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.”