In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Behar, we read about the mitzvah of shmita, the sabbatical year in the Torah’s seven-year agricultural cycle. The Torah teaches us that in the land of Israel, there are six years of agricultural work, in which farmers can plow, plant, prune and harvest, followed by the seventh year, the shmita year, during which time the land is left to lie fallow. This mirrors the cycle of the Jewish week, in which we have six days of work followed by our Shabbat, our day of rest. Like Shabbat, shmita provides a time-bound space for rest and reflection.
As I reflect on my time here at Temple Shalom, I’m filled with gratitude to the Temple Shalom families, staff and clergy for all that we have learned and accomplished. Together, we have planted seeds and established a paradigm for helping people of all abilities to participate fully in Jewish life.
The Torah tells us that every person is created in God’s image. At Temple Shalom, we now embody this value every day. Families throughout Greater Boston come here knowing that they will be welcomed with open arms as valued members of our community. They know that their children will receive the highest quality Jewish education and will be able to participate meaningfully in ritual and life cycle events, no matter what differences they may have. I am gratified to know that I am leaving Temple Shalom with such a strong inclusive identity. As I say goodbye, I feel confident that this identity will remain strong, and I am excited to see how the community continues to grow and be a beacon for inclusion in the future.
Emily Kieval is the director of inclusion at Temple Shalom. Emily is leaving the temple this month to start Northampton Child Development, which will provide educational and clinical services to families and schools in western Massachusetts.
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