I’ve been sleeping more lately. Good sleep is healthful for your body and mind. I think that I’m sleeping more because I am so very busy during the daytime that I am exhausted at night.
One-third of your life will have been spent sleeping. Rest is essential to your good health. There are other forms of rest besides sleep. I do not suggest adding more television time to your schedule as a form of rest.
In addition to sleep, there are spiritual practices of rest like prayer, meditation or contemplative walks. These modalities of rest can be energizing. Prayer is not merely reciting rote statements of faith capped by blessings. Prayer can be what the Hasidim call “hitbodedut”, a walking conversation with God. You probably do this in a limited fashion already. Haven’t you talked to God when late to an appointment and looking for a parking spot?
There is also a long tradition of meditation in Judaism. In the Talmud, Tractate Brachot, we learn that the pious ones would get up early to ready themselves before beginning prayer. Torah beckons us to meditate on its words and Kabbalah asks us to meditate to deepen our relationship with God.
Torah also commands purposeful rest. This commandment is of great interest this year. Every seventh year the fields of the land of Israel are to lie fallow. This is known as the shmitah year and 5782 is such a year. Scientifically, a respite from farming is important to replenishing a field for future crops. Yet Torah offers another reason. In parshat Vayehlech, Deut. 31:10, Moses instructed the people that every seventh year. the year set for remission; the people are to gather so that the Torah can be read aloud to them. By this understanding, a reason to let the fields lie fallow is so that the people can reduce time devoted to work and make time for the study of the Torah.
As we don’t live in an agrarian society, the cycle of planting and lying fallow is unfamiliar to us. In our world workers spend more hours than ever at their employment. During Covid times, the home has become a primary workplace for many. Vacations are a challenge to plan and execute. More workers are foregoing their vacation leave than ever before. We work to excess, and rest is too often a result of exhaustion.
Let’s be inspired in this shmitah year to create opportunities for meaningful rest. Learn to meditate or take time to simply be. Whether you walk in nature or relax without distractions, give yourself the gift of you. And make this shmitah year even more meaningful by adding Torah to your days. I’ll study with you if you want. I love talking Torah. It is a blueprint to a better life and improving the world. Why wouldn’t we make time for such worthy goals?
Shana Tova U’Metukah, a good and sweet year to all.
Rabbi Evan J. Krame