“Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in the yield. But in the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.” (Leviticus 25:3-4). The land needs to rest, to refresh, to reconstitute, so future crops may grow and send forth their bountiful goodness. The agricultural sabbatical year had the practical benefit of preventing exhaustion of the land, but its true intent was an expression of the sabbath concept of rest.
It is a valuable lesson which can benefit our own lives, as we too need to recalibrate our emotional balance so our own future and that of our loved ones, and that of our People, will gain strength and flourish. We ignore at our peril the biblical mandate to observe a sabbatical period. How often do we lament the frenetic pace of modern life, the swiftly passing years, raising children, the empty nest, issues of health and wellness, loss of parents and others in our lives, without taking necessary time for our own personal sabbath of rest to rebalance, refresh and renew?
The Shalom Hartman Institute offers a welcome opportunity for a sabbatical of the soul, a time to assess those values which elevate our goals, aspirations and conduct, and provides a space in time to gain perspective on our life’s journey. The Hartman Institute is a center of innovation which produces a Judaism of decency and depth, leveraging leadership to inspire and elevate Jewish life in Israel and North America.
Sabbaticals need not occur every seven years. One could create a weekly sabbatical with the rest and peace of Shabbat. It has been wisely suggested that each of us make a type of sabbatical appointment with ourselves on a daily basis to create precious moments of tranquility and reflection. After the seventh year, crops are replanted and flourish to provide sustenance. After our own sabbatical, whether annual, periodic, weekly, daily, or otherwise, we too will return replenished, with a refreshed outlook on life. Others will notice. More importantly, you will notice the difference. There is a wise old saying: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second time is today.” So take out your calendar and mark your own next sabbatical. Follow the biblical prescription for sabbatical rest. Then, rested and refreshed, Lech L’cha, go forth and flourish!
Marshall S. Zolla is a certified specialist in the field of family law in California and a member of the Shalom Hartman Institute Board of Directors . He played a leadership role in the creation of the Hartman Institute’s Los Angeles Study Forum.