Mississippi Kites : Shemitah and Release

Aaric Eisenstein

About Aaric Eisenstein

The Avian Rebbe teaches Jewish wisdom seen in the beauty of birds. I bought my first camera just as Covid-19 hit, in anticipation that “alone and outside” was about to be our new reality. Technical skills developed over time. Artistic awareness grew. I did not, however, anticipate the overpowering joy of recognizing Divine gifts in both the natural world and religious tradition. Sharing these gifts is what I do as the Avian Rebbe.

About Mississippi Kites : Shemitah and Release

These are Mississippi Kites. While parking, I saw them overhead seeking a hunting perch. I knew where in my park they’d land, and sure enough they did. The sun hadn’t quite crested the ridge, and the birds were still too shadowed for a good photograph. I stood there willing the sun, “Rise faster!” I got up on my toes, putting a little body English into it…. Would they wait? Or would they hunt in the false dawn leaving me with only “what if’s?” I stood there, anxious and frustrated. I took hundreds of too-dark exposures, as if somehow clicking the shutter could force the lighting to improve.5782 is a shemitah year. Tanakh prescribes a 7-year cycle for replenishing agricultural land. It is a life-and-death leap of faith to forgo cultivation for a full year. Literally, though, “shemitah” means “release.” My rabbi taught this shemitah year, especially, we should consider what we can release. Can we acquire less and instead utilize better what we already have? His question’s simplicity belies the profound challenge it raises. Can we release ourselves from the internal urge towards “doing/getting more and more?” Can we substitute a trust in “provide-nce” for our individual, active agency?As an artist, precise control is my defining paradigm. My photography fuses technological proficiency with wildlife knowledge and adds aesthetic considerations. My teaching must be concise, informed, and resonant. It is all controlled. So what to release? Perhaps I can release the urge to control that which can’t be controlled. Perhaps I can release worry, replacing it with surety there will always be another bird. Can I rotate the dial away from agency and towards acceptance? Can we, all of us, release anxiety and supplant it with faith? The Kites remained; the sun rose; and my faith in shemitah, in release, was confirmed.