Written and compiled by former Shmita Project Manager Yigal Deutscher, with the support of Anna Hanau and Nigel Savage, The Shmita Sourcebook is designed to encourage participants to think critically about the Shmita Cycle – its values, challenges, and opportunities – and how this tradition might be applied in a modern context to support building healthier and more sustainable Jewish communities today.The Shmita Sourcebook is a 120-page sourcebook that draws on a range of texts from within Jewish tradition and time, tracing the development and evolution of Shmita from biblical, historical, rabbinic, and contemporary perspectives.
The Shmita Sourcebook is designed to be accessible to people with little Jewish background, as well as rigorous and challenging for someone with more extensive Jewish learning. Our intention for the sourcebook is to offer an educational background so we can collectively be exploring the possibilities of Shmita together. We do hope this will serve in establishing a shared, common ground. From this place, we can continue the work, expanding upon our own curiosities and understanding of Shmita, and creatively apply the values of this tradition to our own lives in all the diverse ways that are possible. We hope you enjoy the sourcebook, and it finds good use in your hands, and in your community.
The Shmita Sourcebook can be used in a myriad of ways, across all types of educational settings. Use your copy at:
- Shabbat dinner
- Adult education classes & seminars
- Weekend retreats & conferences
- Gathering of friends and family
Contents of the Shmita Sourcebook by Chapter
Click on the chapter titles below for summaries.
As you read these texts, consider how the Rabbis had the opportunity to explore Shmita and embrace its spiritual and moral values without also having to face the challenges it came with. How do you think this may have changed their relationship with this law? What do you think the intention of the Rabbis were, in teaching about Shmita, and keeping its memory alive, in a period when it was not being observed? And for those of us still living outside of Israel, how might these voices influence our own thinking about Shmita today?
From this perspective, the rise of curiosity around Shmita today seems quite timely. While Shmita is not a synonym of “sustainability” or “social justice,” many of the components of this ancient system can lead us in that direction. On the one hand, we know this tradition comes along with deep, unsettling challenges. On the other hand, it is the values inherent within these challenges that seem to hold the idealistic vision for a long-term, holistic, sustainable future.
In this section, we have highlighted some of the agricultural and economic challenges that we face today, and paired each one with relevant Shmita principles. Far from seeking to reduce Shmita to a directive, we present these texts as a place to begin a conversation around making Shmita more relevant and accessible, in modern terms. Ideally, by looking at such societal patterns and challenges in this way, we can begin to creatively think about how to brink Shmita to life today. And not just for one year out of seven, but for all years of the Shmita Cycle.
This section has been adapted from educational resources created by 7Seeds.
Appendix A: Shmita Foods: Perennial & Wild Harvests
Appendix B: Shmita Economics: G’machs & Interest Free Loans
Appendix C: Applied Shmita: For Communities & Organizations
Quotations from biblical sources are from “Five Books of Moses” translation by Everett Fox © 1995 by Schocken Books
Quotations from Maimonides are from “Mishneh Torah” translation by Eliyahu Touger © 2005 by Moznaim Publishing
And be sure to check out ‘Envisioning Sabbatical Culture: A Shmita Manifesto’ from 7Seeds, co-founder of the Shmita Project. Enjoy a narrative of awakening and reclamation; a blueprint for a more sacred, resilient, and holistic future. Included within is a collection of poetic essays and graphics inspired by the weaving together of Shmita, Jewish Mythology & Permaculture Design.