we encourage attendance at all three. However, even if you can only make one or two of the offerings, you are welcome to join us.
Cost: Shmita imagines a world rooted in generosity, fairness and reciprocity. In this spirit, we are offering these classes on a donation basis. Please share what you can. (Classes at Urban Adamah usually range from $5-$15, so you might consider using this as an estimate.)
Location: Urban Adamah is located at 1050 Parker St, between San Pablo Ave and 10th Street, in West Berkeley.
More on The Shmita Project…
The Shmita Project, a program of Hazon, is as an open educational platform for individuals and communities working towards establishing a new vision for the Shmita tradition. At the core of our work are these questions:
- What might the Shmita year look like in our modern era?
- How might we best renew our relationship with this tradition?
- How might the values of the Shmita Cycle hold the key to approaching the economic, environmental and societal challenges we are facing today?
“With all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might”. This is my mantra. Not because I am a person who davens three times a day reciting this phrase from its original source in the Sh’ma, but simply because I think it’s beautiful. Imagine a world in which we dedicated our whole selves to every mitzvah we preform, every fleeting thought we have. In a gemara in the tractate of Brachot, the Rabbis expound upon each of these segments: “With all your heart” they explain as what Freud might call the “id”—that is the most instinctual, animalistic parts of ourselves, “with all your soul” refers to our actual life, and “with all your might” commonly refers to our physical possessions. I strive preform every action with all my heart, soul, and might whether it’s loving God as the original texts indicates, loving a friend or a stranger as some scholars interpret, doing a project at work, or even something as mundane as grocery shopping (I said strive!). (more…)
Yigal Deutscher, Manager of the Shmita Project
The tribes of Israel have just gathered together, am echad b’lev echad, one nation with one synchronized heart, in alignment and in unity. They have just stood, in deep humility, in awe, in trepidation, witnessing and receiving a divine gift.
They have emerged from the brokenness of slavery; they have traveled through the wilderness for 50 days, only to stand together in this moment, before a mountain covered in fire, topped with thundering clouds, shimmering with lightning, rippling with the sounds of the Shofar. 1o utterances have emerged from the heart of creation; 10 utterances so clear and powerful that the tribes could actually see & feel each of them, as they echoed from the mountain, from the sky, from the ground and rock and sand below their feet, and from within their own beating hearts. (more…)
Shmita (the sabbatical year), on the theoretical level, is a radical movement towards social equality, awareness of land ownership, understanding of good agricultural practices, and a major reconsideration of a monetary system.
Sounds like an interesting thought-experiment, right?
Well, Shmita is also a real-life system that is currently implemented in Israel, the only place where following the laws of Shmita are traditionally required. The various systems in place in Israel right now are quite complex. There are essentially four options to choose from when a farmer is deciding in what capacity he will follow the laws of Shmita:
- Continue life as normal
- Use the rabbinical tool of Heter Mechira
- Use the rabbinical tool of Otzar Beit Din
- Import food from outside of Biblical Israel
For someone just trying to buy food, this could get quite confusing. Do I follow the laws of Shmita? Do I trust the Heter Mechira certification? Should I just be extremely safe and buy only imported food (despite the harm to the Israeli economy). Why so many options? Why can’t we just follow Shmita the way the Torah explains it?
By Yigal Deutscher
In the third and final mention of Shmita in the Torah, the concept of Shmita expands to directly influence economic and monetary systems. Until now (sources in Shemot & Vayikra), Shmita texts have been specifically in reference to land, agricultural practices, and annual harvests. Here, with the text of Devarim, the picture and implications of the Shmita Year is complete: Along with the practices of leaving land fallow, opening private lands as commons, collectively sharing the harvest, we are also to synonymously forgive debts. Once the Seventh Year arrives, all loans which are outstanding are released and all debts are cancelled. Here are some thoughts to consider regarding this practice (see the full text here):
Here at Hazon, we’ve had the privilege of studying Shmita together over the last few months. As a group, we have begun to understand the Shmita cycle through two different frames:
- A sabbatical for the land and a response to agricultural practices that may have been unsustainable.
- A sabbatical for people and a way to create a more just and equitable society.
It is through these lenses that we began to look at some of the applications of Shmita in halacha (Jewish law).
