It's been a while and its good to be back.
Who Are You?
Rabbi Neil Fleischmann
Who are you? After our name, we tend to answer the question of who we are by saying what we do. A doctor is a doctor, a teacher a teacher. This seems simple. But the question of who a person is can not be truly answered by stating what a person does for a living. If we were drinking coffee and someone approached and asked us what we do we would not say that we are coffee drinkers. We recognize that although we eat and drink this does not define who we are, it’s just something we do to stay alive. Work takes up a great amount of time in our lives, but our occupation does not fully define us.
The world was once filled with societies that were agrarian in nature; people generally earned their livelihoods as farmers. When G-d commanded that all land lay fallow for a year He was telling everyone in Israel to refrain from doing his job for a year. For one year everyone had a sabbatical from work. And the idea was to place people in a situation in which they had to define themselves in a way that precluded pointing to what they did for a living.
The seventh year is called Shabbat LaHashem. Each seventh year we remind ourselves of our self worth by virtue of being created in the image of G-d. We take a year to remind ourselves that we are unique, as G-d is unique. There are many doctors and teachers but only one of us. We remember on each Shmitah year that being alive is a holy experience even without titles, even without earning money or grade points.
Shemittah is just an intensification of our weekly Shabbat LaHashem. Every week we step back and remind ourselves that we are creations of G-d. Though we spend most days being creators ourselves, once a week we refrain from defining ourselves by what we do and look inside to see who we are. Some people are only comfortable if they’re physically active. Some people have a hard time with Shabbat. If we are uncomfortable sitting alone with ourselves then we need to ask ourselves if we believe we are made “betzelem elokim." We need to work on recognizing our spiritual value. This is the point of Shmitah and Shabbat.
At this point in the year, as Shabbat days gets longer some people get depressed. Some students and teachers struggle as the summer hits and they are faced with months of living with an inactive title. Any break we take makes us vulnerable while providing the opportunity and challenge to accept and refine who we are.
May we all be so blessed.