The Shmittah Year: Humans in Balance with the Earth

We constantly wrestle with large issues – likely none as large as the earth and the environment. With its Shomrei Ha’aretz initiative, FJMC is taking the lead in encouraging clubs and communities to run innovative programs that have a positive impact upon the environment.

“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)

The next Shmittah year will begin on Rosh Hashanah 5775 (September 24, 2014).

Shmittah - literally translated as the “year of release,” and widely known as the Sabbatical Year - is a biblical Jewish tradition, which, once every seven years, simultaneously re-adjusted agriculture and commerce to ensure an equitable, just and healthy society. The year of Shmittah was a time when agricultural lands were collectively left fallow. The Earth is not merely a resource to be used and abused. If we want to live on the land, it is our responsibility to let it rest.

This is an opportune time for Men’s Clubs to step up with educational programs for their congregations and communities. Here are a few suggestions for making this Shmittah year especially meaningful:

  • Support the consumption of locally grown food and the use of sustainable agriculture, limiting the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides in favor of organically grown foods.
  • Replenish the land by composting food and yard waste at home and at synagogue.
  • Introduce renewable energy and energy conservation projects.  Promote FJMC-Green Faith Energy Shield and Energy Certification programs.
  • Introduce “Shmittah Lawns & Landscapes” that would promote more sustainable care practices such as using native plants, water conservation and avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Introduce awareness of consumption by promoting reuse, recycling, and the purchase of goods made from recycled materials.
  • Encourage Shmittah principles throughout the year; such as at Men’s Club Shabbat, Eating Healthy, and Hearing Men’s Voices programming.

As Jews, Shmittah is in our collective unconscious, and this moment calls upon us to renew its wisdom for the good of all humankind. May God bless us that it may be so - that together we can be brave, creative and collaborative enough to embody its principles for our common good.

Rabbi Noam Yehda Sedor, Rabbi Yonatan Neril, and Ms. Evonne Marzouk

Compiled by:
Michael Miller & Cantor Steven Stern
Temple Beth O’R-Beth Torah - Clark, NJ