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.
 









Day 2: Re-energising yourself in Chanukah and in Shmita

The Shmita year has been an inspiration for Sabbatical working patterns - a year to rejuvenate and refresh and re-invest in a person so that they might be more productive (just as the land is more productive after a rest). At Chanukah we can take time to think not only about the energy of oil lamps, and how we make the most of what little energy we have, but where we can best invest our own energies, so that we might be revived and refreshed, even at this darkest time of year. What will inspire and light your internal fires, re-energising you to be alive in the world?

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” Ferdinand Foch, French Military Strategist 

"Your responsibility is to be dynamic, creative human beings, expressing pure, conscious awareness in whatever way makes your life begin to explode. It doesn't matter what your age, explosion is explosion. I have seen people in their seventies so full of exploding power and wonder that to see them psychically, they could be 25. And I have seen 25 year olds so imploded, they could be at the end of their lives. It has to do with deciding you want to enjoy life". Bartholomew, 'Reflections of an Elder Brother'

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Day 1: Celebrating Chanukah in a Shmita year


This Chanukah I will be posting a reflection for each day that helps us consider the meanings of the festival of light alongside a year of rest, release, food equality, social justice and resource sharing.

Day 1:
The story of Chanukah that we have been raised on is of a miracle of oil, a miracle of light. This precious resource should have only lasted 1 day, but instead it lasted for 8. In this Shmita year we are asked to consider what it would look like if all had equal access to our food resources, to land, if we had no slaves, if we released debts, if we gave our environment the space and time it needs to produce effectively? At Chanukah this question might be refocussed - What would our world look like if we could make one days energy/resource/oil last for 8 days. In the midst of winter this may be a particularly challenging thought, but perhaps it is the true message of Chanukah, at least once every 7 years.  
Here are examples of people really living this: