To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…

The month of May has begun! I see on the roads heading to the beach that vacation is already on many minds! We are ready to wind down, to relax and to refresh! Ask any teacher and they will tell you the children are already zoning out, counting down the days until vacation. Perhaps you are the same at your own place of work.

We humans need a break! We take it when we can get it! In the Jewish cycle of life, a day of rest is built in every seven days. For those of us who observe Shabbat as a day of rest, to be refreshed both spiritually and physically, we know its importance. (I used to have a bumper sticker that I put on my calendar notebook: “Hang in there – Shabbat is coming!” It gave me strength throughout the week!)

This week’s Torah reading tells us that humans aren’t the only ones needing a rest. The land needs to rest as well:

The land shall be sanctified through the shemittah, the Sabbatical year, of agricultural rest. (Leviticus 25:1-7)

This idea, just like the idea of a day of rest, is unique in the ancient world. However, we learn from Ecclesiastes, that “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” Rabbi Arthur Waskow wrote, “Thousands of years of Jewish experience about these matters is embodied in the wisdom of Shabbat and the sabbatical year – a time to work and a time to rest, a time to build and a time to heal – so our work does not destroy us.” (Moment, June 1992)

The commandment for the sabbatical year only applies to Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. But we take to heart the message of rest as well as the reminder that the land does not belong to us, no matter what our deed of sale says; ultimately it belongs to the Holy One, the Source of all blessings.

May you have a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace,
Rabbi Debbie Israel