Shabbat Ha’aretz: Judaism, Land Use, Social Justice and Climate Change
Cover of "Rav Kook's Introduction to Shabbat Ha'aretz".

Shabbat Ha’aretz: Judaism, Land Use, Social Justice and Climate Change

Cover of "Rav Kook's Introduction to Shabbat Ha'aretz".
Cover of “Rav Kook’s Introduction to Shabbat Ha’aretz”.

The next shmita cycle starts this Rosh Hashanah. Hence, September 23 begins the biblical sabbatical year.

For several years Hazon, the largest Jewish environmental organization in North America, has been working to establish the traditional shmita year and cycle, or sabbatical year on the biblical 7-year calendar, as a vehicle for understanding connections between letting land ‘rest’ from extractive and commercial overuse, and the spiritual dimensions of social justice. Shmita is legally mostly only an issue for Israeli agriculture, but it is also becoming a way of talking about religious environmental and social justice concerns. Shmita has the ability to serve as a meaningful jumping off point to authentic Jewish conversations about biblical tools for addressing social issues.

In connection with the beginning of the upcoming sabbatical year, Hazon is publishing the first-ever English translation of the introduction to a 1909 book on shmita by Rav Kook – the first chief rabbi of the modern Jewish community in then-Palestine. The essay is lyrical and mystical, a meditation on the big themes that underlie a religious environmentalism. The book has been translated by Julian Sinclair, an Anglo-Israeli scholar and rabbi — and Vice President at Energiya Global, a leading Israeli solar company that has just developed the first-ever large-scale solar project in Sub-Saharan East Africa. It is accompanied by Rabbi Sinclair’s own introductions to the traditional conception of the sabbatical cycle; to Rav Kook’s life, mystical thought, and relationship to the modern return to Jewish agriculture; and to the ways Jewish tradition can speak to issues of land use, social justice, and climate-change activism in the twenty-first century.

Rav Kook wrote a century ago that “the old will be made new, and the new made holy.”  Introduction to Shabbat Ha’aretz offers a Jewish spiritual approach to the moral life of our physical world—and a lens to see our care for creation in terms deeply grounded in Torah and Jewish thought.

Following the release of the book Rabbi Sinclair, is travelling across the country giving talks about the book. There are two free public events on the Front Range. Registration is welcome but not required. Copies of Shabbat Ha’aretz will be available for purchase and signing.

“Release, Renewal and Rosh Hashanah: How This Shmita Year Could Be Different from All Others”
Monday, September 8, 7:00 pm at Chabad of NW Metro Denver, Westminster

“Shmita for the Modern Day”
Tuesday, September 9, 7:00 pm at Congregation Bonai Shalom, Boulder


Advance Praise for Rav Kook’s Introduction to Shabbat Haaretz

In this brilliant translation of Rav Kook’s work and in his accompanying essays, Julian Sinclair succeeds in clarifying the paradoxes of shmita … a highly valuable and enlightening volume.
—Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, author of The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious

There are few concepts as beautiful (and as radical) as the Jewish idea of a sabbath for the land every seven years. In this utterly fascinating translation, Rav Kook offers a gorgeous and profound hymn from across the decades to the concept, and the able translator provides historical context as well as powerful hope that this great rest and rejuvenation can have practical as well as spiritual meaning in the modern age.
—Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

Rarely can a one-hundred-year-old pamphlet reach across history and shake a reader’s heart and inspire an activist’s hands. Shabbat Ha’aretz, which was revolutionary in the Land of Israel in its time and is revolutionary for American Jews today, does just that. Hazon and Sinclair have done us an enormous service by bringing Rav Kook’s Introduction to Shabbat Ha’aretz into the heart of 21st-century living.
—Rabbi Mishael Zion, author of A Night to Remember: The Haggadah of Contemporary Voices

The concept of Shmita, or a sabbatical year, is not just about religion but resonates across the political spectrum. This timely book points at the necessity for periodic return to core questions of economic sustainability, social equity, citizenship, and debt-release.
—Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO2)

This powerful new translation of and commentary on shmita comes at a moment when we are well-advised to look at how we use time, how we are consuming resources, who owns what and what we should be doing to ensure the survival of ourselves, our communities and our planet. It raises key questions, gives us timeless wisdom and forces us to come up with some new answers. …It has particular roots but universal application.
—Ruth Messinger, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service

As a Christian working on issues of social justice and ecological restoration, one of the most exciting new fronts in contemporary Judaism is the recovery of the sabbatical year. I hope this book will continue to advance that vision of healing not just for Jews, but for all of us.
—Fred Bahnson, author of Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food & Faith


About Becky O'Brien

Hazon is America's largest Jewish environmental organization. We create healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond. Hazon in Colorado is led by Becky O'Brien, Boulder Director and Sarah Kornhauser, Denver Director.

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One comment

  1. Shkoach…this is a wonderful contribution to Rav Kook's legacy.
    This may be of interest to people who want to know more about Rav Kook tz'l.