For those of you who have no clue yet what I am talking about when I say "Shemittah," I am referring to the commandments in the Torah:
"You may plant your land for six years and gather its crops. But during the seventh year, you must leave it alone and withdraw from it. The needy among you will then be able to eat just as you do, and whatever is left over can be eaten by wild animals. This also applies to your vineyard and your olive grove." (Exodus 23:10-11)
AND in Leviticus/Vayikra...
"God spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, telling him to speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you come to the land that I am giving you, the land must be given a rest period, a sabbath to God. For six years you may plant your fields, prune your vineyards, and harvest your crops, but the seventh year is a sabbath of sabbaths for the land. It is God's sabbath during which you may not plant your fields, nor prune your vineyards. Do not harvest crops that grow on their own and do not gather the grapes on your unpruned vines, since it is a year of rest for the land. [What grows while] the land is resting may be eaten by you, by your male and female slaves, and by the employees and resident hands who live with you. All the crops shall be eaten by the domestic and wild animals that are in your land." (Leviticus 25:1-7)
"And if ye shall say: 'What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we may not sow, nor gather in our increase'; then I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth produce for the three years. And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat of the produce, the old store; until the ninth year, until her produce come in, ye shall eat the old store." (Leviticus 25:20-22)
AND in Deuteronomy/Devarim...
"At the end of every seven years, you shall celebrate the remission year. The idea of the remission year is that every creditor shall remit any debt owed by his neighbor and brother when God's remission year comes around. You may collect from the alien, but if you have any claim against your brother for a debt, you must relinquish it...." (Deuteronomy 15:1-6)
"Moses then gave them the following commandment: 'At the end of each seven years, at a fixed time on the festival of Sukkoth, after the year of release, when all Israel comes to present themselves before God your Lord, in the place that He will choose, you must read this Torah before all Israel, so that they will be able to hear it. 'You must gather together the people, the men, women, children and proselytes from your settlements, and let them hear it. They will thus learn to be in awe of God your Lord, carefully keeping all the words of this Torah. Their children, who do not know, will listen and learn to be in awe of God your Lord, as long as you live in the land which you are crossing the Jordan to occupy'." (Deuteronomy 31:10-13)
Ok...so there is a LOT to learn with the shemittah, but an exciting way to start is this fun seder idea for the younger generations or the young at heart. I gathered some simple veggie/fruit platters that I will show you below:
The great news is, our Elohim created the Shabbat even before this sin took place. The neat part about the shemittah, as I told the kids, is that by observing YHVH's commandments, we get a chance to completely get back what it felt like to be in the Garden of Eden! For one day every week known as the Sabbath/Shabbat, and one year every seven known as the shemittah. The sin that Adam committed is now forgiven! We are no longer slaves to working the land, our debts are paid and we can walk freely knowing that our Heavenly Father and His glorious Son have provided our sustenance, physical and spiritual nourishment, for us. We just have to live it out by our acts of faith through obedience!
We also played a numbers game where we counted up to seven, and with each number the children had to name as many Scriptural things having to do with that number. For example, I would say, "The number one." And the children would say, "The first day of creation. Light. Echad. One way to the Father (Yeshua)." By the time we got to seven, we had lots of things to talk about, including the shemittah and the "seven sevens" counting up toward Shavuot and the Jubilee years! (The game idea came from the Jhub "Give It a Rest" Campaign. Will do another whole post on that one hopefully!)
Furthermore, I drew a picture of Joseph on a dry erase board. I drew the head, coat, pants, feet, and hands. I told the children in a minute they'd be able to decorate Joseph's coat and his face with whatever they thought he would have looked like. Then I asked, "Why do you think Joseph has to do with the shemittah?" (None knew.) Then I drew Joseph's hair very long. I went on to explain that Joseph is actually the first reference in the Scriptures of a Nazirite (dealing with the Hebraic thought of the Law of First Mention, "nazir," found in Genesis/Bereshit 49:26), whose hair remained uncut (just like the land was left alone). I then asked if anyone knew about Joseph's story, which some of them were very familiar with. They remembered how Joseph was sold by his brothers as a slave. I then stated, "And in the year of the shemittah, we learn that everyone is released from their debts." I questioned them, "How on earth did Joseph get out of prison?" The children were quiet. I explained that Joseph finally was released from prison for explaining Pharaoh's dream, a perplexity of two sets of seven years. By doing so, he was appointed second in command in all of Egypt, with the job of storing up food during the plentiful years, just as we store up food for the upcoming shemittah year. And by Joseph's obedience, Israel, his brothers, AND the nations were saved. Would it not be wise to follow in his footsteps as well?
Joseph is a favorite Biblical character for children. So I found it was an easy example to help walk them through the different elements of this exciting part of the Torah.
Additionally, we decorated the tables with some green tablerunners, blue and green glitter tulle for the chairs, and my own children made a Lego shemittah city to help me expound on the halacha of this year to my wonderful class! (Will do a separate post on that one.) I pray that you can bring your children into this special season in fun and engaging ways. Have fun and enjoy celebrating this extra special time of year!
May we all find ways to embrace Your commandments, Abba, and teach our children Your ways. Amen.