A NECESSARY TIME OUT
It feels like summer has just begun! We Chicagoans long for these precious, few days when we can walk outside without a jacket—in fact, many of us live for these days. Nevertheless, we have this reality called the Hebrew calendar and for reasons which are sometimes beyond our understanding, our Jewish calendar this year is accelerated. Our High Holy Days arrive especially early, Chanukah falls on Thanksgiving and this deeply introspective month of Elul, signaling the approach of our holiest time of the year, begins at sunset on August 6. And, so it is with great reluctance that I begin with the following sentence:
Just as the lazy days of our summer breaks are soon coming to their conclusion and summer breezes almost begin to give way to autumn leaves and a more hectic pace, our tradition conversely beckons us to slow down. Any spiritual tradition of depth, rather than convenient sound bites, requires periodic journeys inward allowing us to dispassionately view our souls and make some important assessments about ourselves, our relationships and how we approach what is Divine in our lives. Judaism offers us an amazing smorgasbord of practices and observances to help us create greater meaning in our lives.
Our tradition requires this of each of us continually. But, for each and every one of us, let the record show, the time is just about upon us to engage in this important introspection. Our inner clocks tell us school is soon resuming, and for those of us with Jewish clocks, we know we are embarking on a sacred time of year filled with joy, hope and optimism, but also laden for some, with loneliness, sadness and regret. This is an awesome time of year in a sacred sense, and these upcoming holidays signal our inestimable worth thereby beckoning us to require more of ourselves; such is the nature and capacity of the indomitable human spirit.
The reason slowing down is important just at the time of year when the pace is accelerating is because internal reviews of ourselves take time and require thought and deep concentration. Extraneous distractions are too easy to succumb to. Our memories of ourselves during the past year require reflection enabling us through the process of teshuvah to reconnect with the essence of who we are and who we are continually becoming. Jewish practices help us during this time to reach deeply within ourselves through prayer, through acts of loving-kindness and through acts of repentance and forgiveness. Endings, though sometimes filled with nostalgic longings, are also replete with promise because endings signal new beginnings as well.
As we approach the end of 5773 and anticipate the new beginning of 5774, may we take a time out, a period within which we allow ourselves to breathe deeply and catch a breath, enabling us to more fully connect to what is deep within us, to one another and to discovering anew what is sacred and Divine in our lives.
May your New Year be filled with much promise, joy and meaning. Shana Tovah!
Rabbi Debra Nesselson