How to stay Jewish this summer

Summer is finally here! Long days are in front of us with warmth, sun, the beach, and vacations. And fortunately for all of us, there are many wonderful and meaningful Jewish things we can do. Here are 18 favorites:

  1. Teach your child to swim. The Talmud teaches us that a parent is required to make sure their child knows how to swim (perhaps in case we get thrown in the Nile again).
  2. Make hummus and laffa, Israeli specialties, from scratch. Laffa can be made outside using just a flour, salt, oil, water, a metal bowl, and a fire.
  3. Learn something new just for the joy of learning something new. In hebrew we call this Torah Lishma.
  4. Take a Shabbat afternoon picnic in the park.
  5. Visit a local seniors’ or veterans’ home. Bring cards, stories, arts and crafts, or musical instruments. Honoring our elders is a mitzvah!
  6. Wash your hands before eating. This is always good practice, and there’s a blessing for it: Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al n’tilat yadayim.
  7. Set up a lunch/coffee/ice cream date with your Rabbi or Cantor. We’d love to spend time with you.
  8. Take a day off and go to a Jewish museum and deli.
  9. Join us Saturday night August 13th for what might be a new holy day for you: Tisha B’Av. Cantor Marer and I will lead a session on why bad things happen to good people, followed by a flashlight-lit service on the floor of our sanctuary.
  10. Have a family BBQ. There’s no group in Judaism more sacred than the family, and there are few summer activities more sacred than the BBQ.  For an Israeli flavor, try lamb kabobs in a tahini sauce with rosemary roasted-potatoes and grilled tomatoes.
  11. Prepare a meal for a sick friend. Caring for the sick is also a mitzvah (bikkur cholim)!
  12. Put on sunscreen! We are all made in God’s image and it’s important that we keep this image (our bodies) healthy and safe.
  13. Read a good Jewish book when you’re at the cottage/beach/pool/vacation/on the train commuting to the city hoping that the A/C is working.
  14. Go shopping for new clothes. Wear them on Shabbat for the first time.
  15. Do some gardening. We learn in Genesis that human beings are stewards of the land and must care for it.
  16. Bake challah and light the Shabbat candles.
  17. Dedicate a few hours to playing with your pet dog/cat/ferret. Give him/her a treat. It’s a mitzvah to be kind to animals.
  18. Join us for Friday night or Saturday morning Shabbat services! Sometimes they’ll be outside, sometimes at the park, sometimes with dinner, and sometimes with cookies, ice cream, or pie! And always, with music, prayer, and people you love who love you too.

Published in Temple Emanu-El’s July-August 2016 edition of Kolaynu

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davidzvaisberg Written by:

David Vaisberg, originally from Montreal and Mississauga, Canada, serves as Rabbi at Temple Emanu-El of Edison, NJ and lives in Metuchen, NJ with his family.

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