The September page in my Jewish Art Calendar is filled with beautiful pictures as this month overflows with cause for celebration and introspection. We find Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah and, of course, four Shabbatot. These holidays open doors to dancing, fasting, remembering, rejoicing, eating sweet foods, resting and giving thanks.
We can learn a lot as we journey through this month of observances and commemorations, about our ancestors and for our lives today. For some, Sukkot teaches us about the dwellings we lived in while wandering through the wilderness; for others, this holiday reminds us to care for those who have no shelter; and for others, as sukkot (booths or tabernacles) have only three sides, we are reminded to welcome the stranger. During Rosh Hashanah, many happily bid adieu to this last year, while others give thanks for having made it through a most challenging twelve months. Others compare the Jewish New Year to the secular one with one encouraging a looking back and within, while the other looks toward the year ahead. Simchat Torah has us dancing with the Sefer Torah, completing our reading of the Five Books of Moses and beginning our annual cycle once again. What many find at this time is that what we read on this holiday may look so different from what we saw a year ago, but the words haven’t changed at all—while we have! We recite Yizkor on Shemini Atzeret and recall the lives of those who were so dear to us. We remember the lessons they taught us and pledge charity in their names. And then we have Shabbat, four of them, during which we rest, share joy and, hopefully, experience a sense of sanctity and peace. We light two candles to recall the words, “Shamor v’zachor,” to observe and remember, which we are commanded to do each week.
Unfortunately, no script exists to dictate our every action. The Torah lays out moral codes and the injunctions to be kind, forgiving, generous and loving and to treat others as we would want to be treated. But, how we put each of these into play is unique to each person. It’s up to us, all of us and each of us, to practice kindness, forgiveness, generosity and loving in the best and most meaningful ways we know how.
So many preparations to consider, meals to plan, prayer books to lift from the shelves; so much to think about, so much to remember.
As we begin to plan for this month of celebration and commemoration, a question comes to mind: which date is the most important, the most holy? Rosh Hashanah? Yom Kippur? Shabbat? What about today? We can’t change much about yesterday and, while we might plan for tomorrow, we know that “Man plans and G-d laughs,” right? All we really have is this day, so please enjoy it, use it well and give thanks for these very precious 24 hours.