In the Jewish tradition the Sabbath, the seventh day, is a day for people to rest. Similarly, the Shmita year, the seventh year, was historically a time for the land to lay fallow: to rest and regenerate. At the end of the Shmita year during the annual harvest holiday of Sukkot, all would gather for a Hakhel, a convocation, to celebrate and remember collective values and agreements.
Living Tree Alliance, an outdoor Jewish education center in Moretown, is celebrating the end of this Shmita year at its ninth annual Sukkot on the Farm Festival on October 15 and 16. This year’s festival will include a modern-day Hakhel event, asking the question: What might it look like to bring the spirit of this ancient ceremony to a field in Moretown?
“The land gets a Sabbath every seven years because living things need to rest and regenerate, and the land is alive,” explained Rabbi Lee Moore, an organizer of the Sukkot festival. Living Tree is dedicated to regenerative agricultural practices and recognizes the enduring wisdom of this teaching to let the land rest, according to Sephirah Stacey Oshkello of Living Tree Alliance.
“It’s a biological truth and an imperative to remind us that we’re part of these systems,” Lee noted.
Acocrding to Oshkello, although Hakhel has scarcely been observed since biblical times, Living Tree will revive and renew the tradition, assembling as a community to honor regenerative practices and to envision a more sustainable future.
“As communities in this bioregion, what are our sustainability goals? What do we want to see for the next seven years?” Lee asked. “One reason Shmita is so valuable as a concept is because it requires us to think in seven-year increments. We can get better at considering future generations by together imagining the next seven years.”
During the Hakhel ceremony at Sukkot on the Farm, participants will co-create a time capsule to be buried at Living Tree and opened during the next Hakhel, seven years from now in 2029.
People of all backgrounds are welcome at Sukkot on the Farm. To learn more, register, and get involved, contact
Sukkot on the Farm: Hakhel is co-sponsored by Jewish Communities of Vermont, Jewish Community of Greater Stowe, Ruach HaMaqom, Ohavi Zedek, Beth Jacob of Montpelier, and Kesher Shalom Bennington. This year’s festival is also made possible with support from the Covenant Foundation.