This one is a little different from the others, but bear with me. In early September, Jewish people celebrated the Hebrew New Year 5782. It also happens to be a shmita year, a 12-month sabbatical for the planet that occurs every seventh year. Described in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, shmita (rhymes with pita) is a year to give the land a rest from planting and harvesting and to forgive all debts. Shmita doesn’t predict what will happen in the coming year, but for the growing number of contemporary Jews who choose to honor it, it provides a spiritual framework to reimagine our relationship with the Earth and our neighbors.
Nomy Lamm, an artist and kohenet (Hebrew priestess) living in Washington, said in this shmita year she’s been thinking about how we can collectively prioritize the needs of the natural environment and how that would serve as an antidote to late-stage capitalism, settler colonialism and other extractive economic structures. Shmita also can be a call to work toward debt forgiveness, which would remove so much of the stratification of society, she said. On a more personal level, Lamm is spending more time in nature this year and in intentional appreciation of the Earth. “With climate chaos there is so much loss,” she said. “It feels really good to appreciate what we have.”
Ian Schiffer, an activist who works with the Jewish community Nefesh, is using the idea of shmita (it means “release” in Hebrew) as a way to meditate on what it means to truly release the Earth and put that into action. He was already working to support the indigenous Tongva people before the start of 5782, but practicing the idea of shmita has pushed him to work toward the actual release of local land back to the recently established Tongva Taraxat Paxaavxa Conservancy.
“Learning that every seven years in a cycle that is older than capitalism, people are supposed to be free, the land is supposed to lie fallow or be collectively harvested and debts are forgiven — I was like, ‘Yes,’” he said.
Honoring shmita cannot be solely an individual pursuit. “It’s impossible for the land to rest with just one person doing it,” Schiffer said. “We need to work together to shift our relationship with the land.”
His hope is that by the time the next shmita year comes along in 5789, the Earth will feel like it’s resting more.
What could this mean for you in 2022? You can start by asking yourself: What does it mean to you to release the Earth? How can you work with others to help the land rest more?
You don’t need to see into the future to know that as we step out of the liminal space of the pandemic in 2022 (hopefully!), we will be called to imagine the future we want to see and to start putting those dreams into action. If some of these predictions and frameworks resonate for you, great. If not, that’s OK too. As L.A.’s metaphysical practitioners often say: Take what you like and leave the rest.
Here’s wishing you a beautiful, meaningful and grounded new year!