Friday, June 24, 2011

"Summer afternoon... to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."

Three days ago we officially began summer, those halcyon days of sunny skies, sprinklers, and popsicles.  You may be surprised, as I was, to find out that the institution of summer vacation is only a little over 100 years old.  Having spent the better part of my life in school – as a student and then as a teacher – summer vacation has come to feel like a natural part of the circadian rhythms of life.  Those brief two months packed enough power to last the year and into the future, calling to mind the perfect juicy peach eaten at the café table, the days in the pool - coming out only to bike to and from the library for reading material, or memories of sleep-away camp in the woods.  Summer is a location as much as a time, a place with its own rules, customs, and culture.  They do things differently there.

But as a Jewess, summer has another side.  It’s when we relive painful national memories: the destruction of our Temples, the  expulsion of the thousand year old Jewish community from Spain, the guns of August that started World War One and the war that followed the “twenty year truce,” and the Shoah. As a child, I found these days annoying, discordant notes of grief in what was supposed to be all cotton-candy and calliope music.  Recently I started thinking about it and wondering – what is the inside scoop on summer and Judaism?

For the next few weeks I’ll be exploring just that – and sharing my results with you.  We’ll also do some traditional summer activities like reviewing books of Jewish interest, and going on a few jaunts to interesting (Jewish) vacation spots.
Here's an audio lecture to get you started.
Shabbat Shalom!

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