My class of adult Jewish learners loved Hazon’s materials on the Shmita year! Everyone was impressed by the thoughtful teachings by a variety of scholars, and they said that the materials ‘opened their eyes’ to new Jewish ideas and perspectives. Real learning was happening when we studied Hazon’s teachings. And the brochure was beautifully produced. Thank you, Hazon, for making my role as their rabbi so much easier!
Hazon has developed and compiled a collection of educational resources about Shmita for you to utilize within various educational settings. Three main publications that have been developed by Shmita Project founding members are the Hazon Shmita Sourcebook, Shabbat HaAretz, and Envisioning Sabbatical Culture. We have also published a 4-page Shmita Supplement that you can download here. Finally, We have compiled other resources in the library, and have crafted core Shmita texts, principles, values, and ethics in the tabs below.
We hope these resources are valuable and we would love to hear how you are utilizing them. Feel free to contact us with questions, stories, or ideas.
Before you consider what Shmita might mean for you today, we encourage you to delve into the rich, complex texts that form the foundation for Shmita in the Torah and begin to consider the rabbinical commentaries that examine the spirit of life during a Shmita year.
Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but in the seventh year, you shall let it rest and lie fallow. Let the needy among your people eat of it, and what they leave, let the wild beasts eat of it. You shall do the same with your vineyards and olive groves.
– Shemot, Parshat Mishpatim, 23:10-11
Why does the Torah lay out a 7 year cycle for society?
How different or similar was your life 7 years ago?
How easy (or hard) is it to imagine your life in 7 years?
And the Lord spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Shabbat of the Lord. For six years you may sow your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard, and you may gather in its crop. But on the seventh year, a complete rest shall there be for the land, a Shabbat for the Lord. Your field you shall not sow and your vineyard you shall not prune. You shall not reap the wilds of your harvest or gather the grapes of the vines which you set aside; it shall be a year of complete rest for the land. But you may eat whatever the land, during its Shabbat, will produce- you, your male and female servants, the hired workers and those who live with you. And for your animal and for the wild beast that is in your land, shall all its crop be to eat.
– Vayikra, Parshat Behar, 25:1-7
What connections can you make between Shmita and Shabbat?
Does the sense of Shabbat affect your weekdays? Can you prepare for Shabbat only an hour before Shabbat starts? How might anticipation of the Shmita year affect the first 6 years of the cycle?
If you could not sow seeds, what would you eat?
How would this tradition affect modern society’s agricultural systems and methods of food production, distribution, and consumption?
What is your relation to your own ‘foodshed’ (growing, harvesting, distribution)?
You shall observe my laws and faithfully keep my rules, that you may dwell securely upon the land. The land will give its fruit and you will eat to satisfaction; and you will dwell securely upon it. And should you ask: What will we eat in the seventh year, if we may neither sow nor gather in our crops? I will ordain my blessings for you in the sixth year and it will yield a crop sufficient for three years.
– Vayikra, Parshat Behar, 25:18-21
Who do you trust (implicitly or explicitly) to put food on your table? Do you think the system that brings food to your table is secure now? How about in other 7 years?
How do you feel entering a situation when you do not have control and have to instead surrender in faith?
How would entering a year with different economic and agricultural systems make you feel?
Every seventh year you shall practice release of debts. This shall be the nature of the release: every creditor shall release his authority over what he claims from his neighbor. He shall not force it from his neighbor or his brother, for God’s Shmita has been proclaimed…
If there is a needy person among you, one of your brothers in any of your cities, in the land that the Lord gives you, you shall not harden your heart or close your hand against your needy brother. Rather, you shall open your hand to him, you shall lend him sufficiently for whatever he needs. Beware, that you may harbor the thought, “the seventh year is approaching,” so that you are mean to your needy brother and give him nothing. He will cry out to the Lord against you, and it will be your guilt. Give to him readily and have no regrets when you do so, for in return, the Lord will bless you in all your efforts and all your undertakings.
– Devarim, Parshat Re’eh, 15:1-2, 7-10
What role does giving to support others play in your own life? In what ways, besides financial, do you give?
Are you in debt? How does this affect your life?
If we forgave debt every 7 years, how do you think this would affect the overall economic patterns?
What is your own relationship to money and the market place economy? What would you change in today’s economy to support lessening the burden of debt?
