Fallow Field

Larry Lesser

About Larry Lesser

I’m a father, husband, son, and brother, and an award-winning songwriter/poet/educator/author who synthesized decades of my eclectic Jewish journey (https://larrylesser.com/judaism) into a new multi-genre trove of 24 highly original non-liturgical non-denominational songs, https://larrylesser.com/sparks/, including “Seven Circles.” The album’s deep, diverse, and accessible approach has been recognized in the Jewish education world (e.g., its environmental song “Rowboat” is featured in the fall 2020 issue of NewCAJE’s journal, The Jewish Educator) as well as in the secular music world as a 2021 New Mexico Music Awards Finalist for Album of the Year as well as for 3 other categories: Best Humorous Song, Best Bluegrass Song, and Best Religious Song. The album has also had NPR station interviews, known airplay of 11 different songs, and critical praise across streams from Jewish and music communities. The album was one of the achievements that led to my being recognized as a 2021 Hadar Jewish Wisdom Fellow. A former Houston Jewish day school teacher, I became a professor based in El Paso where I give classes and concerts (sometimes combined!) at campus, congregational and community events. Tapping my education/outreach skillset and varied Jewish experiences, I enjoy writing and performing songs to connect with any audience.

About Fallow Field

Through meeting my beshert, Laurie, I had my first experience of Shabbat as a full (25-hour) day. When I decided to try not working on Shabbat, I feared falling behind on academia’s publish-or-perish treadmill, but Jewish tradition was wiser and my output actually increased in quality and quantity! Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tradition of a professor’s sabbatical comes from the Torah’s command to work the field six years and then give it a year’s rest. I wrote “Fallow Field” while dating Laurie in northern Colorado with abundant rural farmland in view as I began to tangibly internalize the concept of renewal by periodically lying fallow.The gestalt of full Shabbat observance was mysterious and what helped me appreciate it was the fallow field metaphor because I’d heard that crop fields or gardens benefit from giving the soil time to heal and replenish nutrients which in turn enliven the food we take in. I learned more about biodynamic agriculture from Laurie’s membership in Happy Heart Farm, Colorado’s first community supporting agriculture farm. The lyric was published in that farm’s Oct. 1997 newsletter (as well as in Houston’s Oct. 28, 2004 Jewish Herald-Voice).Whether Shabbat or Shmita, the regular ceasing of regular activities frees us up to notice spiritual rhythms and to reaffirm we have the emunah to honor our spiritual commitments, come what may. And we have the chance to see ourselves less as owner and more as steward in relationship to others as we cultivate and practice generosity comparable to opening our fields to those who might want to come and partake of the fruits. These profound spiritual lessons can inspire and guide us holistically even if we live outside the land where Shmita laws apply.
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