Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Pesach Granola and Shmita

I wrote the following last week for submission to a comment piece in a Jewish Newspaper, but then the Israeli elections happened and other things needed commenting on (will be published this Friday, although of course has been said many times over now). 

I was just reading an online article about Passover cereal, and how to make your own, by simply buying matzah farfel (apparently the author’s home town of Dallas always has a run on said farfel), and some other wholesome ingredients like almonds, and honey, to make a Pesadich granola. I have to confess I had to look up what matzah farfel is. In case you are as ignorant as I, it turns out it’s broken up pieces of matzah.
 I am now trying to figure out why on earth a town would have a run on purchasing broken pieces of matzah. If you don’t find enough in your boxes of matzah, surely someone capable of making Pesach Granola could break up some matzah?
So begins our annual Pesach madness. With jars of salt water for sale, not to mention the various attempts to imitate our year round pleasures such as pasta, and the sugar coated imitation cereal which always looks promising…
This Pesach falls in a Shmita year – a Sabbatical for the Land of Israel, intended to balance the 6 previous years of free market consumption and growth. Perhaps this should be seen as an opportunity for the modern world too. For one week of this year, we could embrace the simple lifestyle at the heart of Shmita, by  trying to enjoy a simple, healthy diet; vegetables, fish, meat, potatoes, soup, home broken matzah!

 In the time of the Biblical Shmita, I imagine that communities would have had to have worked closely together to survive the restrictions of a year with no harvest and no planting, and that which was produced was not owned by anyone in particular. I’m not suggesting we all assume anything on the shelves of a kosher store is ours, every-ones, and no-ones, but that perhaps our lives, and our experience of Pesach, might be a little easier, healthier, and meaningful, if we allowed the balancing nature of Shmita to guide our Pesach diets, rather than a panic about all that is suddenly unavailable, and a reliance on over processed, over shipped pre-made goods. And if we can share these simple meals with our neighbours and community, so much the better.  

Monday, 23 March 2015

A Shmita Seder Plate

This Pesach is special - this Pesach is Pesach of the Shmitta year. So when we remember our own slavery, and journey to a home land, we remember the slavery we and others are still not free from, what the land means to us beyond home, and the responsibilities that come with our freedom. Here are some suggestions for an alternative, Shmita Seder plate to accompany your usual one (you can ask your guests to guess what on earth each one is about!) to help us remember the important messages of this year, and to enliven our seder conversations. But I'm sure you can come up with your own symbols and alternatives!
Share your ideas below for all of us!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

TuBishvat Shmita

Having set myself a Shmita Manifesto, I had every intention of keeping you all updated on this little blog. Alas I have failed, but I promise to check in and reflect soon. In the meantime one of my commitments was to produce liturgy to bring Shmita through our whole year and not just into the beginning, so here is where you can find my Shmita Seder for Tu Bishvat (the New Year for Trees) when normally we would plant trees, but this year we might instead take time to appreciate them (maybe even hug a tree!)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Day 8: Working towards next year

Chanukah brings light into the darkest time of the year. This year was a special Chanukah as it falls in the Shmita year, and calls us to bring light into the world in specific ways; by challenging food poverty, slavery, ecological destruction and energy waste. Could you make 1 days resource/ energy/ oil last for 8 days? Can you take time this year to bring greater equilibrium into your world, or into our world? Chanukah has become a time of giving and sharing, beautiful Shmita principles, but it can also be a time for re-imagining our the way we gift, and thinking about justice towards our resources, our environment, our economy. May the first year in our next cycle of 7 also help us work towards these goals, so that our next Shmita Chanukah causes us to ask different questions. 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Day 7: Making giving count

א  מִקֵּץ שֶׁבַע-שָׁנִים, תַּעֲשֶׂה שְׁמִטָּה.
1 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
ב  וְזֶה, דְּבַר הַשְּׁמִטָּה--שָׁמוֹט כָּל-בַּעַל מַשֵּׁה יָדוֹ, אֲשֶׁר יַשֶּׁה בְּרֵעֵהוּ:  לֹא-יִגֹּשׂ אֶת-רֵעֵהוּ וְאֶת-אָחִיו, כִּי-קָרָא שְׁמִטָּה לַיהוָה.
2 And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release that which he hath lent unto his neighbour; he shall not exact it of his neighbour and his brother; because the LORD'S release hath been proclaimed.

 (Deutereonomy 15)
100 years ago Chanukah was not the festival of presents, although small gifts of money were given (originally to teachers, and then to children) which then became todays chocolate Chanukah Gelt. Money was central to Shmita as well, with debts being forgiven (as above) and can be seen as a core Jewish value. Perhaps this Chanukah you could give a gift of an investment? Many charities such as Tzedek offer micro grants or key gifts such as goats that allow a business to be built and a family to work themselves out of poverty. How can we give at Chanukah that will make a difference beyond our selves, and share resources where they are most needed?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Day 6: Bringing light to the poor - clever Solar Power!

Food for all in Shmita, at Chanukah could come to mean bringing light to all. Is there a solution to offer those in poverty the comfort and opportunity a simple light provides, even within slums?: An amazing Shmita example of making a difference through light during the festival of light.

Day 5: The Bees can bring light too!

Shmita was designed to allow the land to rest and to be more productive after it’s down time. Today our agriculture relies heavily on bees, an insect which is dying in terrifying numbers, the loss of which will radically alter our food choices (nearly a third of our food would become unavailable - In honour of the bees and to remember their plight this chanukah why not make bees wax candles tonight - all you need is sheets of bees wax and wicks, and an ability to roll one within the other. These instructions should help: