BEHAR: Seeding Shmita Culture
Behar 2014: Save the Date, May 5-10 2014
For a list of events organized for Behar 2013, click here:
In partnership with the Green Hevra
The parsha (weekly Torah reading) of Behar, which literally means ‘On The Mountain,’ introduces the detailed, visionary teachings of Shmita. This particular section of the Torah is located towards the end of the book of Vayikra (Leviticus) and is read each year about a week or two before Shavuot. As we continue to deepen into the process of re-acquainting ourselves with the Shmita tradition, we are very excited to use the opportunity of Parshat Behar as an annual mark, as a reminder, and as a guide.
Here is the vision and dream: Each year, during the week leading up to, and including, Shabbat Behar, Jewish communities across North America, in conjunction with simultaneous happenings in Israel and Europe, will claim this moment in time to host events, teachings, and activities all focused on the gift and riddle that is the Shmita tradition. Events will unfold on a micro-local level, throughout communities involved with the Shmita Network, creating a widespread mosaic of Shmita in action.
Save the date. Parshat Behar in 2014 will fall on the Shabbat of May 9-10. We anticipate events to be scheduled the weeks before and after Shabbat Behar. This will be a wonderful opportunity to share Shmita educational and experiential offerings in your local synagogue, school, community center, community garden, etc.
Here are some ways you might consider for bringing Shmita awareness into your community during this period of time, while celebrating the seeds of resiliency already stirring in your own community (download a copy of Behar ideas):
- Host a Shmita Beit Midrash, from a full day in length to a shorter hour-long class. Use the Shmita Project curriculum to support such a learning event.
- Share a Shmita D’var Torah. Ask your Rabbi to give a teaching on that Shabbat, or ask to be invited to come and give a guest teaching to the community.
- Write an article on Shmita for your community newsletter/blog or post resources/blog posts from the Shmita project to your community.
Need educational resources to learn more about Shmita in the Torah and beyond? Click here for a collection of resources.
- Host a Lecture Panel with local community leaders on subjects relating to Shmita (food justice, local economy, debt disparity and ethical lending, land stewardship & role of the commons, etc).
- Host a Movie Screening about a subject relating to Shmita principles and then follow the movie with a facilitated discussion event.
- Host a Community Visioning Circle guided by the question “Imagine what this community will look like 7 years from now following Shmita values?” What are your dreams, visions, creative imaginations? We cannot create change unless we have a collective vision we are working towards. Share your impressions through conversation, art, movement.
- Host a Shmita Council Gathering for local community organizers, educators, Rabbis, and business/non-profit leaders to come together and explore how to integrate Shmita values/practices into your community beyond this particular Shabbat. This can be an informal gathering, from a half-day to a full-day. From this seed, form a local network for your particular region. For some ideas for further community organizing initiatives, click here.
- Host a Shmita Work Party. Yes, like Shabbat, Shmita invites us into an emboddied practice of rest and release. But to get to this place also requires conscious learning, preparation, and action. Open the day with some grounded text study and then activate your learning by doing, bringing to life some of the values within the Shmita paradigm.
- Host a Fruit Tree Planting on unused land at local schools, synagogues and community centers. A Shmita food system in dependant upon perennial plant choices, so the more fruit trees, the happier our bellies will be during the Shmita year. For more resources on tree plantings from 7Seeds, click here.
- Organize a Local Farm Tour. Shmita is all about food accessibility…Get to know your local foodshed and the farmers who are living/working in your area. Learn what each farm grows, and where they need help. Volunteer at each site. If you live in an area with intensive gardening, plan the tour as a bike ride!
- Organize A Wild Food Walk. Shmita is a year of leaving agricultural lands fallow, but wildlands are not affected by such laws. Learn about the wild edible and medicinal plants growing in your local wildlands / parklands and deepen your relationship with their gifts. Learn how to ethically harvest, about their healing and nutritious qualities, how to best prepare and store them.
- Organize A Community Gleaning Trip. On the Shmita Year, all agricultural harvests are meant to be shared within community, as needed, in support of fair distribution and local food security. In addition, harvests should not be wasted or thrown away. Connect with a local farm to arrange a visit where you can glean from the fields, and provide to those in-need. If Behar is too early in the growing season, connect with local restaurant and markets, and glean what would otherwise go to waste.
- Host A Crop Swap/Food Barter. On the Shmita year, the food economy shuts down, as foods cannot be sold in the marketplace. This is a perfect opportunity to get comfortable with sharing & bartering. So gardeners, please unite, and bring along your abundance. Bring harvests and seeds and homemade preserves to share and exchange with other gardeners/foodies. For more resources from 7Seeds, click here for crop swaps & here for food barter.
- Host A Free Exchange Market. Do you have perfectly usable items lying around your house that you have no desire or need for? Rather than keeping them in storage or throwing them away, bring them to an exchange market. Let other community members in need enjoy these items, and find other items you are in need of. For more resources on Exchange Market. For more resources from 7Seeds, click here.
- Host A Re-Skilling Fair. We are all teachers/students. We all have a skill to learn and share, and the more skills in homegrown resiliency we can have, the more empowered we will be. Volunteer to share your skills in food preservation & fermentation, brewing, crafting, building. These are the heirloom village skills at the heart of the Shmita tradition.
- Host A Community Crowdfunding Gathering. While the economic focus of the Shmita year might be on debt release, there is also an inherent celebration of the generosity of those giving loans. Crowfunding is a form of grassroots fundraising that makes it easy to directly support local community initiatives. Host a dinner and charge $5-$50 per plate, sliding scale. Invite 3 community members to present their vision and masterplan. After the presentations, divide the pot between the presenters. For more resources on Community Crowdfunding. For more resources from 7Seeds, click here.
- Host A Gift Circle. The Shmita paradigm works to realign the sensitive balance between giving & receiving. We all have needs and offerings. The gift circle is a communication structure designed to connect needs with solutions. Let others in the group know your offerings (skills, time, items) and do the same with your own personal needs. Network together. For more resources from 7Seeds, click here.
- Host a Community Potluck Feast. Shmita is a year long practice in raising awareness about the foods we eat. Celebrate the food culture you come from. Focus on a menu rich with perennial plant ingredients (nuts, fruits, seeds, herbs), as well as wild foraged foods. Prepare dishes whose recipes come rich with personal story. Through the meal, enjoy conversation and celebration of the rich food culture presented on the table.
The key for such ‘Shmita Actions’ is that they are simple, cheap, easily created by community (for community), and have a clear start/end time. This is just an initial list of ideas. The possibilities are endless.