One interesting tidbit that we learned was how you are able to use produce that happens to grow during the Shmita year. Maimonidies’ Mishne Torah (a compendium of Halacha) outlines that food which grows during the Shmita year should be treated the same way that we treat teruma (produce that has been tithed as an offering for use in the Temple). “He should not change the natural function of the produce as he does not with regard to teruma… something that is normally eaten raw should not be eaten cooked. Something that is normally eaten cooked should not be eaten raw” (Mishneh Torah, Chapter 6). In other words, you should use Shmita year produce as you normally would, and not for extraneous purposes. (more…)
By Mirele Goldsmith
In this session we focused on how the rabbis translate the lofty ideas of Shmita into concrete practices. Ari compared what the rabbis do with Shmita to what they do with Shabbat. They take the general idea expressed in the Torah that we are to rest on Shabbat, and develop specific rules based on associations with similar concepts and textual references. He told us that in the Talmud the rabbis acknowledge that the laws of Shabbat are like a “mountain hanging by a hair.” Similarly, the rabbis take the very general admonition that the people are not to work the land, and that the land itself is to rest on Shmita, and develop it into a long list of halachot (laws).
By Anna Hanau
The next shmitta (sabbatical) year is two years away. At Hazon we’re gearing up for it already by doing some weekly learning on the topic with Rabbi Ari Hart, and recently, a look at some of our foundation stories in the Torah – Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel in particular – led us to unexpected realizations. Download the source sheet from shmita session two.
Such as: What if Jewish tradition sees farming as a lower, compromised, even “exiled” state? And what is the point of a cycle – whether it is seven days of Shabbat and the week, or seven years of a Sabbatical year cycle – if they keep simply repeating themselves?
For a roomful of Jewish foodies who have in some way embraced the Jewish farmer fetishes that farming and growing food is a way to truly connect to the land, the seasons, to God, and gratitude, etc., these Bible stories were a little disconcerting. Farming = exile? How so? Where does that leave our vision of an ideal relationship between people, land, and God?
On September 20, 2012, twelve people gathered at Makom Hadash for the first of a seven-part shmita study group, which was coordinated by Kevah with Rabbi Ari Hart as our educator. The first session focused on understanding biblical texts with a focus on how shmita has evolved over time and what we can learn from comparing and contrasting analysis of different Biblical references. Download the study sheet.
With the next shmita year starting Rosh Hashanah 2014, some might ask, why run a shmita study session now? But with less than two years until the next shmita year begins, now is the exact right time to think and plan for that year. As we can’t properly prepare for Shabbat 5 minutes before it begins, we cannot properly plan for the shmita year just as it arrives.
So, what is shmita all about?
The article below is reposted from Tikkun Daily, where it was originally published on September 16, 2012. It was written by Yigal Deutscher.
The fabric of the entire Jewish cosmology, culture, and story is interwoven with the patterns of cycles. This cycle begins with each of us, in our own bodies, with the rhythm of breath, the rhythm of inhale, exhale, and the moments of stillness and calmness in between each breath. It is this cycle which creates our collective, evolving body. Not just the human body, but the body of Earth, of life itself. We mark time with these movements of transformation, with this cyclical breath of the moon. We count our months and years as her body waxes and wanes, exhales and inhales. It is this cycle which is the same as our own rhythmic breath, our own beating heartbeat and flowing pulse.
On this particular Rosh Hashana, while invoking the year 5773, as you complete one yearly lunar cycle and begin a new one, you are invited to recall another cycle, mostly forgotten, but one as old as the Jewish story itself, still unfolding in the undercurrents of our collective subconscious. We are now welcoming in year 5 of a 7 year cycle known as the Shmita Cycle. If our weekly Shabbat is a 24 hour period of stillness, then Shmita, the Shabbat of the Land, is a year-long period of stillness.
Shmita, literally translated as the ‘year of release,’ and more widely known as the Sabbatical Year, is the focal point of Jewish earth-based traditions. Honoring the sacredness of land and her role in building community, this tradition resurfaces our collective ancient memories from a distant past, celebrating holistic relationships with earth and the village culture. Shmita is our mystery wisdom tradition; a celebration of cycles, community, faith and resiliency. In 2 years from now, on Rosh Hashana 5775 (which will be 2014), the cycle will once again enter into it’s 7th year, and the Shmita period will begin anew. And this is when things will get quite interesting.
The request is bold. Many may recall the year of Shmita simply as the Biblical time when we were guided to ‘leave all agricultural land fallow.’ It is easy to say, but can you take a moment to dwell on what it might mean to actually leave a society’s agricultural land fallow? And might we all realize just how radical and audacious, and perhaps alarming, that sounds? As an equivalent, since most of us are not farmers in this age, imagine saying, ‘a year when we close every single shopping mall and bank’ (which happens to not be that far off from what the Shmita period does in fact imply). How does that sound to you?