Shmittah: Balance with Earth
By: Jakir Manela
“And six years you will sow your land, and gather in the land’s produce; but the seventh year you will release it from work and abandon it, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beast of the field shall eat. In like manner you will deal with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.” (Exodus 23:10-11)
Shmittah, the sabbatical year, captivates our Jewish imagination unlike any other Torah tradition. What must it have been like for an entire nation to let the land rest? Perhaps we cannot even begin to understand the significance of Shmittah since most Americans today are so alienated from land, agriculture and the earth as our source of sustenance. Yet our current environmental crises compel us to try. If we can push ourselves to imagine the magnitude of what Shmittah meant to our ancient Israelite ancestors, we may find the historical, spiritual and political inspiration we need to address climate change.