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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.