Noach: Finding Our Rest, Building Our Ark, by Rabbi Robin Damsky

“Rest is not idle, rather active and creative.  I refuel myself through my meditation practice, The winter rest fuels the earth, plants and animals for spring rebirth.”

“Shabbat Shabbaton” are the words Leviticus 25:4 uses to describe the shmita year – “A sabbath of complete rest for the land.” In today’s world, can we even imagine what that would look like, feel like, smell like? 

The laws of the shmita year were established for “ha-aretz” – the Land of Israel. Yet many choose to observe this holy practice around the globe. Now that the High Holy Day season is complete and we are settling into our fall rhythm, we in the diaspora may be asking ourselves, How can I make the practice of shmita real for me in my life?

It seems clear that to understand rest for the land, we must understand rest for ourselves. As Adam – the human, created from adamah – the soil, we are one and the same. In today’s busy culture, mid-pandemic, do we know how to rest ourselves? In this year of Shabbat Shabbaton, to heal the earth our rest must extend beyond the Sabbath day into every day. True, deep rest can bring us to a sense of wholeness, taking us beyond our fear and knee-jerk reactions to a place of possibility. This is the stuff of which shmita is made: rest, which offers release. Release, in turn, restores balance. 

My personal practice is meditation. In about twelve minutes of sitting quietly, my mind stills. Continuing, I begin to let go of my conscious self and settle into a deeper place. There, I recover possibility – for healing and regeneration of myself, and as an extension, for healing and regeneration of the earth.

Rest is not idle, rather active and creative.  I refuel myself through my meditation practice, The winter rest fuels the earth, plants and animals for spring rebirth.

What will your rest bring forth? Here are a few ideas for how our rest can fuel regeneration for our precious earth which in turn continues to fuel our own well-being: Composting, mushroom remediation for a toxic site, a container garden, a soil regeneration project, climate activism… 

In this week’s parashah Noah is commanded by the Creator to save the animal species of our planet from a deadly climate shift. Divine wrath brought forty days and nights of rain. Today we are enduring torrential rains, earth-parching droughts, and impossible to imagine fires. This time, however, the events are precipitated by human behavior. Perhaps in this shmita year, we are all Noah. Perhaps it is for each of us to construct an ark, however figurative, that preserves creation in our own yard or across the globe. In order to do this, I ask us all to find our rest. Ask it to show us your best care for the earth and go forth and build.

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Rabbi Robin Damsky, identified by Kenissa as an innovator redefining Jewish life, has recently launched Limitlesss Judaism™ a project connecting Body-Spirit-Gaia: enhancing our physical and spiritual well being as we heal and grow our planet. She leads meditations with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and offers programming in embodied, earth-centered Judaism in collaboration with Hazon. Rabbi Robin founded In the Gardens, a nonprofit facilitating organic, edible garden design and mindfulness practice. She is a licensed medical massage practitioner and offers sessions in Spiritual Guidance.

Rabbi Robin was ordained by American Jewish University and earned her MA in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She completed both the Clergy Leadership Program and Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher Training with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Rabbi Robin holds a BFA in dance from Ohio University in teaching, choreography and performance and is a graduate of the Swedish Institute School of Massage, in NY. She lives in the Durham Triangle in NC.

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