Life can only be perfected through the affording of a breathing space from the bustle of everyday life. The individual shakes himself free from ordinary weekday life at short and regular intervals-on every Sabbath…What the Sabbath achieves regarding the individual, the Shmita achieves with regard to the nation as a whole. A year of solemn rest is essential for both the nation and the land, a year of peace and quiet without oppressor and tyrant…It is a year of equality and rest, in which the soul reaches out towards divine justice, towards God who sustains the living creatures with loving kindness. There is no private property and no punctilious privilege but the peace of God reigns over all in which there is the breath of life. Sanctity is not profaned by the exercise of private acquisitiveness over all this year’s produce, and the covetousness of wealth stirred up by commerce is forgotten. For food – but not for commerce.
– Rav Kook, Shabbat Ha’Aretz
What is your own relationship to rest? Do you live a life that goes 24/7? How is life different when you work 24/6? What does (or could) the rest of Shabbat mean to you?
What does a balanced relationship between work and rest look and feel like? What would it mean for a nation to consider this balance?
What does ‘covetousness of wealth’ mean to you? How dominant is this in your own life? Would you want to change your attitude towards wealth?
The year of Shmita…promotes a sense of fellowship and peace through the suspension of cultivation, even for the needy of your people, for one is not allowed to exercise over any of the seventh year produce the right of private ownership. And this is undoubtedly a primary factor in promoting peace since most dissension originates from the attitudes of ‘mine is mine,’ one person claiming ‘it is all mine’ and the other also claiming ‘it is all mine.’ But in the seventh year all are equal, and this is the real essence of peace.
– Kli Yakar, on Devarim 31:12
What “stuff” do you consider your own private property? How would you feel if you were suddenly told that for a year these items were public? What is your relationship to private property?
Do you agree with the Kli Yakar that much of the challenges towards peaceful living comes from the attitude of ‘what’s mine is mine’?
If private ownership was replaced with communal responsibility, how might this affect people’s relationship to property, land, and work ethic?
The Shmita year teaches us further that the rich should not lord it over the poor. Accordingly, the Torah ordained that all should be equal during the seventh year, both the rich and the needy having access to the gardens and fields to eat their fill…Yet another reason: in order that they should not always be preoccupied with working the soil to provide for their material needs. For in this one year, they would be completely free. The liberation from the yoke of work would give them the opportunity for studying Torah and wisdom. The unlettered (illiterate) will be occupied with crafts and building and supplying these needs in Eretz Yisrael. Those endowed with special skills will invent new methods in this free time for the benefit of the world.
– Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, Sefer Habrit (Parshat Behar)
What would it take to allow every person had equal access to harvest (food), regardless of wealth status?
Rabbi Kalisher offers an opinion that Shmita allows for a portal of time where communal focus can be shifted from survival and the yoke of work, towards the luxury of learning, creativity and craftsmanship. What is your own relationship to the ‘yoke of work,’ as he calls it?
If you basic needs were met, would you change how you spent your time? How?
The following thirteen principles were compiled from the broad spectrum of literature around shmita. These principles provide a concise outline of what is and isn’t permitted during a shmita year. For each principle, sources are provided to explain where these principles derive from.
As you explore the support texts below, here is a brief introduction to the two key philosopher scholars during the Middle Ages, whose texts we are using as primary sources.
RAMBAM, Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides (1194-1270) was a medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the most widely respected Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. He was born in what is present-day Spain, and served as Rabbi and physician in Egypt. He wrote influential treatises on halacha (Rabbinic law) and Jewish philosophy with his most widely known work being the Mishne Torah, a 14 volume codification of Jewish Talmudic law. Within this larger collection, one volume, Seder Zera’im, deals with Jewish agricultural laws, and one book within this volume is dedicated entirely to laws of Shmita and Yovel (Jubilee):
Mishne Torah, Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel (English)
RASHI, Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040 – 1105) was a French Rabbi who is famous for his epic commentary on the entire Tanach and Talmud.
A Yearlong Shabbat
A Sabbatical Food System
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 4.1)
According to Rabbinic decree, all the sifichim are forbidden to be eaten. Why was a decree established concerning them? Because of the transgressors, so that they could not have the ability of going and sowing grain, beans, and garden vegetables in one’s field discretely and when they grow, partake of them, saying that they are sifichim. Therefore the Sages prohibited all the sifichim that grow in the Sabbatical year.
