Behar-bechukkotai check in
The last shabbat or two shabbatot in Reform and Israeli communities we have been reading the portions of Behar and Bechukkotai, two of the Torah portions that teach us some of the rules about Shmita (sabbatical) and Yovel (jubilee).
So it seems like a good time to have a Shmita manifesto check in.
Last week I received this email;
It feels like this must be a good sign for the first of my Shmita commitments... If online traders are noticing my Shmita fast, and deciding to change their approach to my inbox, perhaps it will help begin next year with the refresh button functioning as I would hope it would- just as shabbat helps me reset for the week ahead, Shmita should help me begin the next cycle differently, refreshed.
I won't pretend there have not been lapses in the fast- but it has been fairly solid, and most compromises have been second hand purchases, or items that I hadn't dared hope I might need having successfully planted the one kind of (human) seed Shmita allows and become pregnant (not that it was a total surprise, as regular readers will know, but with IVF I have always tried to keep my hope in check where possible).
I have been particularly touched by what a change in attitude to what is worth clinging on to in my own closets has allowed others to let go of. A friend in need of a particular item that I had and hadn't really used (despite loving it) received said item- why should it sit in my cupboard while she spent scarce money that she really couldn't spare on a new one. In return, unexpectedly, I received 3 boxes of her daughters clothes, which have proved invaluable as the little one is continually outstripping the size labels in her clothes! Others have opened their lofts and cupboards to provide me with items they no longer needed, because I was humble enough to ask for if, rather than press order on a phone app that allows me to purchase in under a minute.
The second of my commitments was about pressing the reset button on my online usage. I originally thought I should cut my use of email and social media out before 7am and after 7pm. This was the hardest thing to do and the first thing I realised I would fail at. 7am isn't a difficult ask. 7pm just as the toddler goes to bed and the working day is officially over is the only real time for such things as social media! Email could still use some reigning in, but I have used time this year to reset out of control unread mails, and to shift how I use social media. Yes I've been on it post 7pm, but I have changed how I use it, particularly in relationship to its social nature. If there is a birthday and I feel the urge to reach out, I have made the conscious decision to personally reach out by phone or messenger, rather than a post to the wall (for example) and this in turn has led to re-connections and real human connections, as I sense Shmita did for communities, transformed from relationships of commerce to those of mutual survival and support.
The other parts of the manifesto have somehow come more easily- skill sharing, cooking more from scratch, liturgy, reading appropriately, giving to food banks... And perhaps parts of the real Shmita also came more easily.
The pieces that truly stand out for me the more I walk through Shmita and the more I teach about Shmita, the more it seems to me this whole exercise is about relationships; that between individuals and other parts of their communities, that between us and the land/environment, that between each of us and the anonymous makers of that which we consume, that between each of us and God.
As we pass the half way point of the Shmita year, we also acknowledge the coming start of the next cycle. It is for me a realisaton that Shmita is not about 1 year. It is a cycle of 7 years, and now is the time to begin planning and thinking about the next 6. Where do I want to be when the next sabbatical begins? What do we want of our organizations? Our communities? Our relationships? Jewish time offers us opportunity of growth, journeying, improvement, togetherness.
Is it ever too early to plan for the next Shmita?