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Topic: Shmita

“Leaning in” to Work and Rest

New from the SOVA blog by Judith Rosenbaum Original post can be found at http://sovaproject.org/2013/06/21/leaning-in-to-work-and-rest/ Like most people following the news over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about what it means to “lean in” (and its counterpoint, “opt out”) and the assumptions and judgments inherent in the term. Sheryl Sandberg, an executive at Facebook, coined “lean in” to encourage women to make a more passionate commitment to career ambition and leadership; it’s meant to carry a positive connotation (though in my experience is referenced dryly and with some cynicism/resentment by many women). And opting out, of course, refers to women choosing to leave the workplace to become stay-at-home mothers. Both place work at the center, with action defined by one’s orientation toward career (and notably placing all the agency in the individual with little to no regard for the social context for these actions). But as someone in the midst of career transition, I find myself wondering why this debate is necessarily framed around work. I’ve recently left my job of more than a decade in order to invest time and energy in figuring out what I want to do next, and to catch up on the self-care I’ve […]

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Skillshares & Swapping: Shmita Meets the Sharing Economy

by Yigal Deutscher At the core of many of the Shmita values is this sense that we do not own our resources; that, in fact, the resources we call ours are not our property at all. On the Shmita year, private lands become open as commons. Private harvests must be shared with the community. Even private stored foods must be opened to those in need. Food and land are no longer commodities on the marketplace. They no longer carry a price tag. And the people who lay claim to such land and food are transformed from private owners to community stewards, caring for communal property. An emphasis is placed upon the community, beyond the private individual. Perhaps the Shmita year pushed the edge a bit, putting us all in the same position together, where we had to rely on one another, enter into true interdependency, to get by on a such a year. Hopefully, the values of this year framed all others in a way that kept the community threads alive and vibrant, so that there truly was a healthy village culture. And vice versa, so that the community actions and values of the six years between each Shmita helped […]

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Shmita Work Party: An Embodied Learning Model

The Shmita narrative is one that is founded upon great social ideals and values; as we begin to learn about the holistic, integrated models that Shmita is encouraging, the only way to really begin understanding this is to use the Torah texts as a springboard to action, to experimentation, to embodiment. Yes, there is clear value in learning for the sake of learning and understanding. But as the Rabbis famously ask, which is better: Action or Study? Study, they say, because it leads to action. Study is the first step into personally investing one’s self towards manifesting the values learned in their own personal and communal lives.  The Shmita Work Party model is one that begins with text study and follows with a tangible action that directly relates to the values learned. In this way, the learning continues seamlessly into the action, and the words of the text take shape in active creations. For example, one key principle of Shmita is the fact that primary harvests during this year were based upon perennial and wild plants. In a learning session, texts which can be studied would include anything about Shmita harvests, tree planting from a Jewish perspective, etc…and then followed by actual fruit tree plantings.  […]

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Exploring the ‘Shmita Council’ Model for Your Community

During the Behar campaign to raise Shmita awareness on a local level, one of the models we suggested was to organize a community leadership council. The goal would be to gather together community leaders, such as Rabbis, educators, activists, directors of businesses & non-profits, etc to explore Shmita from the perspective of local needs, resources, and challenges. What would Shmita look like specifically for our own community’s social and economic landscape? For our own community’s educational institutions and community organizations? As community leaders, what specific role might we each take to support this shift towards Sabbatical values? What tangible golas can we reach for, and in what timeframe?  Guided by Jakir Manela, the Pearsltone Center hosted such a council for the region surrounding Baltimore, Maryland. Here is his recap for the event, which they referred to as a ‘Shmita Summit’: On Sunday April 28th, Pearlstone hosted our first Chesapeake Shmita Summit, drawing together a select group of local Jewish leaders to learn about Shmita and think strategically together about how its values can be manifest in each of our organizations and throughout our local communities.  It was a wonderful conversation, with deep Jewish learning lead by Rabbis Baruch Rock and Nina Beth Cardin—Rabbi Cardin focused on the Shmita […]

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Debt Forgiveness as a Foundation for Society

