Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

How to Make the Best of Your ‘Jewish Summer’

July 15, 2013 8:23 am 0 comments

The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, oil on canvas. Photo: Francesco Hayez.


What Would You Do?

If nothing stood in your way, how would you spend your summer? Would you embark on a dream vacation? Would you learn a new trade? Would you escape to a faraway island?

For Jews worldwide, the summer season is spent in unique, and perhaps, challenging ways. A while ago, a friend complained to me that he finds the “Jewish summer” very frustrating. “Look at our summer,” he said half-jokingly. “For seven weeks (beginning on the second day of the holiday of Passover), we count the days leading to the festival of Shavuot; for three weeks, we mourn the destruction of the Jerusalem Temples; and for the remaining four weeks, we repent in preparation for the High Holidays.”

“You’re right,” I told him. Quoting Andre Naher, a 20th century French-Jewish philosopher, I added: “‘it’s a difficult pleasure to be a Jew.'” Yet, cynicism aside, we ought to echo his question: Why would our tradition fill our fun-filled summers with such restricting limitations?

The Summer Sunshine and its Great Burst of Leaves

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald has a moving description of the summer season: “And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees… I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” Indeed, this season teems with a new sense of life and brims openness and freedom.

But these are not always good things. Reports show that crime goes up when temperatures do, and cases of marital infidelity also soar during this time of the year. This may be due to the extra time that people have on their hands throughout this season, along with the inviting openness of the summer that drives people outside of their home. “More people spend time outside when the weather is nice, which can facilitate everything from pickpocketing to gang violence,” a reporter suggested recently.

These reports reflect an obvious truth: freedom without purpose ceases to exist. And unless we have a purposeful plan in play, we will struggle to find direction and meaning in the open freedom of the summer. And here lies the secret of the “Jewish summer plan,” which summons us to embark on a three-step journey of counting, mourning, and atoning.

Step One: Valuing Time

Step one; we must begin with valuing time. Every moment is precious. Every tick of the clock is filled with opportunities. There is so much life in the present that we ought to make the most of it before it vanishes. The Jewish summer begins with the counting of every day for seven continuous weeks. “Time is the best teacher,” a wise man once said, “but unfortunately it kills all of its students.” The only way to avoid being “killed by time,” especially during this season, is to count and put into use the full value of its every day.

Step Two: Connecting the Past To The Present

Step two; for three weeks, we mourn the tragedies of years gone by, and connect to our spiritual roots. These are the weeks when many tragedies befell the Jewish people including the besiegement and destruction of the Jerusalem Temples in the years 586 B.C.E and 70 C.E, and the expulsion of Jews from Spain in the year 1492 (which we will mourn this coming Monday evening, July 15, and Tuesday July 16).

This connection to the past during the “Jewish summer” ensures that we are not left squandering aimlessly in search of a meaningful direction toward the future. It bolsters our identity and guides us onward with clarity and focus.

Step Three: A Return To the Self

Step three; we are invited to repent, better – to return, during the final four weeks of the Jewish summer. Jewish law calls upon us to awake from our spiritual slumber, inspect our actions, and return. In order to experience a fulfilling summer, we ought to return to our true selves.

In our age of distractions, this lesson holds particularly true. The “Jewish summer” encourages us to rid ourselves of the fantasy that life’s blessings, such as peace and happiness, can be found outside. We ought to re-focus on who we truly are, and what our personal mission statements ought to be. The unleashed potential of the individual self, and all of its God-given talents and skills waiting to be realized, are irreplaceable.

Looking At Life from The Inside

Shirley Turkle, the Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, recently shared an interesting observation: “Not too long ago, people walked with their heads up, looking at the water, the sky, the sand and at one another, talking. Now they often walk with their heads down, typing. Even when they are with friends, partners, children, everyone is on their own devices. So I say, look up, look at one another…”

She is undoubtedly right. We certainly need to look up at one another, and connect uninterruptedly with genuineness and depth. But before we look upward, we would do well to first look inward, and make certain that we are making use of our time, and our inner self, to the best of our ability.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    The first English-language trailer for Natalie Portman’s directorial debut — A Tale of Love and Darkness — based on Israeli author Amos Oz’s memoir, was released on Thursday. The movie, originally filmed in Hebrew, tells the story of Oz’s childhood in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate and the early years of Israel’s independence. Portman, who was born in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew, plays the lead role of Fania, the author’s mother. She struggles to raise her son as she deals with inner demons, a […]

    Read more →
  • Features As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    JNS.org – Sonnenallee, a street in Berlin’s Neukölln district, looks like it comes straight out of an Arab city — so much so that it goes by the nickname “Gaza Strip.” Kebab and bakery shops are advertised in Arabic; men sit in men-only coffee shops; and bridal shop windows showcase glittery, not-so-stylish gowns. But take a random turn, and you’ll find a swath of bars, burger joints, and Indian restaurants where hip Berliners announce that they have arrived to urban coolness. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot engages in fierce action sequences in the new Wonder Woman trailer, which Warner Bros. premiered during the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The nearly 3-minute trailer, the first to debut for the superhero film, shows scenes of Diana, princess of the Amazons, fighting alongside men in the battle against the world’s toughest enemies. The first shot of the video shows Wonder Woman discovering a man, Steve Trevor (played by actor Chris Pine), washed ashore. The clip then takes viewers to the all-female island where Wonder Woman was born. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →