Now that we no longer live in an agrarian society, we need to ask ourselves how Shmittah applies to our lives today. One step toward that answer is the goal of reducing our energy use by 14%. Another is to join Hazon’s Shmita Project Network. For more information about Shmittah in general, visit the Shmita Project website.
The translation of the Hebrew word Shmittah is “release”. Shmittah, which is also known as the Sabbatical Year, is the seventh year in the agricultural cycle. It is the year of rest, in which all agricultural activity is prohibited by Torah law. During this year, any fruits that grow are deemed ownerless, which means that anyone can pick them. Resources become communal for this year, and people have to learn to rely on other sources for their produce.
The idea of Shmittah comes from various parts of the Bible, including Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:1-7, and Deuteronomy 15:1-8. Shmittah does not solely concern ceasing to work the land: it also involves economic and social interactions, including nullifying all debts.
Fall 2014 is the start of the next Shmittah year, and presents Jews around the world with a period for reflection. The idea of land ownership is called into question, as is the sustainability of the land. People are placed on equal ground, because neither the rich nor the poor can work the land, and are put in a position to rely on one another.