Rest, Release, Reclaim

Denise Handlarski

About Denise Handlarski

I am a teacher, rabbi, doula, and mother. I am the creator and spiritual leader of the always-online community Secular Synagogue.

About Rest, Release, Reclaim

This is a poem I wrote in preparation for the Shmita year imagining what it may be like if we all chose to rest, to release, and to reclaim to save ourselves, to save each other, to save the world

Rest, Release, Reclaim

What if we were to rest? 

Be our best by being less

If we could give up


Breakneck pace


As we chase the unattainable

A sense of more

Of never enough

The heavy feeling that our struggle

Is not a sign to stop but

To toughen up

Tighten up the reins

Living in pain

We push and give

Until we break

Until we can’t take

Another hit

This seems preferable

More possible


Than to simply


Silent and still

We know we’d fill

Spill over

Give over

To all we have lost and are losing

The cost of our collective choosing

We are living in calamity

Sacrificing our very humanity

The world turns, and burns,

We too are burnt out

A flame with the energy of urgency

Will, finally, become


What if we relinquished the pursuit

And simply, for a while, enjoyed its fruits?

What if we were to release? 

To let go

Of obligation

Our motivations that no longer serve

To swerve away from that which we’re chasing

Placing instead a value

On letting it go

Release grudges 


Choosing to embrace

Finding a place of knowing

That what we have given

We have done so freely

And all is forgiven

As we meet, find each other, halfway

We can say 

We have done our best

And the rest

We give over to healing

To feeling 


To being better 

Siblings, sisters, brothers, 

Lovers, friends, parents and children,

Imagine making amends


Embracing abundance

In the dance

Between hearts and minds

What if we’d find joy

In the luminous


Lessons of less?

What if we were to reclaim?

Ancient wisdom

Ancestral truth

Make use 

Of what we have



Redefine and refine

Blur the bounds — what’s yours and mine

We could attempt

A sharing

A new and daring

Approach to abundance

Instead of scarcity

Instead of retreating from

Thereby creating

What scares us

Hoarding and gorging

Forging paths of harm

We could reflect 

On the connected wellbeing

The earth, each other, ourselves

We need less

We need to acquiesce

Move from acquisitive, unequal 

To inquisitive, peaceful

We could reclaim, repurpose

Find again our purpose

How the world serves us and we serve the world

To remember

All we have, do, and are

It is enough

Let’s change the story of abundant stuff

To the story of abundant giving, forgiving, and living

From striving to thriving

From going to knowing

Even as we sit still

The world keeps revolving 

And in its revolutions

Our evolution

Towards balance


What if we were to find a cadence

That makes us well?

What if we were to rest?

What if we were to release?

What if we were to reclaim?