Having recently returned from a scheduled Sabbatical, people ask me often: What’s the plan? When you retire (in a year and a quarter), what will you do? Where will you live? Will you stay? Will you go? These are all natural questions. My tendency is to say: The beauty of retirement will be that I don’t have to have a plan! But that is not entirely true…
This week’s Torah portion begins with a teaching about the Sabbatical year in the Land of Israel. One might wonder: What does this have to do with us? We are not living in the Land of Israel. We, for the most part, are not farmers. And yet, there is a message for us in this teaching about the Sabbatical year.
The message is that we need to plan ahead, as individuals, as a congregation, as a community, and even as a nation. While we don’t have to be able to forsee the future in exact detail, we do need to plan to some extent. We need to plan how to live in accordance with our ideals. We need to plan how we might implement those ideals. We need to plan how we will relax and enjoy the fruits of our labor when the Sabbatical year arrives! And then, we need to plan ahead again, looking toward the next Sabbatical year. And we need to realize that every plan might need to be adjusted along the way.
So, why do we read about the Sabbatical year in the Land of Israel even though we do not live in Israel?
Think of the ongoing cycle of Sabbatical and of preparation for the Sabbatical year as the equivalent of the cycle of our lives. In cyclical fashion, we live and we prepare for the next chapter of our lives. Studying about the Sabbatical year in the Land of Israel is a great way for the Torah to get us thinking about our lives and how we might pause periodically to plan for the next chapter. This is, after all, the way that we might make the most of the gift of life that has been granted to us!
So, what’s the plan?
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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