By Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb
Jewish environmental circles take an eco-ethic born primarily around one land – ha’aretz – and try to apply it globally. Jerusalem is not Juneau or Jefferson City, but for we who call the Diaspora ‘home’ or ‘one of our homes’, the teachings must cross over. An exciting conversation is now brewing about shmittah, the seventh/sabbatical year, when the land is to lie fallow – a mitzvah that technically applies only in Israel, and has long been circumvented by legal loopholes. Yet clarion values are at play here, like extending ‘rest’ to all people (poor as well as rich) and to the land or living within the natural carrying capacity of one’s ecosystem.
How to apply these values today? Work for a just and sustainable food system, as with the RAC and others’ key efforts on the Farm Bill hopefully winding its way through Congress. Or join COEJL (the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, working in close partnership with all the movements) in its “14 by ‘14” call for a 14% reduction in the carbon footprint of every Jewish community by Fall 2014 when the next shmittah year begins.