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 4.2)
Thus we have learned that the only produce of the Shmita Year of which
one may partake are the harvest of fruit trees and vines, as well as wild plants
that are not typically sown in a garden, such as rue, amaranth, and the like
[since the restriction of leaving the land fallow does not apply to perennial/wild produce]. With regards to vegetables that most people sow in their gardens and species of grains and beans, by contrast, anything that grows from these species is forbidden according to Rabbinic decree.
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 4.3)
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel) Halacha 13, Ch 5
While the Rambam speaks specifically about the prohibition of exporting produce outside of Israel, it is understood that importing produce was not allowed either, and it was only after the Shmita year ended that these vegetables from outside Israel would available for sale in the marketplace, to supplement the domestic supply of produce. For a deeper discussion on the role of imported produce after Shmita, see Talmud Yerushalmi, Shvi’it, 50b.
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 7.1)
What is implied? If a person has dried figs at home, he may partake of them as long as there are figs on the trees in the field. When there are no longer figs in the field, it is forbidden for him to partake of the figs he has at home and he must instead remove them.
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 7.2)
When a person pickles three types of produce in one barrel, if one of these types of produce is no longer available in the field, that type of produce should be removed from the barrel.
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 7.6)
BIUR: The Ramban (Nachmanides) holds that Biur merely requires the person to declare the food Hefker (ownerless) once it is no longer growing in season, and only if he doesn’t do so does the food become forbidden. This view follows the Tosefta: Someone who has fruit from Shvi’it when the hour for Biur arrived distributes the fruits to neighbors and relatives and people he knows. He then goes out and places the fruits on his doorstep and says, “My brothers from the house of Israel, anyone who needs may come and take.”
Tosefta Shvi’it 8.1 (Accompanying Texts to the Mishna Shvi’it)
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 5.15)
Shmita & Food Security
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 4.24)
RASHI: You shall not harvest this growth with the intention of taking possession and ownership of it, like you would with regular harvests of other years. Rather, this harvest shall be ownerless, for all to take freely.
RASHI: You shall not gather from the vines which you protected, separating people from approaching them, and which you did not relinquish ownership of.
But you may eat whatever the land, during its Shabbat, will produce.
RASHI: Although I have prohibited the produce of the Shmita Year to you, I did not prohibit you from eating it or deriving benefit from it- only that you should not treat it as its owner. Rather all should have equal rights to the produce of the seventh year, you, your hired worker, and those who reside with you.
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 4.24)
Initially, agents of the court would sit at the gates of the city. Everyone who brought fruits in his hand would have the fruits removed and be given enough food for three meals in exchange. The rest would be entered into the storehouse. When it came time for dates, the agents of the court would hire workers to gather them together, make them into pressed cakes and enter them into the storehouse of the city. When it came time for grapes, agents of the court would hire workers, squeeze the grapes, press them, enter them into jugs and place them in the city storehouse. When it came time for olives, agents of the court would hire workers to prepare and press them in the oil press and enter the oil into jugs and place them in the city storehouses. These products would be distributed on the eve of Shabbat, every person according to the needs of his household.
Tosefta Shvi’it 8.1 (Accompanying Texts to the Mishna Shvi’it)
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 5.11)
Shmita & Economic Resiliency
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 6.1)
In the Sabbatical year, one should not reap vegetables from a field and sell them, because this is using the produce of the Sabbatical year for commercial activity. If one reaped vegetables to partake of them and some were left over, he may sell the remainder. However, the proceeds are considered as the produce of the Sabbatical year.
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 6.2)
When the produce of the Sabbatical year is sold, it should not be sold by measure, nor by weight, nor by number, so that it will not appear that one is selling produce in the Sabbatical year. Instead, one should sell a small amount by estimation to make it known that the produce is ownerless. And the proceeds of the sale should only be used to purchase other food.
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 6.3)
Just as one must remove the produce of the Sabbatical year [at the time of Biur], so too, one must remove the money received in exchange for it. What is implied? One sold pomegranates of the Sabbatical year and used the money received in return for them to purchase food. When there are no longer any pomegranates on the trees in the field, but he remains in possession of the money he received for selling them, he is obligated to remove it from his possession.
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 7.7)
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 9.1)
The Sabbatical year does not nullify debts until the conclusion of the year. This is derived as follows: Deuteronomy 15:1-2 states: “At the end of seven years, you shall effect a remission. This is the matter of the remission.” Therefore if one lent money to a colleague in the Sabbatical year itself, he may demand payment of his debt for the entire year. When the sun sets on the night of Rosh HaShanah of the eighth year, the debt is nullified.
