This is the D’var Torah (words of Torah) that I will be saying tonight at Friday night services on Kibbutz Hannaton in honor of the Bat Mitzvah of my daughter.
Shabbat Shalom. This week’s portion is Behar. The two main concepts that we learn from this portion is Shmittah and the Year of the Jubilee.
With such an emphasis on the “land”, I thought about connecting the portion to our Aliyah and the implications of that decision: the wonderful experiences as well as the many challenges. I also thought about sharing with the community Ayalah’s choice in celebrating her Bat Mitzvah by harvesting crops with the non-profit organization called Leket instead of a traditional dance party.
Yet, after reading the portion a few times, I still felt stumped. I started asking friends for help. I searched the internet. I read articles and commentaries and watched videos, but couldn’t find anything that truly came from my heart and that was meaningful enough to me to be able to share with you and in honor of Ayalah. I started to get nervous. Endless thoughts starting running through my mind. Maybe I shouldn’t do the D’var Torah. Maybe my husband should just do it? Maybe I’ll ask a friend?
And, then I stopped.
I just paused.
And in that space, came my D’var Torah.
The idea of “stopping”.
In this week’s portion, we see an emphasis on stopping a few times.
Leviticus 25: 3-4 -For 6 years you may sow your field and for 6 years you may prune your vineyard, and you may gather in its crop. But, the 7th year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Sabbath for Hashem, your field you shall not sow and your vineyard you shall not prune.”
Leviticus 25: 8-12 “You shall count for yourself seven cycles of sabbatical years… shall be 49 years… You shall sanctify the 50th years and proclaim freedom throughout the land…. Each of you shall return to his ancestral heritage…”
Interestingly, how often are we commanded in the Torah to DO things and then STOP doing that same commandment?
And, why are we commanded to stop?
Is it merely just to regain energy? Rejuvenate? So, that we have strength and energy to keep us going until the next pause?
Or, is there something more to it?
When I look at my own life, I can readily admit how difficult it is to stop.
There’s always so much to do. I feel like I’m usually behind the 8 ball in the house, with the kids, and the laundry, and the meals, and the homework, starting a business, and the committees, and the community meetings, and on and on.
My tendency is not to stop.
And, I can think of 2 inter-related reasons why this simple, but not necessarily easily action occurs:
1) I (like most people) believe that we are in control of our destiny. That life is in our hands. And so, in order to accomplish things, I need to keep moving and doing. If I were to temporarily stop, I would appear (to myself and others) to be an irresponsible member of society or the family. And so, believing that destiny is in my hands, I keep moving.
2) I (like most people) want to see immediate results of their actions. If we set any kind of goal for ourselves, then we keep moving towards that goal in efforts to achieve it without stopping, of course.
And yet, we are commanded to stop.
And, I believe there’s more to it than just the physical rejuvenation.
That when we pause, from whatever it is we are doing, something else occurs.
An opportunity: To just notice life continuing to exist moment by moment without any action on our part. (Something we usually miss because we are so busy).
An opportunity: To acknowledge the Source of all life.
An opportunity: For gratitude.
And when we realize and accept this reality, perhaps we would be more willing to pause and be more grateful to the One who sustains us all.
And so, when we pause (before we eat, before we speak, before we act, before we start our day, when we are at work, on Shabbat), we put ourselves in an entirely different mode of being.
Which is the reason that I try to pause each morning before I start my day with meditation.
And why I often do this in the public spaces of our house (like the living room).
So that my children can observe and perhaps recognize the value of intentionally pausing.
And so, Ayalah, on your Bat Mitzvah, I wish you the wisdom of the act of pausing and the courage to practice it, even when you think you don’t need it. So that when you do need it, it’ll become second nature to you. And I hope that you will learn in your own life the power of a pause and how it can strengthen you as a young girl, a woman, and a human being.
And with that, I would like to pause for a moment and be aware of all of my blessings and thank Hashem for giving you life and sustaining you and helping you to reach this day.