Shemitah, the Sabbatical year (Levicitus 25), is a revolutionary Torah commandment: every seven years the land will lie fallow and enjoy a Sabbatical year of rest and release. The land needs to rest just as human beings need a weekly Sabbath. Deuteronomy 15 adds a social dimension; people’s debts will be released as well. After seven such cycles of seven years, the fiftieth is a a Jubilee year in which servants are freed and foreclosed properties returned to their owners. In biblical times, both of these observances provided a time of renewal and recalibration for the environment as well as human society. The Shmita year is still observed (at least in a technical way) by many in Modern Israel, while others are now exploring its deeper meaning as a paradigm for renewing the environment while restoring a measure of social equality.

5775, Starting Rosh Hashanah in 2014, was a Shmita Year. The next Shmita Year starts on Rosh Hashanah 5782 – 2021, a Jewish environmental organization, has instituted the  Shmita Project, “to expand awareness about the biblical Sabbatical tradition, and to bring the values of this practice to life today to support healthier, more sustainable Jewish communities.” You can download free educational materials, join a Shmita Network to incorporate Shmita values into your organization, or learn how to hold a Shmita-inspired event.

An Israeli environmental organization, Teva Ivri, has launched theShmita Initiative to “reestablish the Shmita year as a time of personal reflection, meaningful learning, social involvement, and environmental responsiblity in Israel.”

And you can also read (free online or order) and dream with the beautiful Envisioning Sabbatical Culture–a shmita manifesto, by Yigal Deutscher, on the 7 Seeds, 60 pages of poetic visioning and illustrations, weaving language and art into a Shmita dreamscape:

What is the deeper mythic symbolism of Shmita?
What is the hidden invitation that Shmita offers us today?
How can we design and prepare for renewing and reimaging Sabbatical Culture for our own communities?

This booklet is a narrative of awakening, remembering, reclamation, and celebration; a blueprint for a more sacred, resilient, and holistic future. Included within is a collection of micro-essays and graphics inspired by the weaving together of of Jewish Mythology, Permaculture Design & the Transition Town Movement.

This is a manifesto, more than a book; a deep-dive into the questions above. Answers can be found within, but really, this is just a beginning, a taste to get us curious, excited, and hungry for more dancing with the Shmita paradigm.

–From the 7 Seeds Project

 Featured image: Dancing at Kibbutz Ein Harod, 1936, via Wikimedia Commons

 Listen to a Country Western song about holy dirt, or return to the Gateway of Gardens.