Summer is over. Too soon. Fall is here and school has started. Again, too soon. I grieve for the absence of light and warmth, of vacations and relaxation. Summer engenders joy because it brings all these elements into our lives.
So what does fall bring? Shorter days and more work. But we also have the New Year, Rosh Hashanah to anticipate. I wonder at our preparedness or lack thereof for the full spectrum of natural and spiritual changes that become available to us at this time. I know I am saddened by the onset of fall, but I want to be uplifted too. Just how can I accomplish that?
Looking at the holidays, I try to grasp the wonderful opportunities they uncover. It is a time for renewal on so many levels, yet I know we don’t easily avail ourselves of these scenarios. Personally, I get it by asking for forgiveness and approaching my own relationship with God. But that does not convey the full power of redemption and revitalization offered by these holidays. For, while it is important for many of us to connect with God and feel a sense of forgiveness, as human beings there is much more that we need to develop and concentrate on.
First on my list is the sense of newness, of refreshing our physical, emotional and spiritual senses. So yes, I do think it is important to wear new clothes. They show on an external level what can go on internally. And it is very important to co-ordinate the inner and outer spheres of our lives. Judaism has not encouraged us to denigrate the physical. We integrate it into our lives and rituals. All our holidays include aspects of the physical, especially in celebrating the natural cycle. Acknowledging that we are human and need to indulge all our attributes is part of our religious tradition. Denial of the body and of pleasure is not our way. So this is a special time to indulge the physical as symptomatic of the renewal of our spirit.
Thus, we have many traditions related to food consumption and the symbolic value of the foods we eat. The large meals with friends and family present us with the real experience of community. Eating is pleasurable and getting together is fun. So we combine these attributes, and voilà, we build memories that grow for ourselves and children. Memories abound of good times, of strength in relationships and of the simple significance of togetherness. Sure, we spend too long in the synagogue and then eat too much, but think of how these experiences enlarge both our sense of Judaism and our identity as Jews embedded in strong communities. Even when we have troubles and there is tension in the community, at this time of year, the emphasis is on the positive. And that’s the way it should be.
But there is more to the specialness of the season. This is a time of our lives we get to re-vision our lives. It is not just about asking for forgiveness. In some sense that is the easiest thing to do. The hardest part is to accept that we must do things differently and then to set up a praxis that ensures this freshness.
How do we reframe our approaches to everyday events? How do we restructure our habitual patterns of interaction and perception? How do we change? This time of year offers us tremendous opportunities, but they are not easily absorbed into our lives. Reconsidering and replenishing our styles and attitudes is the most challenging and exciting aspect of the season.
I want to go for it and “seize the day,” but I know how hard it is. Every year I try. Maybe this year will be good.
I wish the best for all of you – health, peace and happiness. And renewal! Shanah Tovah.