Monday, August 26, 2013

Earth Etude for Elul 20 - When the Land is Allowed to Rest

Photos by Robyn Bernstein, text by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

The sabbatical year, or shmita (meaning 'release') is the seventh year of the seven year agricultural cycle described in the Torah and applying to the Land of Israel. During the shmita year, the land lies fallow, debts are forgiven, and all of creation is allowed to rest.

In this country, land set aside as conservation land is allowed to rest for long periods of time. Such land opens up for us many wonders that we might otherwise miss.

These are images from our Shavuot hike at the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wachusetts Meadow Sanctuary.

Red Eft Salamander or Newt

Milk snake

The year 5775, beginning on Rosh HaShanah 2014, marks the beginning of the next Sabbatical Year. During this year, according to Jewish Law in the Land of Israel, debts are to be forgiven, agricultural land is to lie fallow, private lands become public, stored food and perennial harvests are to be redistributed to all. How can thinking about shmita change our thinking and our world? How can we use this year of 5774 to prepare us to observe shmitah? For resources to help your thinking, check out The Shmitah Project.
Robyn Bernstein is the President of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, a music therapist, and an active member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

Rabbi Katy Z. Allen (AJR '05) is the founder and leader of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope in Wayland, MA (, a congregation that holds services outdoors all year long. She is also a staff chaplain at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA

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