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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


June 16, 2017  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

A year in the life

By RABBI DANIELLE UPBIN Cong Beth Shalom, Clearwater

Could you honestly say that you have celebrated every Jewish holiday on the calendar?

Not just the flurry in the fall or a couple in the spring – but all of them? That is just what one noted author, Abigail Pogrebin, set out to do a year ago: she proactively experienced every single Jewish observance on the calendar with fresh, non-judgmental eyes, and candidly reported about them in a journalistic series. Pogrebin has culled these pieces together in a provocative new book titled, My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew (Fig Tree Books, 2017).

When the book was recently brought to my attention for an adult education discussion, it struck me that many of us would benefit from experiencing the holiday cycle anew – either without the baggage of the past, or by building on the familiar. Even for the “seasoned” observer, there is always something new to learn or try on in Jewish life.

When to begin such an endeavor? Admittedly, the summer months do not showcase the most uplifting aspects of the Jewish calendar. In lifecycle terms, however, you take the peaks with the valleys. Summer observances point more toward the valley, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t much to discover there. The notable period of summer is the three week span associated with the destruction of the Temple, bookended by two Fast Days – Shiva Asar B’Tammuz (the 17th of Tammuz) and Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av).

Not everyone can manage Fast Days – you might even be thinking that Yom Kippur is quite enough. But an aversion to fasting doesn’t necessarily mean that these days should be ignored. Our calendar is a palimpsest of Jewish history, recording layers of observance from the Bible through modernity. The layers aren’t entirely scratched out, each page is still visible beneath the next one. So, each commemoration invites the modern observer to learn the history and relate its significance to today.

What if we chose to approach these Fast Days, not just as a commemoration of past atrocities, but as an invitation to reflect upon our own period of vigilance mourned the world? Through that lens, we might designate those days with any number of meaningful activities, such as, taking time to study current hate crimes, engage in a civil response, or seek out congregational experiences that reflect the ritual or mood of the day.

Luckily, “Jewish summer” isn’t just an invitation to plunge into mourning or become depressed about current events. There are several sweet rewards throughout the months as well. We always have Shabbat – the weekly retreat into harmony that beckons us to return with invigoration, recipes and rituals. And the pièce de résistance: Tu B’Av (15th of Av)! – a Jewish “Holiday of Love.” The Mishnah relates the following passage:

There were no happier days than on the 15th of Av (and Yom Kippur afternoon), because on these days, the daughters of Jerusalem would go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What did they say? Young man, consider whom you choose? (Ta’anit, Chapter 4).

So, mark your calendars: “Date Night” Aug. 6-7.

Don’t wait until September to augment your Jewish year. Jewish living is 24/7, that includes the summer. Psalm 90 states: “Teach us to number our days that we may attain a heart of wisdom.”

Happy journeying.

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned on a rotating basis by the board. The views expressed in the column are those of the rabbi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jewish Press or the Board of Rabbis.

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