Dear Chloe, Avery, Leila, Mattie,
This Rosh Hashana marks the start of the Shmita year – the Shabbat for the land. Shmita is the oldest sustainability concept on the planet, and it is ours. During Shmita, the land is given a chance to rest. Nothing new is planted and what grows organically grows. Fences come down, and animals and people roam from field to field. What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours. Debts are excused and all people are given a chance to be on equal footing. Hashem asks us to have faith that there will be enough for us in the 7th year and in the 8th year as it will take time for things to grow.
We don’t live off the land like they did in ancient Israel, and we aren’t even required to pay attention to this sabbatical year. But we will pay attention.
The launch of this Shmita year coincides with the largest demonstration on climate change, ever. People will take to the streets. We have taken to the streets. We experienced it together. The experience will take us into the Shmita year and that is very meaningful.
In this Shmita year we will begin to answer the question that I keep asking: What do we do today to prepare for future in a changed world? That changed world might be scary from the vantage point of today, but really it will be very beautiful because people will learn how to live again. Think “eyes-up,” opportunities to help out, and awareness of the world around you.
Daddy and I need to teach you how to live, not make a living.
We need to grow our community and relationships, not our piles of stuff.
We need to let the fences down, share, and have faith.
This Shmita year we will not purchase any new ‘stuff’. Food is not ‘stuff’, nor is toilet paper, nor toothpaste. We will buy that stuff. But we won’t buy other stuff that leaves a negative impact on the planet. We won’t buy the stuff that we don’t need, or the stuff that we just throw out very quickly. And we don’t have to.
First, I bet that there are more than 20 pairs of underwear in Avery’s drawer. I bet that there are enough hand-me-downs in the attic from our wonderful friends to dress Mattie and Chloe for the next, well, ever. I bet that Leila has enough stuff to entertain her, too, already in the house.
Second, we do not live on an island. We live near and around friends who just might have a hammer we could borrow; we actually have 2 that we can lend. We all don’t need a coffee bean grinder – and in fact, I’ve shared one successfully with my mother for years. We can share. We will grow our community by talking to our neighbors and friends. We will draw from our new communities and our old communities.
Third, we repair. I will introduce you to the show maker and very cool knee patches. Surgeons are very good with the needle and thread.
Fourth, we can buy not-new stuff, and there are systems in place that do this. There’s yerdle, and freecycle and the fancy consignment shoppe and the library. I already see the Fisher Price princess Castle on eBay, and Mattie will love it for her birthday. It’ll be brand new to her.
Last, there’s rest.
There’s the notion that we’re done for a bit with newness, and we are now up to enjoying what we have. Since the last Shmita year we’ve had a lot of new – a new Chloe, a new Mattie, a new house with all the fixings, a new car, a new uncle, five new cousins (at least). Now we will settle down and look around and see what our landscape looks like.
Just like we treasure our time around the Shabbat table together each Friday night: a song, yummy food, stories, I am looking forward to treasuring the time together this Shmita year. Yes, and just like we sometimes wish that Shabbat were over a bit sooner, we will wish that Shmita weren’t with us. But we will have no choice – and we will look around and take a deep breath and something new will grow organically from within.
Even if you don’t understand everything that is written here, I hope you do understand that I love you and that Daddy loves you.
May Hashem bless you and guard you. May Hashem make his face shine upon you and be gracious towards you. May Hashem grant you peace. May Hashem prepare your sustenance in a permissible way with contentment and with abundance. And may you be inscribed and sealed for a good, long, life among all the righteous of Israel.