“I’m Jewish for ten months of every year. I’m off for the summer.”
In the midst of the busy schedule and cooler weather of the year, we welcome synagogue, through holidays, services, religious school, and other activities, into our regular busy lives. But come summertime, if there’s a free moment, it ought to be at the beach, lake, or pool. Just as a bear hibernates in the winter, so too might our Jewish identities do so in the summer.
But, even if one moves from the pews to the beaches on those beautiful weekend afternoons, know that your Jewish identity sticks with you, and the opportunities for mitzvot abound.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Askhenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel.
We need a healthy body. We have dealt much with the psyche and have forgotten the holiness of the body, we have neglected the health and power of the body, have for- gotten that we have holy flesh and not only holy spirit … all of our [sacred efforts] will only succeed if it is — with all of the gran- deur of its spirituality — a physical [sacred effort] which creates healthy blood, flesh, firm and well-sculpted bodies, hot wind glowing on strong muscles, and in the pow- er of the sanctified flesh the weakened soul will shine… (Orot).
Rav Kook tells us that taking care of our minds and spirits alone is insufficient if we are to fulfill our mission as a holy people; we must take excellent care of our bodies and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Which means, as far as sacred work goes, the beach is in and the gym is in, as is the pool, hiking, running, biking, and so many other wonderful summer activities.
The key is in recognizing that what you’re doing this summer is not only about feeling good or relaxing, it’s about enabling you to be healthy and strong so that you can continue to make your own sacred impact on this world.
While you’re at it, if you’re away for the weekend, come Shabbat, move a little bit from the body back to the soul. Splurge on a nice bottle of wine or juice and some good bread for your meals, light some candles (many hotels and resorts will facilitate Shabbat candle lighting for Jews in attendance), make good conversation, take some extra rest, and enjoy the ones you love.
Being Jewish isn’t about being at shul — it’s about living a fantastic and sacred life of meaning. Especially in the summertime.
Published in Temple Emanu-El’s summer 2017 edition of Kolaynu.