A Sabbath for the Land and the People – Rav Kook’s Shabbat Ha’aretz and The Peoplehood Potential of Shmita

Shabbat Haaretz

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 14 - Sustainability and Jewish Peoplehood - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] By Yedidya Sinclair “As Farmers and Field Rest, a Land Grows Restless” New York Times Headline about the shmita year in Israel”, October 8th 2007 “In Israel, Values of a Holy Respite are Adapted for a High-Tech World” New York Times Headline about the shmita year in Israel, September 24th, 2014 The current shmita (Sabbatical) year, 2014-5 represents a remarkable renewal of the possibilities of shmita. After several decades in which the public face of shmita in Israel has been manifested in deepening disputes between rabbis and religious communities over kosher certification, the present shmita year has seen a proliferation of programs that … [Read more...]

Sustainable Israel-Diaspora Engagement through Sustainability

Hadera River power station. Photo courtesy KKL-JNF Archive.

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 14 - Sustainability and Jewish Peoplehood - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] By Jay Shofet Today, unsurprisingly, according to surveys in the North American Jewish community, environmental issues are among the top concerns and philanthropic giving areas of the younger generation. Fortuitously at this very moment, the maturation of the Israeli environmental movement and its confluence with the most potent trends of “start-up nation” has presented Israel-Diaspora relations with a whole new bridge for engagement, one that is just beginning to be recognized and utilized. By the “environmental movement” I mean not just the NGO’s, but the wider policy community and “shareholders” in the broadest sense, including the … [Read more...]

Climate, Shmita and Consumption

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[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 14 - Sustainability and Jewish Peoplehood - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] By Sid Schwarz There are times when even atheists have trouble denying that there is a “hand of God” at work in history. How else to explain the coincidence of the largest ever gathering of humanity to assemble around the world to highlight the urgency of global action on climate change the week before Rosh Hashana 5775, a shmita (Sabbatical) year. Organizers will tell you that the motivation for setting the September 21, 2014 date for the Peoples Climate March in New York City was the convening in that city of the U.N. General Assembly. Indeed U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon offered his support for the march, keenly aware of the abysmal … [Read more...]

Future Ethics: The Moral Imperative of Sustainability from a Jewish Covenantal Perspective

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 14 - Sustainability and Jewish Peoplehood - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] By Rabbi Lawrence Troster The impending disaster of climate change is primarily an ethical crisis. The human exploitation of the earth’s resources has been made possible by the unprecedented power and scope of modern human technology but this same technology has also caused extensive environmental damage. One third of the world’s population is living longer and better than any time in human history but another third is still living without adequate drinking water or sewage disposal. And while many believe that the solution to human poverty is more economic growth, the earth’s biosphere cannot sustain the kind of development that has been … [Read more...]

Intersectional Justice and Intersectional Peoplehood: A Shmita Vision for Jewish Identity Education

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[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 14 - Sustainability and Jewish Peoplehood - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] By Robin Moss What might sustainability have to do with Jewish peoplehood? As well as the obvious answer - namely that sustainability is a necessarily collective endeavor (at least if it is to move beyond the ineffectual or the tokenistic) - I wish to propose a deeper answer. It seems to me that peoplehood, like sustainability, has to be intersectional, and I believe that the values of shmita might help us to understand this better. In the Book of Leviticus[1], in the midst of a host of other commandments about how people should treat one another, we read that every seven years, there will be a year of shmita (release), today usually called … [Read more...]

The Shmita Year as a Laboratory for Jewish Sustainability

Click image for a Shmita Catalogue (in Hebrew only)

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 14 - Sustainability and Jewish Peoplehood - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] By Einat Kramer I have been thinking about and working on Jewish sustainability for many years, and could easily write a theoretical essay with my many thoughts on the subject. Yet this is not any time, but rather the beginning, not only of the one-in-seven-year opportunity to observe the mitzvot of shmita, but moreover, the first shmita year in which a large-scale comprehensive effort is underway to reinterpret these mitzvot and render shmita relevant to contemporary Israeli society. So I would like to begin not with ideas but rather with events and actions taking place right now in honor of the shmita year. Here are seven examples of many … [Read more...]

Judaism as a Model of Continuity in the Face of Globalization

Tevel B'Tzedek agriculture

Our experience - and our tradition - have taught us that authentic change requires time and consistency, local knowledge, and the flowering of a networked, connected leadership committed to the common good. [This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 14 - Sustainability and Jewish Peoplehood - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] By Micha Odenheimer For the past seven years, Tevel b’Tzedek has been exploring what sustainability could mean in the context of the too often heartbreaking vulnerability of the extreme poor in the globalizing world. In the face of so many failed interventions in the world of international development, we asked ourselves the following questions: How can we treat poverty in the 2/3rds world at its root? How can we truly transform the … [Read more...]

Jews and the World: Steering a Middle Course

[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 14 - Sustainability and Jewish Peoplehood - published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.] By Clive A Lawton One of the ways in which Judaic approaches to a range of social issues differs from common Western ones is that Jewish answers often like to sit in the midst of ambivalence. The desire for purity of thought and approach is endlessly balanced by 'on the other hand...' Nowhere is this clearer than on the two key fronts of shmita - agricultural and environmental legislation and responses to debt and material inequality. Pausing briefly to note that these are only connected in the consequential halakhic frameworks - their link is not obvious in the Torah and, for example, the assumption that all shmita legislation applies … [Read more...]