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 9.4)
Whenever anyone returns a debt despite the fact that the Sabbatical year has passed, the spirits of our Sages are gratified because of him. When receiving the payment, the lender must say to the one who is making restitution: “I am nullifying the debt and your obligation to me has been released.” If the debtor says: “Nevertheless, I desire that you accept it,” he should accept it. For the Torah states: “One shall not demand payment,” and, in this case, the payment was not demanded. When returning a loan, the debtor should not tell the creditor: “I am giving them to you as payment of my debt. Instead, he should tell him: “The money is mine, and I am giving it to you as a present.”
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 9.28)
If a debtor returned a debt, but did not make the above statements, the lender should turn the conversation to the point where the debtor says: “The money is mine, and I am giving it to you as a present.” If the debtor does not make such statements, the creditor should not accept it from him.
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 9.29)
Rambam, Mishne Torah (Seder Zera’im, Hilchot Shmita v’Yovel, 9.30).
Values and Ethics
The Shmita cycle presents a cultural system rooted in local food security, economic resiliency and community empowerment. The first step in reaching towards this holistic and wide-ranging vision is in exploring shared ethics and values. We might consider this as the ‘operating system’ of the Shmita paradigm, the source code with which we may use to design businesses, community centers, schools, governance, etc. aligned with the Shmita vision. The more we can find a common language to celebrate a shared cultural value system, the easier the process ahead will be. So let’s ask ourselves: If we are to create such a society grounded in equality, fairness, creativity and abundance, what values must we embody along the way?
On this webpage, 18 core values and ethics are explored as integral to the Sabbatical Cycle, and foundational to renewing a Sabbatical Culture. Click here to download a PDF of ‘Shmita Values & Ethics’ by Yigal Deutscher, originally published by 7Seeds.
Shmita is not something we are all keeping on separate schedules and calendars. The Shmita cycle affects all of us at once, and we are all in this rhythm together. Many of the practices of the Shmita paradigm revolve around peer-to-peer relationships, taking place on the communal stage: in our homes, on our streets, in our shared spaces. Our ability to celebrate this cycle in abundance will depend on grassroots efforts, collective action, and community organizing: our ability to work together, to rely on one another, to depend on one another. Together, we are creating an extended family, renewing the village culture and the sense of tribe. We are all stronger the more we can learn to care for and support one another. We cannot do this alone.
Allow your synagogues, community centers, and schools to be the base for such activity. Step into active leadership positions where needed. Learn to make decisions together, to vision together, and to design together.
The principles of the Shmita year stress locality. On the Shmita year, large-scale markets essentially close down, foods cannot be exported, and reliance transfers to community systems. The Shmita paradigm values an investment in local community efforts, designing for solutions that meet local needs and challenges, using local resources and creativity.
Strengthen local economies and business development. Strengthen local food production and distribution systems. Support the preservation of local wildlands and the health of your own watershed. Support local education, art, and health systems. The more we keep energy circulating locally, the more resilient of a community will be created for it.
The Shmita paradigm presents a covenant with the Wild, around us and within us. It creates a time to honor land and her soils, to celebrate the uncultivated, undomesticated, wild growth. The Shmita paradigm asks us to align our values and ethics with preservation, conservation, and respect of wild lands, animals and plants. We live within a larger ecology, and we are just one member of a much larger whole. Nature itself is not ‘Other’ and we are invited to form truly intimate and interactive relationships with the wild that supports us. The Shmita paradigm invites us to recognize how much we receive from our natural surroundings.
We are asked to harvest with respect, humility and honor. Be creative and careful about our patterns of consumption. Learn to leave no waste or pollution, and use renewable resources smartly. Learn the gifts of the wild, her foods, medicines.
The Shmita paradigm is rooted in long-term planning and visioning, as it exists within a timeframe of seven years. In all of our decision making, we are being asked to think of the future, to consider the consequences of today’s actions on the years ahead, and to avoid the type of short-term solutions that come along with hidden costs and negative impacts. Whatever we do today should be a gift for tomorrow, and especially for the children after us.
We are being asked to take the time to really become clear on our long-term goals before taking our first steps of implementation. There is a saying of the Iroquois tradition: In every deliberation, plan for the seventh generation. As we plan for those generations ahead, the Shmita tradition offers us a check-in every seventh year.
