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Reb Lisa's Message


This week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, implores us to “see!” What is it that requires our attention? What must we see? “Behold! God has placed before us blessing and curse.” This is how Parashat Re’eh opens.

The blessing...that we will heed the mitzvot (commandments) God has given us. The curse...that we will not observe the mitzvot, that we will turn away, and follow “other gods.”

Perhaps the broad takeaway is that we have agency. We are blessed when we choose to connect with holiness, through mitzvot. We are cursed when we choose to turn away from holiness, when we break our divine connection. It is through mitzvot that we connect with the Holy One. By observing mitzvot, we bring the world that ought to be, into existence.

Mitzvot don’t randomly happen to us, or purposely elude us. Performing mitzvot is clearly within our sphere of influence. How we relate to mitzvot, to the beautiful road map revealed in Torah, is clearly up to us.

One of the mitzvot mentioned in Parashat Re’eh is the observance of Shmita. Every seven years, we press the reset button--all debts are forgiven, slates are wiped clean, and the land regenerates itself by lying fallow for a year. Shmita is a cyclical rhythm, where the seventh year gives us the opportunity to practice radical release.

This Rosh Hashanah is a shmita year. What might a practice of release and resetting mean for us? How could a “fallow” year, one where we settle and integrate what has happened in the previous six years, prepare us for a new cycle? How might we let go of the tight grips, the tenacious holds in our lives? Can we forgive the hurts, the debts, the loans, the infractions? What awaits us after such a release?

May we have the courage to open to the blessing of a shmita year. May we let go of that which holds us back and blocks us from holiness.

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