Shmita Study Group Convenes in New York

On September 20, 2012, twelve people gathered at Makom Hadash for the first of a seven-part shmita study group, which was coordinated by Kevah with Rabbi Ari Hart as our educator. The first session focused on understanding biblical texts with a focus on how shmita has evolved over time and what we can learn from comparing and contrasting analysis of different Biblical references. Download the study sheet.

With the next shmita year starting Rosh Hashanah 2014, some might ask, why run a shmita study session now? But with less than two years until the next shmita year begins, now is the exact right time to think and plan for that year. As we can’t properly prepare for Shabbat 5 minutes before it begins, we cannot properly plan for the shmita year just as it arrives.

So, what is shmita all about?

Shmita is the Biblically mandated ‘Sabbatical Year’ of rest and release, when agriculture and commerce were simultaneously re-adjusted to enable a more equitable, just and healthy society, economy and environment. During this period of time, debts would be forgiven, agricultural land would lie fallow, private land holdings would become open to the commons, and staples such as food storage and perennial harvests would be redistributed and accessible to all. The central message is that the Shmita paradigm structured all economic and agricultural activity so that it served the wellbeing of citizens and society, not the other way around. Learn more at

But, why are we planning for the shmita year in New York City or San Francisco or anywhere outside of Israel?

While you might think that shmita  doesn’t apply to your life in the modern world, bringing the ideas and values of shmita can be instrumental in creating focused change in your community.  Shmita can become an educational tool for action, a framework for change, an awareness campaign in your community. There are many ways to bring the ethics of shmita into your own life and to prepare for the upcoming shmita year. Check out the shmita project website for some ideas to help you get started. If you want to join a growing network of individuals, organizations, and communities that are working to create a healthier and more sustainable world rooted in the values of the shmita cycle, check out the Shmita Network.

This is the first of a seven part series about the shmita study group. Look for more updates as the group continues to meet throughout the fall and early winter.