Write to Rest

What is “Write to Rest” about?

Often translated as “sabbatical year,” shmita (שמיטה‎) literally means release. Like the sabbath, the 7th day of rest within the week, shmita is the 7th year of rest in the calendar cycle as designated in the Torah. During a shmita year (in original form), land was to be left fallow, debts forgiven, and a host of other agricultural and economic adjustments made to ensure longterm maintenance of an equitable, just and healthy society. In diaspora and in a post-Temple world, we don’t observe shmita the way our ancestors did; but we are free to explore ways to understand and honor it by suspending cultivation—not just as farmers, but as families, as communities, as businesses, and as individuals.

Rosh Hashanah 5782 is the beginning of the next shmita cycle. We invite you to explore the following 10 writing exercises, one a day from Rosh Hashanah to Erev Yom Kippur, each intended to help us prepare for and transition into this year of release. This year, we can choose to make space for non-judgmental reflection and unforced change. We get a chance to prioritize fellowship and peace over competition and rote activity.

Use a writing style that feels meaningful to you: pen and paper, digital documentation, poetry, doodling, storytelling, etc. You may find value in saving your responses to these 10 prompts, revisiting them at the end of the shmita year, and reflecting on how your intentions and decisions impacted this period of rest and renewal.

Daily Exercises

Individual exercises will be posted to the JCreate community, daily. Join to engage with these prompts in a local community of Jewish artists, craftspeople, and creatives.

Sept 6 / 29 Elul What does letting go mean for me, and what concrete steps can I take to intentionally practice the art of releasing? (Try coming up with broad, impactful ways you might want to scale back and then consider small, incremental steps that will help get you there.)

Sept 7 / 1 Tishrei Fill in the blanks: When I choose to put my energy into what serves me, this looks like _____/feels like_____ because _____. How would doing less serve my needs?

Sept 8 / 2 Tishrei What are some of my favorite ways to unwind? How do I feel when I’m doing these things, and what exactly do I like about them? How do I know when I’m rested and relaxed?

Sept 9 / 3 Tishrei How have I grown over the past 7 years (the last shmita cycle)? What are the goals and causes I’ve invested my time and energy into, and how have I made progress toward them?

Sept 10 / 4 Tishrei What are five things that make me happy with my life? If I had more time or energy, which of these would I want to put it toward? (List more than five, then narrow it down.)

Sept 11 / 5 Tishrei Fill in the blanks: I know I possess strength and resilience because I have done _____. I know I have a community I can count on in _____ (who) because we have showed up for each other in _____ (way/s). I know I’ll be able to handle whatever comes at me because _____.

Sept 12 / 6 Tishrei Fill in the blanks: I’m okay with not having all the answers because _____. If I loosen the reigns on _____, here’s what might happen: _____.

Sept 13 / 7 Tishrei In what ways is letting go similar to giving up, and in what ways is it different to me? What are some things I’d like to let go of and what are some things I’d like to give up? (You may want to revisit the very first exercise from Sept 6. Has anything changed since then?)

Sept 14 / 8 Tishrei Taschlich-Inspired Ritual for Release (on your own or with loved ones)

  1. Fold a paper boat or design your own floating craft out of natural materials.
  2. List at least 2 or 3 habits, beliefs, pursuits, or ways of doing that you are ready to stop or cut back on.
  3. Load the things you choose to release onto your craft: write or trace them onto the vessel; take individual bird seeds (or leaves, pieces of bark, etc.), imbue one with each of the things you release, and tuck them in; or whisper each thing into the space of your vessel and then hold it to seal it there.
  4. Go to a body of water, say thanks to your vessel, your old habits etc., yourself, your human support system, G-d, and whoever/whatever else should be thanked; and then release the vessel. **If getting to a natural body of water isn’t accessible to you, you can run water in your home or yard at no detriment to the ritual.
  5. Stay and watch your vessel be drawn away. Feel your body, mind, heart reclaiming extra space. Be protective of this space.

Sept 15 / 9 Tishrei Imagine one year from now. How did I practice this year of dormancy? What sorts of inspiration and uncultivated growth was I able to reach? How did my frame of reference and my relationships change? What am I looking forward to adding back into my life or doing differently/new over the next six years?

This project is brought to you through JCreate, a community for Jewish artists, craftspeople, and creatives in Minnesota to ask questions, network with one another, seek referrals, and build creative partnerships. Professionals, semipros, and hobbyists are all welcome.