— by Gari J. Weilbacher
Since biblical times, the Jewish people have taken every seventh year in the land of Israel as a Shmita, “sabbatical,” for the land and for forgiving debts.
At Mishkan Shalom of Philadelphia, Rabbi Shawn Zevit, with the partnership of Rabbi Yael Levy, staff, President David Piver and the many lay leaders and teachers, will lead the congregation through a year where each aspect of congregational life will embrace the Shmita philosopy.
“Our strategic plan has been aligned with Shmita in all facets of life, including adult education, religious school, spiritual practice, social action and sustainability,” Zevit said.
If we can eat more locally grown food; get our students to recycle more; have our religious school families carpool more; use recyclable products for our meals and onegs, “joys,” then as a congregation and as a Jewish community we will be able to reduce our footprint on the earth.
In addition to adopting Shmita principles and practices for the year 5775, the congregation is joining the Jewish Environmental Network to explore ways to embrace the fundamentals of Shmita in everyday life and living, not just during a Shmita year, but for the foreseeable future.
More information about Mishkan Shalom’s Shmita initiatives, and a complete schedule of services for adults, teens and children, can be found at the congregation’s website.
To learn more about Shmita, read Hazon’s Shmita Sourcebook, written and compiled by former Shmita Project Manager Yigal Deutscher, with the support of Anna Hanau and Nigel Savage.
The Shmita Sourcebook is designed to encourage participants to think critically about the Shmita Cycle – its values, challenges, and opportunities – and how this tradition might be applied in a modern context to support building healthier and more sustainable Jewish communities today. The Shmita Sourcebook is a 120-page sourcebook that draws on a range of texts from within Jewish tradition and time, tracing the development and evolution of Shmita from biblical, historical, rabbinic, and contemporary perspectives.
The Shmita Sourcebook is designed to be accessible to people with little Jewish background, as well as rigorous and challenging for someone with more extensive Jewish learning. Our intention for the sourcebook is to offer an educational background so we can collectively be exploring the possibilities of Shmita together. We do hope this will serve in establishing a shared, common ground. From this place, we can continue the work, expanding upon our own curiosities and understanding of Shmita, and creatively apply the values of this tradition to our own lives in all the diverse ways that are possible. We hope you enjoy the sourcebook, and it finds good use in your hands, and in your community.