The second night of Lab/Shul’s year long exploration into Shmita, the Levitical commandment to rest the soil every seven years was Wednesday, November 12th.
Shmita a measure of time: From Interdiction to inspiration – opened a shared conversation towards unfolding shmita’s relevance in a 21st Century heavy urban, technologically enhanced environment.
Reading Leviticus 25 1-7 the conversation started with land as a real property asset class, which of course it is. After further investigation we saw time defined as an asset class and, property (space) as its vehicle.
Two immediate questions surfaced:
1) If we rest the land is to rest every 7th year what obligations do we hold during the six years preceding the seventh year?
2) What is the cost, where is the benefit of resting an asset in a changing culture?
Of course these questions are not cannot be quickly answered. They require us to ask about how we manage the expectations of time which precede conduct.
Shmita, as a commandment is intended to strengthen our bond with G-d, to do that we must give rest to our self-imposed time requirements. We are commanded, challenged to think proactively ahead, to anticipate the resting of an income producing asset every seven years in order to align our behaviors for the six preceding years. These six preceding years form the pillars of conduct enabling the seventh year.
Perhaps it is not a coincidence this meeting was held in The Garment District of New York City. Could there possibly be a garment manufacturer who doesn’t change their product line after six years? Is there a software or cell phone that thrives on the market longer than six years? Do we as individuals change over six years?
In a time sensitive way these questions extend beyond the 90 minutes allotted last night, as they must. Not because the questions couldn’t be answered but because the answers could not be experienced. We are driven to experience life proactively. Shmita is an experience —not a thought. We conceive of our lives as thoughts, we are accountable for our lives — in actions.
Much of our time learning together last night happened in the exchanges explaining digital tyranny. Those emergent neurological experiences of noise/vibrations echoing the next communication link. Our cultural neuroplasticity is a wired network of learned responses, commands to respond to next communication.
Shmita in culture (agriculture is the earliest predecessor of the word “culture”) speaks metaphorically to boundless taking energy from the earth combining it with sunlight — turning chlorophyll into corn. Chlorophyll, the blood of plants, is the purest form of energy. Our use of time is our purest expression of creative energy. For maximum productivity we must periodically plan to re-examine what we are doing.
Shmita is both a positive and a negative commandment. At once inspiring (a positive commandment) us to set aside land for one year every seventh year and, prohibiting (a negative commandment) us from farming that same land every seventh year.
Our lives are defined by the consequence of our actions. Creating pillars of conduct, drawing gates around incremental tyrannies help us respond to life, for life. Shmita is a template – a positive commandment – for understanding the seasons of life. When we overlook the changing seasons of the land on which we stand, the energy which sustains us will fail to produce results.
Shmita & Space: Next time in Lab/Shul
written by Study Salon participant Brian Thompson