A Sabbatical Message from Rabbi Shawn, November 2019

In Leviticus 25:2-4 we learn: “When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a Sabbath of the Lord. Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in the yield. But in the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath of complete rest, a Sabbath of the Lord.”

Dear Hevre,

What a wonderful month we have just celebrated together ushering in the Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. In the blink of any eye- with much gratitude to our leadership, rabbinic and office staff and all of you, I have the blessing and privilege of a six-month Sabbatical beginning November 4, 2019, through May 11, 2020. 

I will return for two weeks from January 17- 30. During those two weeks, there is a whirlwind of activities over MLK weekend, as well as New Members Shabbat, Izzy Field’s bar mitzvah service, and more. 

I feel many things. I feel gratitude to our community, our staff, our lay leadership (especially our President Steve Jones and the Executive and Sabbatical Committees) and the many members who are stepping up to cover various aspects of our communal life. I want to appreciate in advance, this opportunity to renew and recharge and come back to you for what I pray are many more years.  

The question I am often asked is, “what will you do?” I do have some writing, music, projects that I have had on the burner or dreamed of completing for a long time, and my outside Mishkan work (which is contractually ¾ time), that is ongoing. I hope to visit family, including our two young granddaughters in Cleveland, Toronto and British Columbia. In addition, I am looking forward to having the space to explore what turning 60 means for me and to discern among the many “things,” ideas and life lessons I have accrued both materially and spiritually over the year, what still supports who I have become, what needs to be developed and what needs to be let go in order  to make space for this next phase of life personally and professionally. As Rabbi Simcha continues her work at the Narberth Havurah and as the rabbinic chaplain at HUP, I will be here for large portions of the time- so do not be so surprised if we bump into each other! 

At the same time, as I communicated through Acts of Caring just before Rosh Hashanah, my mother Sheila, just turning 80, is now facing a rare form of cancer and is entering the limited treatment available to us very soon. We simultaneously have my dad Lester, 81, who is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s, on a waiting list for a supported care facility. When the primary caregiver becomes ill, everything shifts. We simply do not know how this year will unfold, and so some of the travel and other plans we were looking at, need to be penciled in to make space for whatever needs arise in Victoria, BC, where they live. Your ongoing prayers are of great comfort and I will, as it makes sense, update people through Acts of Caring.

I care about each of you and my own way of being in life has become so connected to being of service and support to our shared Mishkan Shalom and the greater community- and will miss being part of the daily life of Mishkan.  I feel incredibly honored and blessed to be a part of your lives through joy and sorrow, and I ask your forgiveness in advance if I am not there for you as I would wish to be this next while. Of course, with Rabbi Yael stepping up to double her time, along with Maria, Gari, Gabby, Mr. Charles, our Hebrew school teachers, member rabbis, our board, and other skilled leaders--the pastoral, spiritual life, justice work and day-to-day running of our community is in great hands. Please reach out to them as you need depending on the issue and they will be happy to help. 

I will periodically check and make brief replies to emails, primarily to our Mishkan Shalom leadership and staff.  Otherwise, my away reply in email and phone will help direct people to those in leadership roles.

Our Mishkan Shalom is an amazing community.  Caring. Passionate. Diverse. Spiritually Active. Committed to one another, to the Jewish people, Greater Philadelphia and to the world.  We are strong, gifted with so many people of so many talents.  I look forward to this time away, to discover how we shall both grow and change, and I look forward to an exciting and important future together when I return.

See you again soon and wishing you loving connections, resilience, wellbeing and clarity of purpose and meaning in life--now and always, b’vrachah v’hoda’ah- with blessing and gratitude, 

Rabbi Shawn Israel Zevit



4101 Freeland Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19128 - ph: (215) 508-0226 / office@mishkan.org Site map