The following post by Rabbi Mordechai Liebling is cross-posted from the Sova Project blog. Studying the Torah laws about debt forgiveness (Shmita) can help us understand how to bring about a more just, equitable and sustainable society. The root meaning of Shmita is to let something drop. When Shmita is addressed in Deuteronomy 15:1-3i, it refers to letting debt drop. To understand the significance of this concept of forgiveness of debt, we need to look at the historical context. The law of Shmita was developed in an agricultural society. Farmers frequently needed to borrow money to buy seeds for the spring planting or to buy food in a time of drought. Not surprisingly, the Torah is filled with stories of drought and famine. In fact, every agricultural society is dependent on loans and therefore produces debtors. Debt leads to inequalities in wealth, the concentration of wealth, indentured servitude and prostitution. If a farmer accumulates too much debt he (men were the principal property owners) may need to sell the land to pay off the debt, or give the land to his creditor in lieu of payment. Or he may choose to sell himself or a member of his family to the debtor […]

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Shmita & The Power of Imagination

This post originally comes from the SOVA Project blog, from May 7, 2013 Written by Adina Allen, a rabbinical student at Hebrew College. In his book To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual, Jonathan Z. Smith writes, “Ritual is, above all, an assertion of difference…a means of performing the way things ought to be in conscious tension with the way things are.”[1] Rituals help us to acknowledge the aspects of our world that we desire to change. Through the creation and performance of rituals, we direct our creative energy towards imagining the world as it could be. These rituals create the scaffolding for us to live—even if only for a moment—as if the world we imagine is already here. In Jewish tradition, the observance of the Shmita year, commencing after Rosh Hashana 2014, is such a ritual. The instructions for Shmita observation occur three times in the Torah.[2] These passages include directives that, for one year out of every seven, we are to abstain from planting our fields, allow the land to rest, and welcome the poor of our communities to come and eat from what is ours. In addition, all debts are to be forgiven and those who lack are to be given all that […]

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Introducing the SOVA Blog

It is with pleasure that Hazon, the Shmita Project, and the Siach Network are now partnering with the SOVA blog, a new initiative to further raise awareness around Shmita. SOVA is a web-based project helping to stimulate conversation about core issues of sustainability and Judaism, primarily from an economic perspective, in advance of the next Shmita year in September 2014. The SOVA blog can be found at http://sovaproject.org/ Below is the first post from the founding partners of the SOVA team, Dr. Jeremy Benstein, Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, and Rabbi Or Rose. See the original post here. Welcome to Sova! Sova (“Enough-ness”) is a collaborative effort of the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network, the Heschel Sustainability Center in Israel, and the Center for Global Judaism at Hebrew College in Boston. The goal of this shared endeavor is to help raise awareness across the international Jewish community and beyond about issues of sustainability—with a particular focus on economic justice—by engendering a multi-disciplinary conversation about such fundamental issues as responsible land usage, wealth and debt, work and rest, fair labor practices, private and public (commons) property ownership, and physical and spiritual revitalization. The recent economic crises in North America and the European Union emphasize the need for renewed collaborative thinking across disciplines […]

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New Shmita Learning Series Opens in the East Bay, CA

Shmita, literally translated as the ‘Year of Release’ and more widely known as the Sabbatical Year, is a biblical tradition, which, once every seven years  simultaneously re-adjusted agriculture and commerce on a national scale, to ensure an equitable, just and healthy society. During the Shmita year, debts would be forgiven, agricultural lands would lie fallow, private land holdings would become open to the commons, and staples such as food storage and perennial harvests would be redistributed and accessible to all. Shmita was a radical notion that had profound impact on all aspects of life. You are invited to come to Urban Adamah for a 3-part learning series, where we will explore together, through group study, the historical and spiritual significance of Shmita, as well as how we might begin to reclaim this tradition as a system for holistic cultural design much needed today. The learnings will be facilitated by Yigal Deutscher, manager of Hazon’s Shmita Project. This learning series will meet on three consecutive Wednesdays, from 7-9pm in the Big Tent at Urban Adamah.  Chai tea will be served. April 10th: Cultural Rest & the Cycle of Seven April 17th: The Agricultural Paradigm of the Shmita Cycle April 24th: The Economic Paradigm of the […]

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pomagranites and oranges

With All Your Heart, With All Your Soul, With All Your Might

“With all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might”. This is my mantra. Not because I am a person who davens three times a day reciting this phrase from its original source in the Sh’ma, but simply because I think it’s beautiful. Imagine a world in which we dedicated our whole selves to every mitzvah we preform, every fleeting thought we have. In a gemara in the tractate of Brachot, the Rabbis expound upon each of these segments: “With all your heart” they explain as what Freud might call the “id”—that is the most instinctual, animalistic parts of ourselves, “with all your soul” refers to our actual life, and “with all your might” commonly refers to our physical possessions. I strive preform every action with all my heart, soul, and might whether it’s loving God as the original texts indicates, loving a friend or a stranger as some scholars interpret, doing a project at work, or even something as mundane as grocery shopping (I said strive!). (more…)

