Forgettable holidays?

Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh received a B.A. from Skidmore College and was ordained as a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is fortunate to be involved in so many facets of the community including serving as the chaplain for JF&CS and an instructor for CAJE. This will be her fifth year serving as the visiting Rabbi in Decatur, Ill. She has also served congregations in both Sydney and Perth, Australia. When not writing her weekly BLOGS, she can be found running marathons.

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

The day after Yom Kippur people ask me the strangest question. “Aren’t you glad the Holidays are over?”  I pause, then, remind them about Sukkot closely followed by Simchat Torah. How can we forget the celebration of thanksgiving? Would these well-meaning individuals ever skip turkey, sweet potatoes and apple pie on Thanksgiving? Nor would I forget the lulav and etrog and visit to a sukkah on this Festival of Rejoicing. And who can forget childhood memories of parading around the sanctuary with Israeli flags and candied apples?

Why do we skip over holidays or limit ourselves to just a few? The Jewish calendar is rich with opportunities to celebrate, observe and commemorate. It is a calendar about truly living — living the historical and ritual experience of our heritage. We utilize our minds, hearts and bodies to observe and celebrate. We are a religion of wholeness.

Why are some Jews more comfortable explaining the meaning of Christmas than the historical connotation of Shavuot? How do we emphasize the importance of a Tu Bishvat seder or listening to the Scroll of Esther when it is not part of our yearly language? How do we encourage people to start living according to the Jewish cycle?

Just as we would not leave fresh flowers on the table without a vase and water, so too, we should not ignore the significant days in Judaism. Judaism teaches us to treat every day, each moment as sacred. We should imbue mundane moments with sparks of the Divine and holiness. Living our lives Jewishly should become second nature. But for now, I will settle with Chag Sameach rather than, “Aren’t you glad the Holidays are over?”