Be fruitful and multiply... The Shmita cycle
A friend and former congregant recently wrote to jokingly challenge me on how I could justify writing so much about Shmita and not discuss the fact that I had the chutzpah to create a whole new life in the fallow year!
It reminded me that in some senses my body is much more familiar with the fallow than with the fertile, and rather than constantly fighting the fertility with attempts to avoid pregnancy we have had to fight to produce. So it's ironic for sure, but also sweet to invert the power of Shmita in my life.
But it also reminded me that this period of Shmita, of lying fallow, is there in order to allow greater fertility in the larger part of the cycle (which will restart this Sunday evening with the Jewish New Year).
For me the power of Jewish time is in a clever design which manages to take us through cycles to help us live better. We have time set aside to mourn, so that we might learn to live again, time set aside to repent, so that we might do better and get on with living right, time set aside to go on all sorts of journeys, and time to rest so that we might engage and work better for the rest of the week. Likewise this year long Shmita isn't really about the year we live it, but about living better in the other 6 years. I have come to think of it as a sort of refresh button (as Shabbat is) which is just as much about the productivity and positive living it engenders after it's observance as much as the year itself.
So this Rosh Hashanah is as special if not more special than last year when we began our special Shmita year... This year is the start of the fertile period, when we engage, when we produce, when we think about how the Shmita year has changed us and what that will mean in how we live. It is a time to start making plans; where do we want to be in 6 years time? What do we want to have changed when the next fallow year rolls around? The time is now- let's go get fruitful!
Shanah tovah (happy new year!)
PS The first thing I'm buying after my 'fast' is underwear :)