by Adam Silver
(Calgary) – Summer is in our rear-view mirror (don’t fight it), the first days of school are behind us, and Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah will all be over by the end of September.
Typically, we emerge from the summer in a paced and measured way. We begin by re-establishing our carpool and lunch-making routines, we prepare for the chagim (holidays) over a series of weeks letting the anticipation build, and only weeks later do we realize that we are suddenly closer to winter than we are to summer. This year continued with the fear and uncertainty that COVID-19 brings with it, and on the heels of false hope, we now see ourselves in the thick of a fourth wave of the pandemic. Yet, we continue to find meaningful ways to remain a community, a Jewish community. Our synagogues, schools, social service, and recreation organizations have adapted and modified their services to ensure that even at a distance we can still be together. Those who need spiritual, educational, social, and recreational supports can still feel connected and be cared for.
In a usual Sukkot message, I would take the opportunity to connect the lulav and etrog, the four species (myrtle, palm, willow, and citron), to the diversity of our community. I would highlight that each is wonderful on its own, but that together the species comprise something greater and holier than their individual parts.
All of this remains true. Our community is broad and diverse, and much stronger and fulsome when its unique parts come together in unity. However, this year is a rare year – a year of shmita (release), in which debts are to be forgiven, agricultural lands lie fallow, private land holdings become open, and staples such as food storage and perennial harvests are to be freely redistributed and accessible to all. Shmita occurs every seven years – six years of farming activity are followed by a seventh yearof rest for the land. This action of rest or release is seen by many as a sacrifice. However, we can also view it as an intentional attempt at rejuvenating the land for greater capacity, of strategically making resources available to those in need, and of being mindful of agricultural and environmental concerns. A focus is placed on ensuring the land is ready and able to support future growth and development, and that those in need receive an extra level of support during the shmita year during which they have a degree of certainty that food will be accessible to them.
As we launch our annual United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Campaign, we hope our community will consider the shmita year and do its utmost to ensure we can continue to support the agencies that do such excellent work in supporting those in need, in building Jewish identity, educating our children, and ensuring our community is inclusive, caring, and accessible.
Our UJA theme this year is Together, we are… and it draws on our connectedness and commitment to one another. Please do all that you can to support the campaign, and be as generous as you are able. Afterall, Together, we are more meaningful; Together, we are stronger; Together, we are a community!
Shana Tova, G’mar Chatima Tova, and Chag Sameach.
Adam Silver is the CEO of the Calgary Jewish Federation.