The Shmita Cycle is one that cherishes process. The seventh year cannot be fully celebrated in abundance without six years of experimentation, of trial and error, and of patience. The Shmita paradigm invites us to move in rhythm with natural cycles, in our business models, in our farming models, in our educational models, and in all ways.
Vision large and use small, gentle steps to reach your destination. Go slowly. Stop along the way to observe, to re-design and to make adaptations as needed. Enjoy as the process unfolds, and remember, change is constant. As much as we may be excited by the goals we are working towards, the Shmita paradigm encourages us to not become blinded by them.
Shmita is not meant to be a burden, bringing tension or anxiety. In its ideal form, Shmita brings with it a year of rest, of release, of renewal. It is not worth reaching this point if it means feeling burnt-out along the way. The healthier we are, the happier we will be and the easier it will become to live the change we want to see. The goal of the Shmita paradigm is to approach the Shmita year while embracing healthy living as a personal, daily, embodied practice.
Support holistic health awareness and systems of care that nourish the integral vitality of body, heart, mind and spirit. Create the space and time within community experiences to explore and share healing modalities. Love your body. Remember to breathe. Invite relationship with your most vibrant self.
Communities are most healthy as a web of interactive, diverse parts. Think of a garden. A garden rich with biodiversity, planted in a wide range of herbs, vegetables and trees will be most resilient and adaptable, richest in fertility, and most immune to pest and disease. Yet, a garden planted in one crop is most susceptible to damage. It’s the same with community. The Shmita paradigm asks us to create a mosaic of parts within our communities, inviting forth differences in gender, age, ethnicities, and religious beliefs.
Within this complexity, we are asked to find what brings us together, rather than look at what keeps us separate. Let us celebrate the unique differences amongst us, but let us also root together into a shared story and journey, weaving a beautiful multi-layered fabric of community. Let the story of your community be told and sung by many different voices.
Diversity without integration and communication can become chaos. In natural ecologies, each diverse part of an ecosystem has a unique role, a unique niche, as it is called. No part stands in isolation. Between each niche are complex threads of inter- connectivity, creating a web of dynamic relationship. Ecosystems thrive when all niches are filled, and when each niche is in balance with the others. In human social ecologies, we too are all inter-connected. What each member of our community does will affect all others. To manifest a Shmita culture, we must first invest fully in creating healthy patterns of relationship and communication.
Collaboration and community takes continual awareness and constant commitment. Be prepared for this, with all its challenges, as well as gifts. Learn to see one another without assumption, without judgment. Learn how to engage in conscious and compassionate communication with one another, grounded in empathy, honesty, and open vulnerability. Build integral relationships based on mutuality and trust.
The Shmita transition will be a product of the collective, not the individual. We are being asked to recognize the gift that each individual member brings to the process and to encourage wide-spread participation. In such a wide-ranging, holistic context, we all have something to learn from one another, and something unique and special to offer the process. In building towards homegrown resiliency,we are all students,as well as teachers. We are each ‘midwives’ for one another, helping to bring forth our greatest selves.
The Shmita paradigm asks us to awaken our sense of curiosity, to embrace learning as moments of embodied experimentation and experience, not as set information. Offer your skills and knowledge whenever the need is there. Take time to ask questions. Learn with one another. Support one another through mutual curiosity.
The Shmita paradigm asks us to recognize that we live in a world of abundance, of endless possibility and blessing. In this world, the focus is on circulation, rather than accumulation. In the Shmita year, we recognized that we truly are not owners of anything. Rather, we are in service of tending, stewarding, and guiding. The Shmita paradigm invites the question ‘How can I share more’ instead of ‘How can I get/own/control more’? In a system where everyone is taking care of one another, the more we give, the more we get.
We are asked to challenge the perspective of scarcity, the idea that ‘there is not enough’ and to experiment with stepping into this abundance through gift giving, sharing, creating exchange networks, and by realizing there are many ways to meet our needs without the use of the dollar or through competitive gain.
The Shmita paradigm makes a distinction between money and value. In the marketplace economy, when something is abundant it is cheap. When it is scarce, it is valuable. In the Shmita paradigm, wealth is not measured by dollars, nor is wealth something that lives in banks. The Shmita paradigm does not measure wealth with currency. Market capital is replaced with social capital and investments are made in long-term relationships.
The Shmita paradigm asks us to restructure our economic value systems and priorities, recognizing profit as something that enhances the common good. The Shmita cycle asks us to celebrate the inherent and priceless value in our daily interactions with family, friends, and neighbors that do not come with a price tag, which we might otherwise overlook or take for granted.
