Sacred Work, Sacred Rest: Free Time For A Free People

New from the SOVA blog by Rabbi Arthur Wasow of the Shalom Center

Original post can be found at
“Six days shall you labor and do all your work; but on the seventh day you shall rest.”
Why? Because this teaches you the deepest truth of the Cosmos, that a rhythm of Doing and Being is part of every molecule and every galaxy, every human and every tree and tiger. (Exod 20: 8-11)
Why? To make real your own freedom – and the freedom of the workers who are bound to you. For only slaves must work all the time. (Deut. 5: 12-15)
Six years shall you labor and make economic growth, but on the seventh you shall rest, yes rest: Restfulness to the exponential power of Restfulness. (Lev. 25: 1-24).
Why? Because the Earth has a covenant with God that requires its right and its duty to rest. If you – that is, WE—refuse to let the Earth rest, it will rest anyway –on our heads. Through drought, famine, flood, plague, exile. (Lev. 26, esp. 31-38 and 43; II Chron. 36: 20-21)

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Shmita Today: Oppressive Mortgages & Student Debt

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow

On July 1, with Congress having failed to pass any legislation about student loans, the interest rate on them doubled.
As Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out:
“Right now, the government lends money every day to big banks at less than 1% interest. [The interest rate it demands from students was 3.4% till June 30, and is now 6.8%.] Right now the federal government is making a profit from our students. Just last month, the Congressional Budget Office calculated that the government will make $51 billion this year off student loans.”
This in a society that has disemployed 14 million people who want and need to work full time. Many of these millions are college graduates who can no longer pay off these loans.
What is the solution? Let’s consult a sacred teaching of the Torah —
At the end of every seventh year, you shall cancel/ release/ forgive/ annul/ all debts. This is the procedure: Everyone who has lent money to a neighbor writes it off. You must not press your neighbor or your kinfolk for payment: This release comes from YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh , the Interbreath of Life. (Deuteronomy 15 : 1-2)

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Shmita & Hydroponics/Aquaponics

by Yigal Deutscher
This past week, the Urban Adamah farm in Berkeley installed an aquaponics gardening system in their greenhouse. Aquaponics is a soil-free farming system that combines hydroponics (growing in a medium of water and dissolved nutrients) and aquaculture (fish farming). In the combined system, the fish add nutrients to the water that is used to grow the food (their waste is high in nitrogen, a much needed plant growth stimulant), and the overall holistic system provides a harvest of both mature veggies and fish. Read more about Urban Adamah’s system here:


This method has become a highly productive farming system in areas where soil quality is low and where land access is limited. It has also become a permaculture technique utilized on farms trying to reduce waste, and create more closed-loop systems. The interesting aspect in regards to Shmita is that aquaponics, at least on the surface level, seems like it can be practiced without alteration during the Shmita year. The agricultural implications during the Shmita year is that no soil can be tilled and no seeds can be sown. Obviously this raises a question of where the food will come from during this year. One stance we are taking at the Shmita Project is a strong investment in establishing local perennial food systems (fruit/nut trees, wild edibles), as harvesting from these food sources would not be a problem during the actual Shmita year. But what about alternative, creative growing methods, such as aquaponics?


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The Land Shall Rest: Exploring Shmita in the Diaspora

New from the SOVA blog by Rabbi Ebn Leader and Rabbi Margie Klein.

Original post can be found at
In the Jewish calendar, the next Shmita year will commence in 2014, and Jews around the world are beginning to think about it.
In North America for example through the Shmita Project and other efforts, Hazon, the Jewish Farm School, and other groups are embracing Shmita as an opportunity to explore Jewish values around land, food, and sustainability. The Shmita Project encourages people not only to hold study groups, but to plant “Shmita gardens” that follow the Shmita laws in our own backyards and practice alternate economic models that promote collaboration and sharing.
The Torah’s mandate to let the land lie fallow for a year raises many serious questions. What would it mean to forgo agricultural activity and the economic structures that follow from it? What would it mean to spend a year treating the fruit that then grows of its own accord as ownerless, so that everyone has the same right to resources of the land? (more…)

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