On Stillness: R’ Brous’s Sabbatical

I keep finding myself drawn to the idea of stillness, which I spoke about on Rosh Hashanah, or the inner whisper, which I addressed at the end of January.

We are now in the midst of a shmita year, a time of rest and reflection, rejuvenation and regeneration. The idea of shmita—which is the theological and spiritual foundation of the contemporary practice of sabbatical—is that neither land nor people can live sustainably without a periodic break in the rhythm, a chance to digest lessons learned and deepen our roots as we prepare for the next chapter of our flourishing.After 18 years of dedicating my whole heart, mind, body and spirit to building and supporting our beloved community (including and especially this very intensive period through COVID), I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to step into sabbatical this spring.

I am very much looking forward to taking some time to rest and reorient, to disengage from the day to day of our beloved community so that I can learn, read and write. I am excited to have this time for deep reflection and study, and I look forward to returning to the work with a refreshed spirit, with new ideas and a new perspective.

My sabbatical will take place from February thru August, 2022. I’ve been working with our executive committee and clergy team to ensure that I have the time I need to rejuvenate while keeping our growing community well cared for and advancing our critical programs and plans.

Our community will be in great hands with our exceptional team while I’m away. Melissa, our Board of Directors and staff team will keep the community and organization humming. Our rabbis and hazzan will keep the community inspired and cared for throughout these months, as they have for the past many years.

Some questions I imagine you might have:

What will I do during this time?
Every year, on the last day of religious school before summer break, my rabbi growing up would challenge us to do three things: read a good book, make a new friend, and take a long walk.

I hope to do some deep learning with some of my favorite teachers, to read many good books, and hopefully to begin to write the book that has been growing in me for the last decade.

I’m looking forward to spending time with family and friends and doing things that people do—like picking my kids up from school, sitting at a pottery wheel and maybe even learning to cook.

And I will take many long walks. I hope to travel a bit and experience the beauty of God’s world outside of Los Angeles, and find the secret, hidden gems of this amazing city too.

Will I be working at all?
My goal is to disengage from IKAR related work during this time, including life cycles, pastoral work, programs and teaching, speaking engagements and public statements. This will be challenging for me—I trust that you all know that my heart is with you, even though I will not be at shiva minyanim or s’mahot throughout this time, with a few exceptions that I committed to before my departure.

Why now?
Given the rapidly changing circumstances around COVID, all sabbatical plans were put on hold until we felt comfortable that the community (and world) would be in a relatively stable position before I left.

Will you see me?
We love davening at IKAR, so if you see my family on shabbat, you don’t have to avert your eyes! But please remember that I’m taking this time off, so I ask that you not report IKAR business to me, or complain about the fact that there’s not enough lox.

Will I be checking email?
No. You’ll get an auto reply if you write to me, and I will not see emails upon my return (otherwise it will take me another seven years to get through the ones I missed!).

Sabbatical sounds amazing! Who else at IKAR will get one?
We’re thrilled to share that we are working on a new, organization-wide sabbatical policy, so that every full-time member of our team will have the opportunity to rest, reflect, reorient and rededicate after seven years. We believe this will not only support the spiritual and mental wellness of our team, but it will encourage longevity among our staff, boost morale and ultimately strengthen the organization. Stay tuned for details!

I know that my time away will be a big adjustment for our community. We’ll talk more over the next couple of months about what this will all look like, but know that my heart is full of gratitude to all of you, for filling my life with blessings and for giving me the space to step away to see those blessings from a slightly different vantage point. I can’t wait to reconnect when I’m back and share with you what I learn during this time.

With gratitude,

R’ Sharon