8 Do not take bribes, for bribes blind the clear-sighted and upset the pleas of those who are in the right.9 You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.10 Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; 11 but in the seventh you shall let it rest and lie fallow. Let the needy among your people eat of it, and what they leave let the wild beasts eat. You shall do the same with your vineyards and your olive groves.
(א) מִקֵּץ שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים תַּעֲשֶׂה שְׁמִטָּה. (ב) וְזֶה דְּבַר הַשְּׁמִטָּה שָׁמוֹט כָּל בַּעַל מַשֵּׁה יָדוֹ אֲשֶׁר יַשֶּׁה בְּרֵעֵהוּ לֹא יִגֹּשׂ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ וְאֶת אָחִיו כִּי קָרָא שְׁמִטָּה לַיהוָה.
1 Every seventh year you shall practice release of debts. (shmita) 2 This shall be the nature of the release: every creditor shall release the loan that he claims from his fellow; he shall not oppress his fellow or kinsman, for the release proclaimed is of the Lord.
- What effect would these practices have on a society if everyone were to adhere to them?
12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the stranger in your settlements, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do.
- This command is directed to the owner / master. Why?
- What effect on society would complete cessation from work create?
- Why does the text mandate that the employer also rest? Why not just give his/her workers a break?
Something miraculous happens when we stop. We get to experience the power that nature knows called dormancy. Dormancy, that which is holding; the heartbeat that rests; the hibernating animals, all of winter; waiting and waiting…There are seeds inside each and every one of us, inside this culture, that cannot emerge because we do not know that dormancy does not mean death, resting does not mean disappearing. What keeps us from stopping is that we are terrified of resting. We are afraid of the imaginative terrible things we will feel in the quiet. We fear that when we stop, even for a moment, the sheer enormity of our lives will overwhelm us. Our outspoken nd unspoken fears, they speed up our lives. Like a stone being thrown over a lake, we've learned to skip so we don’t get too wet, and we are terrified that if we let the stone fall, we will disappear. And so we think that our speed will save us from the void. We dance around the security that is offered from touching what is underneath the speed. Can we let go of the obsession of finishing what can’t be finished?
– Rabbi David Ingber, Shabbat Behar sermon, Romemu
It is difficult not to be impressed by the profundity of the idea that moves cautiously between the desire to preserve private property and the wish not to see property as the be-all and end-all. Shmita is a call to set apart a bubble in time, which slows economic activity down, and which fosters care, compassion and even partnership between all those who share the earth, including animals. The race will resume in the eighth year, because humanity needs it, but the idea and its memory will linger on beyond the confines of the sabbatical year, to the other six years of feverish productivity.
– Avi Sagi and Yedidya Stern, Rest, Share, Release, Ha’Aretz, Sept 24, 2007
Applications for shemita today:
- Land / Farm sharing programs
- Focus on pesticides and destruction of wildlife
- Ensuring affordable food prices
- Combating food insecurity
- Preservation of natural habitats
- Solutions to Economic Inequality
(See Hazon.org for more ideas)