Note: This article appeared as today’s Purim=>Pesach article from The Shalom Center, curated by David Eber and Arthur Waskow. Click here to read the article in full on The Shalom Center’s website.
On Pesach we ask ourselves: What is the meaning of the Exodus? On this Sabbatical or Shmitta year, our perspective shifts to reveal that one answer is: our relationship with the earth.
Let’s look first at Shmitta. The main biblical text introducing the Shmitta year is in Leviticus 25. It starts out saying, “The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a Sabbath of the Lord…”
The ancient rabbis asked a very textual question, “What does Mount Sinai have to do with Shmitta?” That is, why here, out of all the laws in the Torah, does the text mention “on Mount Sinai?” Is there a connection that is being hinted at? I suggest looking at one of the culminating verses of the whole idea of Shmitta. In Leviticus 25:23, talking about the Jubilee, a kind of Shmitta² (Shmitta squared) it states, “The land must not be sold beyond reclaim, for the land is Mine (ki li kol ha’aretz); you are but strangers resident with Me.”
What are the connections between the natural world and Judaism? What does Judaism have to say about our responsibility to the planet? What contribution can Judaism make to the struggle against Climate change, loss of bio-diversity, the ills of factory farming? Many environmentalists have said that if we are to heal our environment, it won’t be through technical fixes alone – it takes a deep re-orientation of how we look at the world and our place in it. Can Judaism provide that deep shift in world view? (Yes. Come find out how.)
Rabbi Natan will be offering this four-class series at Congregation Kerem Shalom in Concord, MA, starting on April 14 for 4 consecutive Tuesdays. The class is from 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. For more information and to join, e-mail Rosalie Gerut at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After Pesach, Rabbi Natan will be starting a text-based course at Congregation Eitz Chayim in Cambridge, MA. This course will examine Rabbinic concepts of ownership, land, obligations to the poor and the tension between divine creation and human creativity as seen in the Mishnah, especially in the tractate Pe’ah. Texts will be in both English and Hebrew. This course is part of an on-going Kevah Jewish learning group. For more information on this course and joining this Kevah learning group please contact the group organizer Joseph Sousa at email@example.com. To learn about Kevah visit their website at www.kevah.org. If you wish to participate in this course at a distance through audio recordings contact Rabbi Natan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabbi Natan will be in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 23, where he will deliver the 34th Annual Keenan Lecture at Spalding University. This year’s topic will be Judaism and the Environment. The title of his talk will be “Organic Torah: Systems, Spirit and Sustainability.”
Organic Torah is encouraging all our friends to vote in the elections for the 37th World Zionist Congress (WZC). American Jews have a voice in Israel, and this is a big piece of it. Please click over to the website, read the platforms and vote for the slate of your choice. There is a $10 registration fee that covers the cost of running the election, and you have to accept the Jerusalem Program, the formal definition of Zionism, in order to vote.
The WZC decides how a significant amount of donation money from American Jews gets allocated in Israel. It is an important way to directly affect Israel.