The Jews are not only a people of the book; they are a people of the calendar. When I explain this to those who are on a journey to Judaism, that each month of the Jewish year has either a commemoration or celebration (sans Cheshvan), I always receive looks of amazement. Yes, we will always find an occasion to laugh or to cry. When looking at the Jewish summer in conjunction with where and what we do as Jews, there is a bit of a contradiction.
For the next two months, we only are given fast days. The 17th day of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, commemorating the siege of Jerusalem and eventually the destruction of the Temples, which we continue to ritualize today. And yet, where are we when we mark these moments? At summer camps, family vacations, and gathering with family we have not seen throughout the year.
So this summer, let us find meaning in Jewish summer.
Several rituals are recorded in Jewish history to mark the summer solstice, which represent an awakening and the triumph of light over dark.
The midrash teaches: When the elders were appointed, all Israel lit candles for them and rejoiced in them. Miriam saw the candles burning and said to Tziporah: “What is going on with these candles?”
Perhaps the Rabbis anticipated the week that was: The end of school, families gathering together to celebrate students, teachers, and the wisdom that our elders have transmitted to our young. As the day grows to its longest length, may we continue to enlighten each other. Take in the physical light, and spread its spiritual strength. For when we return to our communities, know that this light will guide us in the year ahead.