Thursday, 8 May 2014

Behar- It can all add up

Parashat Behar explains the laws of shmita and yovel for the Israel agricultural calendar. In Israel (and only there) every 7th year the land must be left to rest. No farmers can work the land, the soil enjoys a sabbatical year of rest. Yovel is every 50 years, at the end of 7 shmita cycles. 

The land gets to celebrate Shabbat every seven years. The cycle of sevens is an obvious theme, with the days of the week, but mathematically seven isn't the easiest number. Here are two cool tests to see is a number is divisible by 7:

Test #1. Take the digits of the number in reverse order, from right to left, multiplying them successively by the digits 1, 3, 2, 6, 4, 5, repeating with this sequence of multipliers as long as necessary. Add the products. This sum has the same remainder mod 7 as the original number! Example: Is 1603 divisible by seven? Well, 3(1)+0(3)+6(2)+1(6)=21 is divisible by 7, so 1603 is.

Test #2. Remove the last digit, double it, subtract it from the truncated original number and continue doing this until only one digit remains. If this is 0 or 7, then the original number is divisible by 7. Example: 1603 -> 160-2(3)=154 -> 15-2(4)=7, so 1603 is divisible by 7.

This Hebrew year is 5774, 5(1)+7(3)+7(2)+4(6)=64, which is not divisible by 7. This year is not shmita. But next year is 5775, 5(1)+7(3)+7(2)+5(6)= 70 which is divisible, by 7. This coming year is shmita!

The aforementioned math tricks are still a bit tricky for my crew, so we just practiced counting by 7s. Always good to fill car rides and walks with mathematical attempts. I was impressed by their mathematical capabilities. 

Shmita is coming! What does that mean? 

I explained to the girls what it meant to us when we lived in Israel. 
  • At the time, having a separate waste bin for all uneaten parts of fruit and veggies seemed like an undertaking. Now we compost and I don't think twice about it. 
  • Food cannot be wasted and should next be played with. Oh wait, that is also always true.
  • Food can only bought from certain places and is often more expensive. Like sourcing organic?
So maybe shmita is very relevant to us outside of Israel today, for healthy living and caring about the earth. To see about how others are incorporating the idea of shmita into healthy lifestyles, Torah values, and environmental appreciation check out Hazon.  

I asked the girls if they could think of something else done 'every seven'. It took them a really long time to get the answer of "Shabbat".
"And just like having a day of rest is really good for us, to keep us healthy, shmita is really good for the land," I explained.
"Umm, Shabbat doesn't keep us healthy," Cohava ventured.
"Yah. I love Shabbat, but we eat lots of unhealthy food on Shabbat," Gabi added. And the little girls don't nap as well and get off their sleep cycle and--- maybe I have to give some thought to their point.
"You raise a really good point about the unhealthy parts of Shabbat. But shmita is good for the land. We do it because Hashem tells us to, but also farmers scientifically know it is good. Many non-Jewish farmers, outside of Israel do something similar, called crop rotation."

 "If you know that next year nothing will be harvested. What can you do to make sure you have enough food?" I asked.
"You don't have to do anything," Gabi replied. "You already explained that Hashem promised there will be enough food when we keep the mitzva of shmita." 
"Gabi, you are a great listener and that is a great point. Hashem does make sure we have enough, but it doesn't mean we don't have to do anything. Hashem gives extra food the year before shmita. What should we do with that food?"
"Put it in a container and save it," Cohava declared.

After some discussion of what that container would be, we decided for parasha project we will make fruit leather and attempt canning fruit. Last year for Behar/Bechukotai, I pickled olives, but didn't can them. 

The girls sat down with a big pile of nectarines, paper plates, and plastic knives. It was no easy undertaking, but they tried to pit and quarter the fruit.

They don't have future careers at the Del Monte factory, but they got the job done.  

I added water to cover and brought the fruit to a boil.

While the girls were cutting fruit, I was cleaning and checking strawberries for our fruit leather. While the fruit boiled, I planned to puree the strawberries. However, I discovered that not all fruit can be preserved. Some of it will be devoured by little people.

Instead of working on the strawberries, I boiled the jars to sterilize them.  

While jars and nectarines boiled separately, I explained lids popping up and the safety seal. They had lots of fun clicking lids. I discovered an unopened jam with a raised safety seal, hmm. 

And then everything was boiled. I filled the jars. The girls put the lids on and placed them into the big soup put of water. They went downstairs to play while I made dinner. They missed the magical popping sound of sealing cans.

Tada! We canned nectarines!!! It was so much easier than I anticipated. Now I need lots more jars. Then I could can all the leftover soup from dinner. 

Gabi looked at the jars. "Now we mail them to Israel?"
"What?!?" I thought about postage costs.
"We need to feed everyone in Israel for shmita year. We need to send it over. It is a big mitzvah!" she explained.

Experiential versus practical.  

Shabbat Shalom!!!

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