Erez Hemda Environmental Program
The Eretz Hemdah Institute in Jerusalem trains Rabbis for community work in Israel and the Diaspora. The program of learning is the most intensive, deep and comprehensive program in Torah studies in Israel and the world. In this eight-year program, the Rabbis are preparing for the highest positions in the rabbinical world, in Israel and abroad. The students of Eretz Hemdah are carefully chosen through difficult entrance examinations, both oral and written (out of dozens who apply each year, only 3-5 are accepted) to ensure they will be able to succeed in these difficult and challenging programs.
All these programs include the study of Tanach and Jewish philosophy, focusing both on breadth and on depth. The scholars must also complete a series of enrichment courses in general subjects including secular law, psychology, sociology, homiletics, etc. This knowledge provides them with the tools to better serve in the fields of Jewish education and spiritual leadership, and to be able to cope with different social problems that unfortunately are a part of any Jewish community, such as tragedy, poverty, divorce, etc.
The Environmental Educational Project
The commandment of Shmita is an exceptional commandment in that once in seven years we are commanded not to work the land and let it remain fallow. The economic implications of such a commandment are tremendous, and thus it is accompanied with a promise of a blessing to the land and its fruits.
At the center of this commandment is the environmental understanding that the while God gave the land for man’s use, it must be preserved and not abused, so that the land will be able to sustain future generations as well. This idea runs through many of the details of the commandment, including the sanctity of the fruits of the seventh year, and the prohibition to waste them.
In the recent Shmita year, Eretz Hemdah, in cooperation with KKL-JNF, ran an educational program in Hebrew, studying the different facets of the Shmita year and the environmental and educational ideas that they reflect. Thousands of people all across Israel participated.
We would now like to expand the project and make it relevant and available every year and not just during the Shmita year. In today’s highly economic driven and fast-paced world, the message of taking a pause for reflection and making sure we are not living in a destructive fashion to the world is relevant every year and in every place in the world. What Shabbat has served for the workweek, first among Jews and later adopted almost universally, Shmita can serve for the environment.
In addition, we would like to make the educational program available in other languages, primarily the English language, thus enabling us to spread the message to broader audiences. While the commandment of Shmita is binding only in the land of Israel, the environmental and societal values of Shmita are relevant to all.