This Rosh Hashanah is also the start of the Shmita, the sabbatical year. The Torah’s Shmita focuses on land as the nexus of our relationship to Earth and demands that we let it rest from the damage caused by agriculture. To ensure that everyone can participate, all debts are released. During the Shmita year, the produce of the land is shared so that everyone has what they need to survive. 

Today, Earth is threatened by the exploitation of fossil fuels that is causing damage that was unimaginable to our ancestors. But Shmita gives me hope. The underlying assumption of the commandment to observe Shmita is that transformation is possible. Not only can we change ourselves individually through teshuva, but we can change as a society. We can change the most fundamental rules by which we live to put our world on a sustainable path.

“The Seven Year Switch” by Mirele B. Goldsmith

For six long years we’ve muddled along, this year we can right the wrong
Why not try a change of pace, take a break from the rat race
Listen to my Shmita pitch, get ready for the seven year switch

Fertile fields are getting worn, we can’t keep planting so much corn
Leave the chemicals at the store, fertilize just with manure
Time to climb out of that ditch, get ready for the seven year switch

Drilling for coal and oil and gas, ruining the land for short term cash
Heating up the atmosphere, let’s stop it for the Shmita year
We can’t afford even one more glitch, get ready for the seven year switch

Mortgage, student, medical debt, the Torah says forgive and forget
Release it so we’ll all be free, reduce the inequality
The one percent are way too rich, get ready for the seven year switch

The rules of the sabbatical may sound very radical
But if we are adaptable, we can make it practical
Now’s the time to scratch that itch, let’s go ahead and make the switch!

Words and music to “The Seven Year Switch” copyright Mirele B. Goldsmith, 2014.

Mirele B. Goldsmith is co-chairperson of Jewish Earth Alliance, a national grassroots network empowering Jewish communities to raise a moral voice for climate action to the U.S. Congress.

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