The biblical concept of a Sabbatical, or Shmita, incorporating a release or rest every seventh year, is being pushed in the UK this week by an international movement with a growing momentum.
Rabbis and other educators convened at West Hampstead’s JHub for the Shmita Summit to discuss what has been described as “a biblical safety net” and in particular its modern day relevance.
“We’re trying to re-understand what is an immensely powerful concept,” said Robin Moss, Israel Engagement Educator at UJIA.
Writing in the Jewish News this week, Rabbi David Mason of Muswell Hill shul explains that the Bible talks about leaving land fallow every seven years, releasing debt and even releasing slaves. “These days, most of us are not farmers with slaves,” said Moss. “But there is a growing movement to bring the idea into the modern world.”
Today’s economic system produced “inevitable inequality,” said Rabbi Mason, who noted that revisionist Zionist thinker Zeev Jabotinsky and former chief rabbi Lord Sacks supported the idea of periodic release “from the burdens of the past”.
Commenting on this week’s summit, Moss said: “The next Shmita is in 2014/15, beginning at Rosh Hashanah, so we’ve been looking at two projects in conjunction with the Jewish Social Action Forum (JSAF).”
The two focus areas will be food banks, with shuls twinned with local initiatives, and the international garment trade, supporting a movement called ‘Labour behind the Label,’ which asks companies to make sure their suppliers pay a living wage.
“Both projects address the theme of inequality, one in the Far East, the other much closer to home. Growing inequality means Shmita is as relevant today as ever.”