An Ancient Ordinance for a New Age

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seedlings-in-rows_w725_h544The Torah commands that in the Land of Israel every seventh year must be a sabbatical, in which the land lies fallow and becomes ownerless. What’s more, all debts must be forgiven. With the next sabbatical, or Shmitah, year beginning this fall, a group of Jewish environmental and social activists is reinterpreting this concept. Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin helped launch The Sova Project to spark a Jewish conversation about environmental and economic sustainability. Shmitah, Rabbi Cardin writes, is a “check on the market economy,” hearkening back to the Garden of Eden and a “vision that the earth and all its bounty are gifts from God that are to be used by us all, but not otherwise possessed, amassed or hoarded by just some of us.” The Sova Project has created materials for a Rosh Hashanah seder, which can be found at sovaproject.org. In addition, Hazon, a non-profit devoted to sustainable communities, offers a Shmitah Sourcebook that can be purchased or downloaded at hazon.org.