9" x 45"
Book folds to 10" x 11"
Shmita is the year of rest in the
seven-year agricultural cycle of
Jewish life. It is a year when the land lies fallow, when debts are forgiven, and when we help those
n need. Shmita is a unique holiday.
A time of rest for both the land and the people. In this era of climate change, it is an ecologically sound practice is for land stewardship. Hopefully, this suspension of our usual lives propels us into a more present and spiritual existence, united with the rhythm of nature.
I had the honor of studying about shmita with Rabbi Marianne Novak and by reading other rabbinical commentaries. The resulting four-foot long mixed media piece is my visual response. This project depicts the land of Israel, from the fertile hills of the Jezreel valley down to the arid mountains of the Sinai, from dawn to dusk, from season to season, with autumn rains setting the centerpiece of the travelogue. I am taking the viewer on both a physical and spiritual journey.
The word shmita in Hebrew is spelled and read from right to left in the large letters on each panel. Beneath each large letter is another word reading downwards, which amplifies the idea of shmita and gives it more context. From right to left the words are Shechina, Moed, Yachad, Tov and Adonai. Shechina is the compassionate and nurturing feminine attribute of God. Indeed, the landscape has the sensuous curves of a pregnant woman, her hillsides bursting with fruiting vine and nut trees.
The word on the next panel is Moed meaning festivals in Hebrew. This panel reminds us that shmita is a celebration of the land and the covenant we have with God. We are simply stewards of the land and as such, are borrowing it for the short term. We are at the behest of the land, always at the whims of drought or floods.
The word on the center panel is Yachad meaning together in Hebrew. Our faith in this year of suspension lies with the promise that God will provide us with a natural bounty for our sustenance. The skies have darkened and there is a storm overhead. The pomegranate tree is losing its leaves in the strong wind. It is now fall, the Jewish month of Cheshvan, when we start prayers for rain, and when the tragic event of Kristallnacht took place (lightning symbolizes shattering glass) and marked the beginning of the Holocaust.
The next panel spells Tov meaning good in Hebrew. Time passes and we move into spring, different seasons and different festivals. God states, it is good, after many phases of the earth’s creation. So, it is good that we shift from the rains of fall and winter to the winds of spring and we travel into the rockier landscape of southern Israel where trees grapple with the dry earth to bring forth life.
In the last panel which spells Adonai, God, we see the setting sunlight fading to orange in the desert and mountains of the Sinai. Symbolically, Heh (the large letter) signifies Creation. Just as the feminine attribute of God began this cycle, the masculine name of God ends this cycle. God has given us the power and intellect to love this land and use it wisely. Shmita lets us celebrate the land with a year of rest and rejuvenation. As we flip the book around we begin the cycle once more with praise for our spiritual partner.