We are proud to share Hazon's publication of Rav Kook's Introduction to Shabbat Ha'Aretz, translated by Rabbi Julian Sinclair. This is the first-ever English translation of the introduction to Rav Kook's book on shmita (Biblical sabbatical year). Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook was the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of the land of Israel in the 20th century. His essay, written in 1909, is lyrical and mystical, a meditation on the big themes that underlie religious environmentalism.
There are few concepts as beautiful (and as radical) as the Jewish idea of a sabbath for the land every 7 years. In this utterly fascinating translation, Rav Kook offers a gorgeous and profound hymn from across the decades to the concept, and the able translator provides historical context as well as powerful hope that this great rest and rejuvenation can have practical as well as spiritual meaning in the modern age.
In this brilliant translation of Rav Kook's work and in his accompanying essays, Yedidya Sinclair succeeds in clarifying the paradoxes of Shmita. His historical, biographical and conceptual introduction is cogent and elegant; it is supplemented by a thoughtful analysis of broader environmental and social justice values now being seriously discussed in Israel. A highly valuable and enlightening volume.
Rarely can a one-hundred-year-old pamphlet reach across history and shake a reader’s heart, inspire an activist’s hands. Shabbat Ha'Aretz does just that. Revolutionary in the Land of Israel in its time and revolutionary for American Jews today, Hazon and Sinclair have done us an enormous service by bringing Kook’s Introduction to Shmita into the heart 21st century living.
If Britain and America are two countries divided by a common language, then Israel is a country, and the Jewish people a people, divided by a common religion. Rav Kook is still, a century on, sorely missed as a religious leader who deeply believed in finding ways for observant and non-observant Jews to build the same country together. Every seven years we see how his work, Shabbat Ha'aretz, is not only still relevant, but even more necessary than ever.
In the century since Rav Kook penned Shabbat Haaretz, humanity’s relentless exploitation of the earth has accelerated to the point where much of the destruction is irreversible. Rabbi Yedidya Sinclair’s translation and commentary of Rav Kook's work elevates our consciousness to a new level. Through it we realize that understanding the spiritual greatness of Shmita is a prerequisite for taking the practical steps that can reverse climate change, feed the hungry and even cloth the naked. What I learned from this holy book is that the seeds of humanity’s redemption live within the radical notion of Shmita. Let’s live this dream toward our Jubilee.