The Shmita paradigm embraces the value of equality as intrinsic to community development. Equality in community is not meant to erase the differences between us. Nor is it meant to encourage a culture of ‘mediocrity’ or a welfare state, which many see as the dark-side of economic equality. Rather, it is meant to encourage a consideration of equal access and fair distribution, honoring the unique needs of each community participant.
In your business and governing structures, as you make decisions that will affect others, consider the needs and voice of those who will be affected. Take into account all members of your community, especially those who are most vulnerable: the elderly, the sick, minorities with the community, and those with low-income. This is not charity. This is healthy community.
The Shmita paradigm asks us to recognize the invaluable role of shared property and gathering spaces in developing empowered, local community. The commons becomes a place that we all care for together, where we all invest our energy together. Having a healthy commons creates surface area for interaction and collaboration, a canvas to work with all the other values and ethics of the Shmita culture.
Think creatively about how to redefine private or underutilized spaces into inviting community commons. Begin with spaces already shared: schools, synagogues, community centers, local parks and streets. How can these spaces meet community needs? How can community members be organized and motivated to collectively care for these places?
The Shmita tradition comes from a time before the industrial age, before we were so collectively dependent upon technology. While recognizing the valuable impact these modern additions have offered us, the Shmita paradigm asks us to not abandon the skills and knowledge of the past.
Learn how to grow your own food, to work with hand tools, to work with crafts and plants for healing, building, fiber and medicine. These are heirloom, timeless skills, and ones that we should all be comfortable with, connecting us to our own source of creativity and empowering us towards self-sufficiency.
Shmita is an ancient tradition, which exists within a context rich with history, ritual and belief. We may all have different approaches to how we celebrate religion or spirituality, but the Shmita paradigm asks us to recognize that we all share the same ancestors, and carry within us a shared storyline. While Shmita may mean different things to all of us, our ability to celebrate it will be much stronger if we can link our observance today to the wisdom and teachings of our ancestors and elders.
The Shmita paradigm asks us to step into this ancient, timeless story and find our personal place within it. Embrace Shmita a living story, one that began long before us and will continue long after us. Explore the traditional texts and writings about Shmita, and the cultural context it originally existed within. Keep the story flowing by sharing it, teaching it, creatively exploring and living it.
As much as the efforts of designing for a Shmita culture depend on community integration, the roles of each particular individual should never be underestimated. Consider yourself a microcosm of the larger community. Do not ‘wait for others’ or fall into the patterns of others. Awaken to the power of your own individual choices and take personal responsibility for the choice s you make. Use your own life as a canvas for activation and experimentation. If you can embrace these values and designs in your own life, as well as with those who you are most intimately connected to, then the likelihood of the communal vibrancy is that much greater.
Recognize the impact of your actions and decisions. Hold yourself accountable, as much as you would like others to hold themselves accountable. Practice self-discipline in areas where you are not your most healthy self. And invite others to support you along the way. Ask for help when you need it. Ask for feedback. When mistakes are made, celebrate them as learning opportunities.
In all honesty, what Shmita asks from us, as individuals and as community, is powerfully challenging. Not just because it is hard, but because it directly shifts our relationship with food, land & money: the foundations for our sense of survival, stability, security. There are natural, genuine questions to ask about this year: What will we eat? How will we make money? Etc, etc. These questions touch upon deep areas of sensitivity and vulnerability. It is in this soil in which the seeds of our transformation may take root.
We have not lived with the Shmita Cycle for many generations. There will be endless questions along the way, most of which will have no clear-cut ‘correct’ answers. Walk into mystery, into the unknown, with humility, with sacred vulnerability. It is ok to not control. Shmita means ‘release,’ so find ways to begin releasing the sense that you must have the answers; that you must be in control. Find ways to offer genuine surrender, letting go into the gifts of Shmita that may be waiting for you. Allow fear to blossom into the possibility for your own evolution.
Ultimately, the values and ethics listed above speak directly to building a culture based on healthy relationships between self, community, ecology and spirit. These values tighten and strengthen the cords between us, making the whole web more resilient. And it is this web of interconnectivity, something we all share in together, that will be the canvas upon which we might build a Shmita culture. You are invited to reflect upon these values, to explore how they may play a role in your own personal sets of relationships, and to experiment with putting them into practice.