In Shul After Gaza — Green Rosh Hashana at Anschei Chesed

schmitta

A report from the liberal pew: The Jewish year this year happens to be a Schmittah year, a sabbatical year. According to the Bible, the land is supposed to stay fallow every seventh year. The land needs to rest. It’s not our land. In the Land of Israel, we are supposed to rely on the leftover, wild crop. Green, the vision is utopian, utterly impracticable. This was what Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky talked about for Rosh Hashana at  Anschei Chesed. With its own radical implications but in its own quiet way, he took the opportunity to talk about economic inequality, land ownership, and environmental sustainability, i.e. all the things that make unbearable our entire modern way of life. The talk was global in its perspective even as the rockets and rubble this summer Gaza and Israel, indeed, the entire question of Israel and Palestine hung over every word. Maybe it was just me and I’m reading too much into the talk. But here’s what I heard. The land needs to rest. It’s not our land. It’s no man’s land. About Gaza and the poisoning of the discourse about Israel and Zionism, Rabbi Kalmanofsky stated very clearly that it would be what he called rabbinic malpractice not to talk about them. For that, the congregation will have to wait until Yom Kippur. The talk last Thursday was meant, I think, to lay the groundwork for that discussion on a broader basis of what’s fair and what’s right, on peace and economic justice.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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2 Responses to In Shul After Gaza — Green Rosh Hashana at Anschei Chesed

  1. Mordy says:

    I think centering liberalism in the Torah text is really important. My father gave a beautiful drash earlier in the year about usury laws in the Torah and the horrors of payday loan advances. Schmitta is definitely a great opportunity for discussing things like land ownership (which also shares a famous vort w/ Sukkot) and environmentalism. I wonder though, regarding Gaza, whether it’s honest to draw on these concepts without honoring the Torah’s other missives regarding the land, war and ownership – which don’t always align w/ contemporary leftist ideology.

    • zjb says:

      Yes, yes, but it’s also important to remember that the laws of war and the attitudes towards it, especially in the priestly documents, are a far cry from the way these things get constituted in the modern period by state actors working in state systems. I too don’t want to confuse the Bible with “our” own system of values, but nor would I want to confuse them with the values of those on the other side of our own ideological fences.

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