Sometimes life can get Behar-d…..and we must take time to rest!!

This week we read the Torah portion Behar. In this portion, we learn that God commands us to work and gather in the fields for six years, but every seventh year we are COMMANDED to take a break and rest. During that seventh year, we are allowed to eat the produce from the fields, but we are forbidden to work in the fields for the entirety of the seventh year.

Every year I read this concept and wonder if I could personally take an entire year off to take a step back and rest. In our world today, things move so fast that many of us forget to take the time to “stop and smell the roses.” While a year off from our work may not be feasible, imagine how things could be if we even take just a few hours or days for self-reflection.

When I was in college at the University of Kansas, during my sophomore year, I found myself stuck in the routine and losing a bit of the excitement and connection that I had in my first year. A good friend mentioned taking a year abroad and shared that a year of growth and reflection makes a huge impact. I decided to take a year off, without credit, to study in Israel. I spent that year making new friends, challenging myself in my learning, and most importantly, traveling the country on my own. Taking a year off from my usual routine completely changed my life and I wonder if those who took a year off as God commanded found similar meaning.

Returning to campus after Israel, I was fully energized and rejuvenated. I became active in a ton of student groups, took leadership in my AEPi chapter, created my own student organization, and more! I found that taking a step back allowed me to really find myself and my passion, which drove my motivation upon returning to campus. It’s a rare opportunity that we can take a step back for an entire year, but in that moment, it had a lasting impact on my life that has shaped me into the educator that I am today.

Other than my life-changing year abroad, I cannot think of a time when many of us in our adulthood can find the time to take a year-long break. Today, it is too easy for us to get stuck in our day-to-day routines without taking the time for ourselves. My challenge for all of us this week is to find something that you can do for YOU. Take a moment to reflect, relax and rejuvenate.  If you can find just a short moment during the day to take for yourself, even just a few deep breaths, you will find that it can open up new perspectives and brighten your mood, just as God commands us in Behar.

Shabbat Shalom,

Matt Rissien