In this week’s Torah portion Behar-Bechukotai, we learn about the phenomenal concept of Shmita, usually translated as the Sabbatical Year. In modern times, we understand sabbatical as time off from one’s regular work, usually to pursue other creative and work related interests.
Biblically, the Sabbatical year gives the land a year of rest, after six years of production. This concept is similar to Shabbat, where we rest on the seventh day, after six days of work. Following this same cycle, we work the land for six years, and in the seventh year, we step back and the land lies fallow. In addition to the land resting, debts are forgiven and other agricultural and economic adjustments are made. This whole process is meant to bring equilibrium. During this period of rest and forgiveness, there is systemic recalibration, from ecological to economic.
The next Shmita year begins this Rosh Hashanah, September 6, 2021. This gives us an incredible opportunity to learn more about Shmita, and our obligation as Jews to be in healthy relationship with the land. The global climate crisis demands our attention. The new Jewish year and the Shmita cycle call us to step forward. The first action we can take is learn in community.
During our Shavuot All Night Learning (Sunday night, May 16th through Monday morning, May 17th) I will be teaching a session entitled, “In the 7th Year: Shmita, Jewish Ecology, and Sacred Stewardship.” Start your learning this Shavuot and prepare for the Shmita year.
We hope to weave the values and concepts of Shmita throughout 5782. May our learning allow us to embody our Jewish values and bring deep healing to our world.