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Sukkot and Shmittah

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

So many of our Jewish holidays celebrate nature and her seasons. Sukkot is one of my favorite holidays. It consists of eating and/or sleeping in our outdoor booths for one week. We build these outdoor rooms out of leaves, wood, cloth drapes and the children decorate them with pictures, blessings, fruit, and many more homemade contributions. We even add colored blinking lights to give the sukka a festive feeling.

Nothing says Sukkot to my family like olives. Every year the olive harvest takes place during the week of Sukkot. It is the perfect time for olives down here in the desert. They have just turned black but the bugs haven't gotten to them yet. They are easy to see hanging on the trees between the silver/green leaves. We have about 150 olive trees growing on our property of which we have 3 different varieties. Some olives grow big and round and purple/black ,they hang like cherries and grow few on each tree, these are Siryan and they are our favorite. Some olives are smaller and more oval shaped. They go through an amazing color scheme from green to yellow to pink to purple and finally to black. They grow similar to grapes or dates, they are called Barnea. Others are smaller still with a very thin flesh. They turn quickly from green to black almost over night. They grow in clusters at the end of each branch and are called Nabali from the area of Hebron. When my kids and I are out there picking I feel so close to nature . Picking olives in Israel from trees that we planted, tended for many years and are now harvesting by hand to press into oil or to cure to eat with our meals is satisfying on so many levels. It makes me realize that all of our choices we have made up until now must have led us to this. No matter how many mistakes or wrong turns we have made they were always nudging us in the right direction. Naturally, with all the love going into the olives, our olive oil is out of this world. We press it ourselves in our own olive press that is located on the edge of our orchard. After the pressing we bring homemade sourdough bread and dip it into the oil straight from the press. There's nothing like freshly pressed oil. Sukkot falls in the autumn after the hot summer when the days have cooled off enough to spend time outside enjoying the weather. One year, on the first night of the holiday, just as we were about to sit down for our meal, the skies opened up and let loose a down pour of rain with the full show. Lightening and thunder flashed and boomed over our heads and sent us running, with the freshly baked bread and anything else we could carry into our house, so they wouldn't get wet. The storm left as quickly as it had come and we went back outside to continue our meal. Any other time, we would have been inside our house and would have missed all the excitement, but the outdoor festival forced us to be out in the elements to really feel nature in all her glory. When Shnat Shmitta comes around , it is so amazing to be able to sit back and watch it all unfold. All year long we're so busy farming and gardening from one season's plantings to the next. Shmitta gives us a chance to step back and let nature take over. Our orchards are set in neat rows, our gardens are orderly and weed free. But during Shmitta we allow God to show us the way. To really see how despite our best efforts to plant healthy organic vegetables, humble wild weeds provide us with so much nutrition. We don't have to do anything to make them grow. Their strength is in their independence from man. They don't require any water but rain, they plant themselves from their own seeds, they pick up trace minerals from poor soil, they grow wherever they see fit, they enrich the soil, they are free of disease and they are able to fight off pests all the while providing plenty of food for people and animals alike. This is nature's chance to to become the star of the show. There is a deep connection between Sukkot and Shmitta. Each is temporary, each is giving us the message that God will provide, that nature will prevail, each gives us a chance to step away from our comfort zones. The message is that we need to not be afraid of what's missing or absent, but to trust in our relationship with God and our world, to get in touch with that part of us that has lost our way amid technology and fast paced lives and find ourselves back in the garden.

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