Making the Shift
July 23, 2021
By Rabbi Adam Scheldt

It’s no secret that I am a gardener (even though I keep most of my garden hidden in my back yard).  What many may not know, however, is that my garden looks its best in mid-July.  That is when the plants I collect are in full bloom, when many of the flowers I plant anew each year have filled out and are in their prime, and when most all of the garden tours, group visits, and open visiting hours take place.  Needless to say, July is a very busy month.  The beauty, the bustle, the busy-ness—it all keeps me on my toes.

August, however, is another story.  Peak bloom is winding down amongst some of my more prized plants.  And, although everything in the garden continues to grow and bloom and enjoy the summer, there is a big part of me that exhales.

Don’t get me wrong, to grow things and cultivate beauty is always something that brings about joy and fulfillment.  Whether at its peak or sometime thereafter, goodness comes from helping beauty come into the world.

But August is a time in which we begin to make a shift.  People find time for trips or weekends away before the summer draws to a close.  Households with kids start to realign and transition to a new school year.  And personally, I enjoy my exhalation.  I take a moment to offer a bit of gratitude for a flower-filled July.  I enjoy the beauty still growing around me.  And while everything is still fresh in my mind, I begin to think about what might be next.

I think that that is really what August is all about.  Enjoying what was, and looking forward to what will be.  It’s a month in which temperatures are pleasant, things are green, and you have the opportunity to create a space for yourself to pause, take stock, enjoy the present, and mindfully move into the fall with a measure of grace.

Not everyone welcomes the fall.  Some people don’t like the colder weather that arrived with the autumn.  Many kids dread the return to the school.  But August gives us the chance—while things are still green and growing around us—to adjust to what is ahead.  We have the chance to look around ourselves in the present, take in the beauty of flowers and wonderful growing things, and recharge our inner batteries to enable us to look forward to the fall with gratitude and grace.

I think that all this is particularly poignant this year because Rosh Hashanah coincides with the beginning of September.  This transitionary period, this span of preparing to wind-down, this time when we start to look toward changing gears, aligns perfectly with the introspection and prospects of renewal that the High Holy Days directly engage.

Just as we shift and plan for what’s next so too do we have the opportunity to take out our cosmic-binoculars to envision what the Days of Awe might have in store for us.  As we start to think about how we might lay the past Jewish year to rest, what will the early autumnal start of a new Jewish year bring?  What possibilities might lie in wait for our lives if we begin to lay the ground work in this present?

As this robust month of summer comes to a close, and as we move closer to the High Holy Days, may we all find the time to look back over a summer of green-growth, and warmth with gratitude as we begin to take our first steps toward an autumn season of beauty and growth in its own right.  May these days, in which we begin to shift, enable and open us to the wonder inherent in the coming Jewish year ahead.

Rabbi Adam Scheldt is Director of Spiritual Care at Hospice Buffalo.

Making the Shift - Jewish thought of the week graphic