Shemittah - The Sabbatical Year (Private-Religious)

9, 10, 11, 12

This lesson will teach the basic ideas of Shemittah and the practical reasons behind the commandment and the learners will understand the connection between respecting the Earth and respecting themselves.

Lesson Rating 
Four - Fifty Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • demonstrate an understand of G-d’s laws of the Shemittah year.
  • identify and defend the agricultural reasons for letting the land lay fallow juxtaposed to modern day farming techniques.
  • understand and articulate the spiritual reasons for letting land lay fallow.
  • identify and demonstrate his/her understanding of the connection between respecting the Earth and respecting himself/herself.
  • Pens / pencils
  • Poster board
  • Black Marker
  • one Copy per learner of Attachment One: Laws of Shemittah
  • Attachment Two: Farming Techniques
  • Attachment Three: Guide to Yom Kippur and Spiritual Cleansing
  • Attachment Four: Agricultural/Spiritual Venn Diagram
Home Connection 

See Extension below.



  1. Day One:Anticipatory Set:Read the first passage from Attachment One: Laws of Shemittah to the class.Assign one learner to be the scribe. Have the class suggest reasons for this law of Shemittah. The scribe will write these suggestions on the display board for the whole class to see. Once everyone has had an opportunity to suggest their reasons, have the learners analyze their list of reasons and through discussion lead them to the realization that the reasons for the law can be agricultural or spiritual in nature. Inform them that by the end of this lesson, they will understand how the laws of Shemittah help the Earth and themselves.

  2. Distribute copies of the Attachment One: Laws of Shemittah

  3. As a whole group, read the laws and discuss the Biblical rationale behind the law.Teacher Note: The two spiritual/textual reasons are (a) God rested on the seventh day of creation, and (b) consideration for the poor, the laborers, and for the animals equally, but not for commerce.

  4. Once completed and the learners demonstrated their ability to accurately articulate a clear understanding of the laws, share with the class that during the Shemittah/Sabbatical Year, the fields and the vineyards were left uncultivated and that some scholars have suggested that the Israelites were practicing an early form of soil conservation.

  5. Ask the learners to share what they know about modern-day farming techniques for soil conservation.Teacher Note: Even today, farmers will often leave fields uncultivated. In some cases using their fallow fields for pasturing their animals and practice crop rotation in order to restore nutrients to the soil.

  6. Arrangethe learners into group into four different groups. Cut up a copy of the Attachment Two: Farming Techniques and give each group one of the four farming techniques described on the handout. Give them a few minutes to read their assigned farming method, identify its key points and a select a spokesperson who will agree to share these key point with the rest of the class will called upon to do so.

  7. Following these fourreports, engage the learners in a discussion about if and how these farming techniques actually follow the Biblical (and often thought of as “ancient”) law of Shemittah of farming. In conclusion, have them articulate a summary of this discussion that reflects the level of their understanding.

  8. Day Two:

  9. Distribute a copy of the Attachment Four: Agricultural/Spiritual Venn Diagram and copies of the Attachment Three: Guide to Yom Kippur and Spiritual Cleansing to each learner. Review and discuss the meaning of Yom Kippur and spiritual cleansing to ensure learner's recall and understanding.

  10. Utilizing the Attachment Three: Guide to Yom Kippur and Spiritual Cleansing the learner’s recall and understanding of Yom Kippur and the Biblical law of Shemittah of farming techniques, have each learner fill out the Attachment Four: Agricultural/Spiritual Venn Diagram focusing on the connecting between the agricultural and spiritual reasons of Shemittah.

  11. Collect this assignment to determine the learner’s level of mastery of this lesson’s Objectives.


The learners will be assessed based on their participation in class discussions and the depth of their understanding as articulated in their completion of the Attachment Three: Agricultural/Spiritual Venn Diagram

Cross Curriculum 

Invite a Jewish store owner who sells Israeli products to the class and have him explain Shemittah to the class. If one is not available, invite a local farmer to the class to explain the advantages of letting the land lay fallow.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Discuss the role of family life in shaping a democratic society.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Analyze philanthropic traditions of diverse cultural groups and their contributions to civil society.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.5 Give examples of stewardship decisions throughout history and in current events.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.5 Identify and discuss civil society sector organizations working to build community/social capital and civil society resources.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.10 Identify reasons why historic figures acted for the common good.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Describe and compare stewardship in a variety of cultural traditions.
      3. Benchmark HS.4 Cite historical examples of citizen actions that affected the common good.

Academic Standards

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