Shmita – A Year Apart

Deirdre Gabbay

About Deirdre Gabbay

Deirdre Gabbay is director of The Shmita Project Northwest, an organization dedicated to bringing attention to the Hebrew calendar’s seven-year Shmita cycle which centers the relationship between the earth and the wellbeing of the human and more-than-human world, through education, inspiration, community-building, and programmatic support. She founded Ahavat v’Avodat HaAdamah, “Love and Service of the Earth,” in 2015 to establish an environmental presence for the Pacific Northwest rooted in Jewish text, tradition and practice, specifically to support a response to climate change. Deirdre is a member of Congregation Beth Shalom, Seattle. Together with her husband she is raising a family on Queen Anne. She blogs at, where all of her divrei Torah (sermons) can be found.

About Shmita – A Year Apart

This is a poem that I wrote for a book of piyyutim for our synagogue’s high holiday services at the beginning of the last Shmita year, in 5775.

Shmita – A Year Apart

A year apart. A held breath that lets the whole earth breathe. A respite.

What could it be? What will fill the space created by such cessation?

Will weeds fill the cracks and empty spaces? Will their flowers glow and surprise us? Will bees nestle in their pollen? And hummingbirds drink their nectar?

Will unexpected time open up before us, like animal paths through a wilderness?

Will we learn to make or mend? Will calm observation lead to the smile of understanding? What will our children learn about learning?

Will we go hungry, when the markets close? Will we find our way back to the garden? To the field? Into the forest, where the nettles, and mushrooms, and fruiting vines abide?

Will we open our gates, our doors, our pantries and cupboards?

Will we learn the names of new people, new friends, new plants; our wild neighbors?

If our exile came about because we forgot to let the land keep its sabbaths, what will homecoming feel like?