Monday, January 21, 2008

Thoughts on our current state of affairs and Shmitta

A friends post finally gave me the push I needed to write that note I’ve been rolling over in my mind for a few weeks now.

I think I should start with the following. I increasingly find that I approach life - politics, history etc. - through a G-d conscious lens. I sometimes worry that this lens blurs my message and makes it difficult for others to relate. Perhaps. But, I guess everyone runs the risk of being misunderstood.

With this in mind I turn to our current political situation. The term “leaders” is used in the loosest sense when speaking of our current Israeli government sneaking through the back door at Annapolis...with Olmert speaking to the President in way that prompted John Stewart on the Daily Show to ask: “I wonder if Bush's ass is kosher?” Bush, a supposedly G-d fearing man, calls for the division of Jerusalem and the founding of a Palestinian state on land G-d promised to the Jewish People. Sderot is under siege and the world doesn’t blink on eye but bemoans the fate of Gazan residents who have seen the price of luxury commodities such as chocolate, cigarettes and Coke double and triple as a result of the evil Israeli embargo.

Some wonder “why is this happening, why are we in this mess?” A better question is “why is this happening, why are we in this mess now?”

This year is a shmitta year. We tend to think of shmitta purely in terms of agriculture - letting the land rest on the seventh year. But why do we let the land rest? To show that this land is not ours. The land is G-d’s. Just as “Shabbat hayom la’hashem” - “Shabbat is a day for G-d” so to the Sabbatical year. When the laws of shmitta are dismissed there are consequences as set forth in mesechet Shabbat (33a) “Because of the sins of idolatry, illicit sexual relations, and murder and the abrogation of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, exile is brought to the world and they [Israel] are exiled.” And so the Temple was destroyed on a shmitta year and the number of years of the first exile corresponds to the number of shmitta years we failed to observe when we came to Israel the first time around.

We live in a time where many of us are not only witness to the Jewish peoples prophetic return to Zion but we ARE the Jews returning to Zion! In this age of return current events parallel those that transpired centuries ago. Sometimes we forget that this Land belongs not to us but to G-d and every seven years shmitta comes along to remind us. Our grasp on our promised land is tenuous and shaky at best and with every passing shmitta year this point is driven home. G-d puts it in our hands to determine how much of our land we continue to hold. Therefor, 2007-2008 is a shmitta year and the world is calling for the Jewish state to relinquish its claim on Jerusalem and our biblical heartland in Judea and Samaria. 2000-2001 - post camp david when the Israeli government offered Jerusalem to the arabs and was followed by the outbreak of the intifada - was a shmitta year. 1986-1987 the outbreak of the first intifada was a shmitta year. 1979-1980 the signing of the peace treaty between egypt and israel that ultimately lead to the evacuation of Sinai and the destruction of Yamit was a shmitta year…. sensing a pattern? All the players are in place should we not do our utmost to follow the shmitta year. It is not a coincidence that this year is the last of Bush’s presidency and the US is heading towards elections. It’s not “stam” that Jerusalem is on the table. G-d promised this land to the Jews and during shmitta we are forced to grapple with that responsibility and assert our claim on the Land of Israel. Only time will tell the outcome of this shmitta year.

This year with the majority of the Jewish people residing outside of the Land (although those numbers are slowly shifting...) shmitta remains a rabbinical obligation. May we merit to observe the coming shmitta year as a torah obligation among a whole and united people in a complete Eretz Yisrael crowned with our rebuilt Temple.

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