You might be humming “Pomp and Circumstance” more than “Hinei Mah Tov” during graduation season as the school year winds down. Sure, Student to Student programs around the country are taking a well-deserved break this summer, but the Jewish holidays aren’t stopping when the temperature heats up! Read on for a bit about what is happening in the Jewish calendar while school is out for summer.
As the sun shines its brightest and the mercury rises, the Jewish calendar gives us an array of summer holidays. These summertime Jewish holidays bring joy, meaning, and a touch of tradition and history to our sunny adventures. So, grab your beach towels and sunscreen as we check out what the Jewish calendar has in store for us while schools is out for summer.
1. Lag b’Omer: Lighting the Spark of Hope
As the summer days grow longer, Jews come together to celebrate Lag b’Omer, a holiday filled with warmth, camaraderie, and the flickering glow of bonfires.
Lag b’Omer falls on the 33rd day of the Omer, the period of counting between Passover and Shavuot. On this day, restrictions are lifted, and the community gathers for joyous celebrations. Weddings, haircuts, and outdoor music are all part of celebrating Lag b’Omer. People of all ages participate in outdoor activities, from picnics to sports, and engage in traditional bonfire ceremonies.
Families and friends sit around the mesmerizing flames, sharing stories, singing songs, and embracing the spirit of unity that Lag B’Omer represents.
2. Shavuot: The Harvest Festival of Torah
As the first rays of summer hit the earth, we come together to celebrate Shavuot, a holiday that commemorates the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Known as the “Festival of Weeks,” it comes at the end of the Counting of the Omer, a 7 week period between Passover and Shavout during which Jews around the world count each day as they get closer to commemorating the date that our ancestors received the Torah.
During this holiday, the community gathers for late-night study sessions known as Tikkun Leil Shavuot, when we delve into sacred texts. Synagogues transform into intellectual hubs buzzing with debate and discussion, as individuals engage in an all-night study marathon, fueled by copious amounts of coffee and sweet treats.
But it’s not just about the intellectual pursuit. Shavuot also brings a delectable tradition – the indulgence in dairy delicacies. From creamy cheesecakes to blintzes filled with sweet cheese, our taste buds are treated to a dairy extravaganza, symbolizing the richness of the Torah.
3. Tisha B’Av: Reflecting on Tragedy
While summer is typically associated with joy and relaxation, the Jewish calendar reminds us to pause and reflect on moments of tragedy. Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av, is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. This date marks the commemoration of the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. It has also become a date to remember the many tragedies and exiles that the Jewish people have experienced throughout the centuries.
During this solemn day, Jews observe a fast and engage in prayers and readings of the Book of Lamentations. Synagogues become solemn spaces, resonating with mournful melodies and heartfelt reflections on the historical tragedies that befell our ancestors. Some Jews engage in a unique form of commemoration by visiting archaeological sites, including the Western Wall, the last remnant of the Second Temple.
4. Tu B’Av: Celebrating Love and Unity
Just as the flowers bloom and nature thrives, Tu B’Av blooms as a day of love and unity in the Jewish calendar. Often referred to as the “Jewish Valentine’s Day,” Tu B’Av fosters a spirit of joy and romance among the community.
On this special day, singles engage in social gatherings and events aimed at fostering connections and relationships. Matchmakers and dating apps are in full swing, promising to play Cupid and create meaningful matches. It’s a time when hearts flutter with anticipation, and the air is filled with a sense of possibility.
Tu B’Av also serves as a reminder of the importance of unity and compassion within the Jewish community. It is a day when old grudges are set aside, and forgiveness and acceptance take center stage. Celebrated with dancing, music, and feasts, Tu B’Av serves as a vibrant celebration of love and togetherness.
Summertime Jewish holidays bring a fascinating blend of tradition, reflection, love, and unity to our sun-soaked days. From the warm camaraderie of Lag B’Omer,to the intellectual pursuit of Torah on Shavuot to the introspection of Tisha B’Av, from the celebration of love on Tu B’Av, these holidays infuse our summers with depth, meaning, and a sense of community.
Student to Student looks forward to welcoming you back to the classroom in the fall. We’ll be enjoying our warm summer break and hope you enjoy yours, too!
Rabbi Andrew H. Terkel
CEO – Be The Narrative