Shmita Harachaman: A Musical Liturgy to Remember the Shmita Year At Every Meal

David Seidenberg

, Nili Simhai, Jonah Adels

About David Seidenberg

David and Nili have been leaders in Jewish earth-based and environmental education for decades. Nili Simhai was the director of Teva from 1999 – 2013 and is now Director of Environmental and Agricultural Education at Abundance Farm in Northampton, MA. Rabbi David Seidenberg has been at the forefront of developing Jewish ecotheology since its beginning, and started researching shmita in 1981. Ordained at JTS and also by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, his doctoral dissertation at JTS was published in 2015 as his book “Kabbalah and Ecology.” Jonah Adels, z”l, an educator and activist beloved by many in the Jewish environmental community, worked at Eden Village and as an educator on the Teva Topsy-Turvy Bus, and was a PhD student at the Yale School of Forestry. He wrote the Sosne Niggun near the holiday of Shavuot. Jonah died tragically in a car accident in the summer of 5774.This liturgy was born on the eve of the last shmita cycle, erev 5775, when Nili sought liturgy to mark the shmita year and asked David to write something. After attending Jonah’s funeral together, Nili had an inspiration that the new liturgy and Jonah’s niggun would make the perfect pairing, and put them together.

About Shmita Harachaman: A Musical Liturgy to Remember the Shmita Year At Every Meal

The blessing after meals is a traditional place in Jewish liturgy to mark sacred time, and eating is the one activity where everyone- not just farmers -can connect to the shmita year. Adding a harachaman for shmita to Birkat Hamazon right after the Shabbat Harachaman is a wonderful way to remember all aspects of the shmita year — the land’s rest, our love and respect for the land, and our own liberation from want and greed. The liturgy does this poetically using three different Hebrew words starting with the root letters Shin-Bet: yashiv — make our hearts return to the land, neishev — so we may dwell with her, b’shovtah — in her (the land’s) resting, which connect to one of the names for shmita, Shanat shabbaton, a year of complete rest. Declaring our commitment to the Earth, at the heart of this Harachaman, is one reason why Nili chose Jonah Adels’ Sosne Niggun, the other being that the niggun’s beauty and celebratory feeling fit the words so well. Since the liturgy is just one line, it can be used in other contexts and remembered easily. We share it on and other sites in a pdf that can be cut into eight strips to use as inserts in benschers.During the last shmita year, 5775, this harachaman was sung in our homes, and was taught to varied groups of people on Shabbat, as well as for the Tu Bishvat seder. In the intervening six years, we have also sung the niggun without the shmita words at that point in Birkat Hamazon to remember that every year is part of the shmita cycle. We are excited to share this liturgy for shmita 5782, along with the practice of singing the niggun in Birkat Hamazon “fallow” of words in the other six years.
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