Depending on when you read these words, I’ll either be about to begin my Sabbatical, or I’ll already have left—it begins on July 2. The word Sabbatical comes from the Hebrew shmitah, a biblical institution introduced in the book of Leviticus. Every 7 years, the land of Israel must remain unworked. It’s a year of rest for the land, and a reminder to those who observe it that human beings cannot ever be the ultimate owners of land. That’s God privilege.
I won’t bore you with the origins of the clergy Sabbatical—feel free to Google. But I do want to say this: I feel so grateful to you, the leadership and wonderful members of Congregation Beth El, for granting me these 6 weeks for rejuvenation and exploration. I’m grateful to everyone who is stepping up in my absence to make sure our shul runs smoothly and that you are cared for. Serving as your rabbi is a distinct privilege, which I really love, and there’s rarely a true day off. My work comes home with me almost daily, and as you know, when there’s a life cycle emergency, it doesn’t matter what day it is. That’s the life of a congregational rabbi—my work here is to care for you, and I do.
Many of you have asked what I’ll be doing during my Sabbatical. The answer is that I’m not sure. I don’t have plans to write a book or a Torah commentary, nor to create a podcast. I’m not registered for any of the typical rabbinic summer study programs in Jerusalem. I’m truly craving the freedom to see what pops up, while making sure I walk a LOT, eat delicious falafel/chummus/fruits + veggies, and immerse myself in adult Hebrew conversation.
As you know, I’ve spent 5+ years speaking to my children in Hebrew, and it’s been a decades-long dream to bring my children to Israel and plop them into a Hebrew-speaking group and see them thrive. For part of our time in Israel, Noa will be attending the Ramah Day Camp in Jerusalem, and Ayala will be in a daycare program. I think they’re a little nervous about that, but I’m feeling confident. And I’m ready to kvell.
You’ll be taken good care of while I’m on Sabbatical. You will probably see some pretty great pictures on my Facebook page throughout the summer, and I will look forward to reconnecting with you upon my return on August 16. I’ll be tired and jetlagged, but hopefully full of inspiration and excitement.
Bring on the shmitah! B’Shalom,
Rabbi Ita Paskind