PROJECT HAKHEL - 5782
Shanah Tovah v’ G’mar Chatimah Tovah!
This week in the Jewish calendar, between the High Holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we enter a period known as the Ten Days of Return. During this time, the Book of Life is opened and the fate of the world – and all its inhabitants – is considered: a universal event occurring on a cosmic scale.
We have also just entered a shmita year (5782), otherwise known as a Sabbatical Year, which occurs just once every seven years. Shmita quite literally means “release” and its observance requires that the human being alter their use of the land. It instigates a “letting go” of various systems – agricultural or otherwise – that have become concretized within the human approach to nature. Given that, outside of the land of Israel there is no obligation to observe a shmita year, we have a great opportunity (in the diaspora) to use shmita as a lens – even a metaphor – for our ecological engagement.
This gives us a wonderful framework to develop a deeper relationship between ourselves and our environment. And we can work with this framework, over the course of the coming year, to expand our understanding of what it means to participate in a Sabbath of the Land (Shabbat haAretz).
The Torah describes that after the end of the shmita year, during the subsequent harvest festival of Sukkot (5783), a special event takes place known as hakhel. Hakhel, meaning “gather,” was a historical event that brought the Jewish people, and those living among them, to gather in Jerusalem to listen and hear sections of the Book of Deuteronomy. Although no longer practiced in this way, hakhel demonstrates that a deep understanding – and reflective integration of shmita – can only proceed from a form of active listening. In the same way that shmita can help inform our ecological engagement, so too can hakhel help inform our integration of those very ideas. This is because it challenges us to reinforce the experiential sense of rest and regeneration experienced during shmita. Hakhel only becomes a culmination of the Sabbatical year through a harvesting of our deep listening – on a communal level. And this is applicable to our times.
This shmita year (5782), the Deep Water Initiative is launching Project Hakhel – an open invitation for people to creatively reflect upon how religion and ecological engagement can intersect. We are asking that you submit to us a creative project that demonstrates how you are being inspired to take ecological action during the shmita year. This can take the form of a poem, a song, a film, a prayer, a story about an on-going community project or any other creative medium of your choosing. The goal of your creative project is to illustrate how deep listening, and the principles of shmita, are reinforcing your relationship to place – and how that creativity can reinforce stronger community.
For those who would like to submit a project, please send your project to us via email at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We encourage you to share your submissions on social media with #deepwaterinitiative and #projecthakhel. At the end of each submission cycle, two projects will be awarded a cash prize of $350 each and will be displayed on our website. Copyright of all submitted works remains the copyright of the artist. We retain the right to display your work on Deep Water Initiative platforms. If you have any additional questions, feel free to e-mail us.
Cycle 1 – April 14, 2022
Cycle 2 – June 3, 2022