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Shmita: Weaving Relational Threads

by Yigal Deutscher The tribes of Israel have just gathered together, am echad b’lev echad, one nation with one synchronized heart, in alignment and in unity. They have just stood, in deep humility, in awe, in trepidation, witnessing and receiving a divine gift. They have emerged from the brokenness of slavery; they have traveled through the wilderness for 50 days, only to stand together in this moment, before a mountain covered in fire, topped with thundering clouds, shimmering with lightning, rippling with the sounds of the Shofar. 1o utterances have emerged from the heart of creation; 10 utterances so clear and powerful that the tribes could actually see & feel each of them, as they echoed from the mountain, from the sky, from the ground and rock and sand below their feet, and from within their own beating hearts. (more…)

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Shmita in Action: Israel

This is one article in a seven-part series, recapping a shmita study group, sponsored by Hazon and Kevah. You can find other posts in the series on the shmita blog. Shmita (the sabbatical year), on the theoretical level, is a radical movement towards social equality, awareness of land ownership, understanding of good agricultural practices, and a major reconsideration of a monetary system. Sounds like an interesting thought-experiment, right? Well, Shmita is also a real-life system that is currently implemented in Israel, the only place where following the laws of Shmita are traditionally required.  The various systems in place in Israel right now are quite complex.  There are essentially four options to choose from when a farmer is deciding in what capacity he will follow the laws of Shmita: Continue life as normal Use the rabbinical tool of Heter Mechira Use the rabbinical tool of Otzar Beit Din Import food from outside of Biblical Israel For someone just trying to buy food, this could get quite confusing.  Do I follow the laws of Shmita? Do I trust the Heter Mechira certification? Should I just be extremely safe and buy only imported food (despite the harm to the Israeli economy).  Why so many options? Why can’t […]

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shmita

The Sabbatical Debt Release

By Yigal Deutscher In the third and final mention of Shmita in the Torah, the concept of Shmita expands to directly influence economic and monetary systems. Until now (sources in Shemot & Vayikra), Shmita texts have been specifically in reference to land, agricultural practices, and annual harvests. Here, with the text of Devarim, the picture and implications of the Shmita Year is complete: Along with the practices of leaving land fallow, opening private lands as commons, collectively sharing the harvest, we are also to synonymously forgive debts. Once the Seventh Year arrives, all loans which are outstanding are released and all debts are cancelled. Here are some thoughts to consider regarding this practice (see the full text here): (more…)

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Practical Applications of Shmita Year Laws

Here at Hazon, we’ve had the privilege of studying Shmita together over the last few months. As a group, we have begun to understand the Shmita cycle through two different frames: A sabbatical for the land and a response to agricultural practices that may have been unsustainable. A sabbatical for people and a way to create a more just and equitable society. It is through these lenses that we began to look at some of the applications of Shmita in halacha (Jewish law). One interesting tidbit that we learned was how you are able to use produce that happens to grow during the Shmita year. Maimonidies’ Mishne Torah (a compendium of Halacha) outlines that food which grows during the Shmita year should be treated the same way that we treat teruma (produce that has been tithed as an offering for use in the Temple). “He should not change the natural function of the produce as he does not with regard to teruma… something that is normally eaten raw should not be eaten cooked. Something that is normally eaten cooked should not be eaten raw” (Mishneh Torah, Chapter 6). In other words, you should use Shmita year produce as you normally would, and not […]

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Transforming Ancient Laws into Concrete Practices

By Mirele Goldsmith This is the third article in a seven-part series, recapping a shmita study group, sponsored by Hazon and Kevah. You can find other posts in the series on the shmita blog. In this session we focused on how the rabbis translate the lofty ideas of Shmita into concrete practices. Ari compared what the rabbis do with Shmita to what they do with Shabbat. They take the general idea expressed in the Torah that we are to rest on Shabbat, and develop specific rules based on associations with similar concepts and textual references. He told us that in the Talmud the rabbis acknowledge that the laws of Shabbat are like a “mountain hanging by a hair.” Similarly, the rabbis take the very general admonition that the people are not to work the land, and that the land itself is to rest on Shmita, and develop it into a long list of halachot (laws). Download the source sheet here (more…)

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