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...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.