Tuesday, 3 February 2015

TuBishvat Shmita

Having set myself a Shmita Manifesto, I had every intention of keeping you all updated on this little blog. Alas I have failed, but I promise to check in and reflect soon. In the meantime one of my commitments was to produce liturgy to bring Shmita through our whole year and not just into the beginning, so here is where you can find my Shmita Seder for Tu Bishvat (the New Year for Trees) when normally we would plant trees, but this year we might instead take time to appreciate them (maybe even hug a tree!)  http://news.reformjudaism.org.uk/images/stories/pdf_Shmita_TB_Seder_2015.pdf

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Day 8: Working towards next year

Chanukah brings light into the darkest time of the year. This year was a special Chanukah as it falls in the Shmita year, and calls us to bring light into the world in specific ways; by challenging food poverty, slavery, ecological destruction and energy waste. Could you make 1 days resource/ energy/ oil last for 8 days? Can you take time this year to bring greater equilibrium into your world, or into our world? Chanukah has become a time of giving and sharing, beautiful Shmita principles, but it can also be a time for re-imagining our the way we gift, and thinking about justice towards our resources, our environment, our economy. May the first year in our next cycle of 7 also help us work towards these goals, so that our next Shmita Chanukah causes us to ask different questions. 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Day 7: Making giving count

א  מִקֵּץ שֶׁבַע-שָׁנִים, תַּעֲשֶׂה שְׁמִטָּה.
1 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
ב  וְזֶה, דְּבַר הַשְּׁמִטָּה--שָׁמוֹט כָּל-בַּעַל מַשֵּׁה יָדוֹ, אֲשֶׁר יַשֶּׁה בְּרֵעֵהוּ:  לֹא-יִגֹּשׂ אֶת-רֵעֵהוּ וְאֶת-אָחִיו, כִּי-קָרָא שְׁמִטָּה לַיהוָה.
2 And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release that which he hath lent unto his neighbour; he shall not exact it of his neighbour and his brother; because the LORD'S release hath been proclaimed.

 (Deutereonomy 15)
100 years ago Chanukah was not the festival of presents, although small gifts of money were given (originally to teachers, and then to children) which then became todays chocolate Chanukah Gelt. Money was central to Shmita as well, with debts being forgiven (as above) and can be seen as a core Jewish value. Perhaps this Chanukah you could give a gift of an investment? Many charities such as Tzedek offer micro grants or key gifts such as goats that allow a business to be built and a family to work themselves out of poverty. How can we give at Chanukah that will make a difference beyond our selves, and share resources where they are most needed?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Day 6: Bringing light to the poor - clever Solar Power!

Food for all in Shmita, at Chanukah could come to mean bringing light to all. Is there a solution to offer those in poverty the comfort and opportunity a simple light provides, even within slums?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPXjzsXJ1Y0 An amazing Shmita example of making a difference through light during the festival of light.

Day 5: The Bees can bring light too!

Shmita was designed to allow the land to rest and to be more productive after it’s down time. Today our agriculture relies heavily on bees, an insect which is dying in terrifying numbers, the loss of which will radically alter our food choices (nearly a third of our food would become unavailable - http://www.businessinsider.com/the-world-without-honeybees-2013-6?op=1&IR=T). In honour of the bees and to remember their plight this chanukah why not make bees wax candles tonight - all you need is sheets of bees wax and wicks, and an ability to roll one within the other. These instructions should help: http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/projectsforbeginners/ss/ssrolledbw1.htm

Day 4: A Chanukah of Shmita Freedom

In the year after 7 cycles of Shmita, the Jubilee year, all slaves were released to freedom. Today we have more slaves around the world than at any other time in history, and our consumption in the West (which peaks at this time of year) is often built upon varying degrees of this slavery. How can we ensure the gifts we give this Chanukah aren’t enslaving? And that we aren't enslaving ourselves to stuff!

http://slaveryfootprint.org/  can help you explore how many slaves you have!

"In freedom, I am lost in a myriad of choices. When I walk on the street, dozens of cheeses, fruits and juices stare at me from store windows. There are vegetables here I'd never seen or heard of, and an endless series of decisions that must be made: What to drink in the morning, coffee or tea? What newspaper to read? What to do in the evening? Where to go for the Sabbath? Which friends to visit? In the punishment cell, life was much simpler. Every day brought only one choice: good or evil, black or white, saying yes or no to the KGB. Moreover, I had all the time I needed to think about these choices, to concentrate on the most fundamental problems of existence, to test myself in fear, in hope, in belief, in love. And now, lost in thousands of mundane choices, I suddenly realize that there's no time to reflect on the bigger questions. How to enjoy the vivid colors of freedom without losing the existential depth I felt in prison? How to absorb the many sounds of freedom without allowing them to jam the stirring call of the shofar that I heard so clearly in the punishment cell? And, most important, how in all these thousands of meetings, handshakes, interviews and speeches, to retain that unique feeling of the interconnection of human souls which I discovered in the Gulag? These are the questions I must answer in my new life, which is only beginning." Natan Sharansky - Fear No Evil (1986)

Day 3: Having less at Chanukah, not more

Shmita is justified by torah as a way of ensuring that all will eat, especially the poor (Exodus 23): 
י  וְשֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים, תִּזְרַע אֶת-אַרְצֶךָ; וְאָסַפְתָּ, אֶת-תְּבוּאָתָהּ.
10 And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and gather in the increase thereof;
יא  וְהַשְּׁבִיעִת תִּשְׁמְטֶנָּה וּנְטַשְׁתָּהּ, וְאָכְלוּ אֶבְיֹנֵי עַמֶּךָ, וְיִתְרָם, תֹּאכַל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה; כֵּן-תַּעֲשֶׂה לְכַרְמְךָ, לְזֵיתֶךָ.
11 but the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of thy people may eat; and what they leave the beast of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard.
Rather than acquiring more and more (often made from that ever precious resource - oil) this Chanukah, perhaps take time to think about what you have that you do not need or use - could someone else benefit more from what is at the back of your kitchen draw or toy box, or perhaps you have 2 of something that you like but you don’t need? What would society look like if we all had what we needed, and less excess that we can’t utilise?
St. Basil the Great (329-379)
When someone steals a man’s clothes we call him a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who would clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you hoard belongs to the poor. You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor man; you are handing over to him what is his.