This Rosh Hashanah 5782, we began a shemita year, the seventh in an agricultural cycle in which the Torah commands us to let the land lie fallow and release debts that are owed to us—as a way to recognize that God is the true owner of the earth and all material goods. During the shemita year we withdraw from our daily routines of production and consumption and observe a yearlong Shabbat.
We hope you will find personal meaning and transformation in this yearlong journey, and a deeper connection to our community, to humanity, to the earth, and to the divine.
The literal and metaphoric plagues of the past two years—a pandemic, social upheaval, environmental disasters, and more—have posed deep existential questions to humanity about how we ever arrived at this moment, and what kind of a future we are willing to create.
In our Jewish calendar, we are at an ideal moment to reflect on these questions. This Rosh Hashanah 5782, we began a shemita year, the seventh in an agricultural cycle in which the Torah commands us to let the land lie fallow and release debts that are owed to us, to withdraw from our daily routines of production and consumption and observe a yearlong Shabbat.
While these biblical laws were meant for an ancient agricultural society, the underlying values they express have never been more relevant. The shemita year demands that we pause, let go, and recalibrate our worldview. It challenges us to rethink our relationship to the earth, to consumption, to community, and to God. Shemita holds up a mirror to our society so that we may see its imperfections and inequities, the consequences of human hubris. Simultaneously, it lifts up an aspirational vision of transformation, a glimpse of the world as it should be.
Don’t you see that we are stuck in a worldview that is eating us and destroying us?
—Rabbi Irwin Kula
Shemita is BJ’s overarching theme for the year 5782. Throughout the year, we will engage in acts of creative moral imagination as we consider the world in which we currently live and envision the world that could be. Lectures and Jewish learning will provide opportunities to explore the topics of climate change and the spiritual work of environmental stewardship; racial inequity in the criminal justice system, health care and education; economic equity and our relationship to money; the radical role of Shabbat in countering a culture of consumerism and non-stop work; gender equity in Jewish communal and ritual life; and the historical and contemporary observance of shemita in the land of Israel.
What the Sabbath achieves regarding the individual, the shemita achieves with regard to the nation as a whole.
—Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook
Shemita is much more than an agricultural practice. It is a mindset, the cultivation of a worldview that centers community, interdependence, human creativity, and equity. We hope you will find personal meaning and transformation in this yearlong journey, and a deeper connection to our community, to humanity, to the earth, and to the divine.
In Case You Missed It
Explore the archive—watch our past shemita programming here.
Upcoming Learning Opportunities
Havurot are small groups of BJ members that are self-organized and self-led. Many of this year's havurot are centered on the theme of shemita, offering the opportunity to get to know other members of the community while diving deeply into one aspect of this rich topic.
COVID-19 and Racial Disparities
Various dates throughout December 2021 | Zoom
BJ members are invited to join small groups to engage in learning and reflection with this incredible new resource, “What has COVID-19 Revealed About Racial Disparities? Resources for Communal Reflection,” created by members of the BJ community Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee.