This week we read from B’har in the book of Leviticus. Notably, God tells Moses to instruct the Israelites on the “sh’mita” year (sometimes known as the year of release, the sabbath for the land, or a sabbatical) and jubilee year – the 7th and 49th years – during which they should let the land lie fallow. Let it be, let it rest, let it renew itself so it can grow plentiful harvest after its much needed break.

What a wonderful portion to read in the month of May during National Mental Health Awareness Month. Organizations across the country raise awareness about mental health, work to eradicate the stigma associated with dealing with mental health struggles, provide support, access, care, and advocate for policies that support folks with mental health struggles and those who love them.

Thinking of the sh’mita year and mental health awareness month, the need for rest and taking care is striking to me. Millions of Americans struggle with mental illness and mental health needs every year. The Covid-19 pandemic has only increased the amount of people who need mental health support in our country, especially children, and this will continue to be a very real need of ours for years to come.

I’m not here to suggest that camp can solve mental health struggles. We do know that belonging to a community, being in fresh air, laughing, being with friends, and finding meaning in our lives can soothe us and foster creativity, hope, and feelings of fulfillment. We know that supporting the mental, emotional, social and spiritual health (MESSH) of everyone in our community is paramount to our success in the summer and we are incredibly proud of our Nefesh team who provide a shoulder lean on and a listening ear and our faculty who provides an added layer of licensed mental health support.

Last year, I wrote about the sh’mita and how excited we were to come back to OUR land which had lain fallow for a few years after the fire. Now that we have our space back, we also have an opportunity to help our community continue to heal and thrive by offering a place to have our own little tastes of sh’mita…our own small moments of a day, a weekend, a session at camp…to rest, to relax, and to refresh our minds, bodies, and hearts.