By Rabbi Jonathan Freirich
School is out, summer festivals and garden walks erupt throughout our region, and it seems like everyone gets a little extra down time. Summer in Western New York provides an abundance of opportunities for joyful gathering!
The Jewish calendar and Torah reading cycle seem out of step with all of this celebrating. Soon we enter into the Three Weeks commemorating tragedies throughout our history and we are in the middle of the Rebellion Narratives in the Book of Numbers.
What can we do about this disconnect between the enthusiasm for summer in Western culture and what seems like a season of discontent and lamentation in Judaism?
This week in the Book of Numbers we read again about the special role of the Levites in ancient Israelite society – their elevated status as attendants to the Tabernacle on the one hand and their restrictions with regard to land ownership and choice of profession on the other. Most situations provide both upsides and restrictions.
So, it is with Summer as well. The historical Jewish understanding of summer months has been governed by the challenges of summer weather in the Eastern Mediterranean, namely the possibility of oppressive heat, and the fact that Summer was the season of waging war for civilizations in their region. The traditions we developed around this season reflect this somber attitude.
Still we can do more than one thing at a time! A Jewish strength is our ability to hold in mind multiple not always easily reconcilable ideas.
May our summers be ones of joy and reflection, leisure and remembrances of past difficulties. May our activities renew us, and our learning deepen our experiences. Wishing everyone a Happy July and a Shabbat Shalom.