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Sunday, May 3, 2015

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We have no choice but to get ready

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It’s August, still summer, but everyone acts as if it’s fall already. I hate it. Please let summer last. Don’t cut it short. But no, as soon as August arrives back-to-school fliers appear and people start talking about the High Holidays!

Oy! I’m not ready!

I fully understand the need to get ready, especially for something as momentous as the holidays, but I refuse to cut my summer short. We have so little summer here in Canada. August is an important element of time for relaxing, for soaking up that last bit of sun and carefree time of year. Daylight lasts long enough to make evening plans and not feel as though you have to run home before it’s dark. Life is lighter, or so it seems. So why cut it all short?

Especially this year, we’re faced with a shortened summer as those High Holidays come so soon – right after Labour Day. No time to slowly get used to the fall schedule. Rosh Hashanah leaps into our laps. So many friends are talking of starting to cook now! There’s something wrong with this picture.

In general, the holidays cause many problems in the working world. Taking days off from work or school repeatedly is difficult, to say the least. Doing so at the beginning of the school term is problematic. Additionally, three-day holidays – stringing together Thursday, Friday and Shabbat – becomes a challenge to the most innovative parents and community.

Nonetheless, I must get ready.

I won’t give up my August. I won’t lose my summer. I desperately need the summer’s breeze and calm before the frenetic fall. Even thinking of the fall raises my blood pressure. So I cling to August and refuse to cook for Rosh Hashanah yet.

It will be a last-minute thing for me. I can’t help it. When the last week comes, I’ll call people to invite them, and I’ll be a wreck.

But I’ll start thinking of ways to make the holiday season better. What’s the best part of the holiday? Where are the good memories?

For so many of us, the positive aspects of these days centre on family and friends. Synagogue services might be too long, but they do get us together. The networking and rekindling of old friendships is a giant plus. Working that angle helps make the season come alive. With all the meals to prepare, inviting these new/old friends and family to eat together is a worthwhile element of renewal. Spending time together, telling stories, making new memories – that’s what it’s all about for so many of us.

This is one of the ways we build community. Seeing the synagogue full is heart-warming. There’s pride in that communal fullness. Afterward, eating together further redeems the long service. Not only is it good to finally eat, but the togetherness adds to the fullness, to the redemptive notion. We did it. We survived another rabbi’s speech. We’re here and we’re together. We made it through another season of holidays, holding on to our Jewishness while complaining all the way. That social bonding is integral to our continuity and pride.

Of course, there’s another aspect to this season. We must individually renew the bond of our personhood and Jewishness. This is much harder. Who we are and what we are also deserves regeneration. Getting ready for this aspect of the holidays takes more time, more intensive planning, and few of us truly prepare for it.

Maybe that’s why services are so long. We wait until we’re in the moment of prayer to get going. And the going is tough. I’m seldom ready for it. Facing up to who I am and what I’ve done in the past year requires a level of introspection and honesty that I shy away from. It’s not just that I want summer to last. I want release from difficulties and responsibilities. Of course, there’s no such choice. 

The High Holidays give us a chance to face up to who we are and gives us the chance to renew our lives. That’s true freedom. That’s self-determination.

We just have to get ready.

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