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Dvar Torah - Vayelech Shuva

Shabbat and Yom Tov are a gap in time, an otherworldly space we populate with a different routine and thoughts to what we engage with the rest of the week. They are the days that we do not check our phones for news early in the morning. They are the days we do not start with a list of things to do. Shabbat and Yom Tov are a peaceful discipline.

In lockdown, the quiet, divorced-from-reality character of Shabbat is heightened. Not only do we not connect with the world through devices, but even physical connections and conversations with other people are curtailed.

For twenty five hours the world is held at bay, invisible. We only find out what we missed after it is all over. Giving ourselves a reset is important in other areas as well. We are embarking on the sabbatical year in the Land of Israel (Shemittah). It is a time when agricultural labour is significantly curtailed, when loans are forgiven, and when we relinquish (temporarily) our ownership over our land and allow anybody to enter to harvest as they please. Why is taking the time to disconnect, think and reflect so important? The world is constantly moving and changing, sometimes very fast. It is increasingly difficult to find our place, to get done what we want. Regular, enforced rests, are helpful for us as individuals, and for society. If we take a time when we are not working, whether it is a day to refrain from office work or a year to refrain from working the farm, we allow ourselves to think about what is important to us beyond our work. With luck (and a little help), we can use the opportunity this affords us to correct course and make ourselves, our families, our friends, our country, the whole world, better off.

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