The last hamantaschen has been devoured, and the Passover cleaning will not start in earnest for a few weeks (at least not for me). We are Jews between the holidays. Yes, we always have Shabbat, but in these weeks when there’s a lull in both the excitement and the pressure of a holiday, it is the perfect time to turn inward and to explore other ways to feel and act Jewish.
It’s easy to get caught up in the physical aspect of so many of our holidays and of Judaism in general. There’s nothing wrong with finding meaning and even comfort in the routine of preparing meals, smelling the same foods at certain times of the year, and of celebrating with the same family members and friends. All of those details are a significant part of what makes our various holidays so special. But holidays and the details that go along with them are not the only way to bring Judaism into our lives and into our kids’ lives.
I have some ideas for this time between the holidays that avoids what most people think of as religious observances like keeping kosher, keeping the laws of Shabbat, or upholding any other time bound mitzvot like lighting candles. It’s easy to feel as if anything other than those more obvious and often-discussed aspects of Judaism is less worthy of our time and attention, but that’s just not true.
I am challenging myself to complete at least one of the following subtle actions below, and I hope others will pick one as well. Also please share new ideas in the comments!
1. Choose one topic or person that you are not going to say anything negative about. Do you always complain about your sister-in-law, a certain friend, or your colleague? Take the next few weeks to focus on watching how you speak about that person in the name of avoiding lashon hara—negative speak.
2. Check in with those High Holiday “resolutions” if you made them. I know that my promises during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur tend to be more personal than the secular New Year’s goal setting, which usually involves good intentions regarding sugar that I never keep. This past Yom Kippur I vowed to stop waiting for apologies that are likely not coming, so that I could concentrate, instead, on the amends I owe to others. I think I’ve done a decent job, but I still have more work to do when it comes to letting go of petty grievances. These weeks between holidays are the perfect time to refocus on that goal.
3. Experiment with saying a blessing before one family meal a day. Rob Lieber, a personal finance columnist for the New York Times and author of the recent book “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money,” encourages families to try this practice whether or not the parents believe in God. The biggest lesson is gratitude, and the benefits are too many to name. Start with Lieber’s detailed article for the Huffington Post, which was adapted from his book.
4. Honoring our parents and grandparents and other relatives is more than a state of mind, and it’s especially good for our kids to see this mitzvah in action. Actively check in with members of your family who might feel extra lonely between holidays. I’m thinking of older grandparents, great aunts and uncles, or really anyone who could use a visit or an extra call if they’re out of town. Perhaps put a reminder in your calendar that comes up each Sunday that encourages you to pick a different relative to call every week.
5. Remember that tikkun olam requires real action. I know that I am personally guilty of feeling good about Judaism’s call for tikkun olam (to repair the world) without always making adequate time to volunteer time for organizations that do the important work of that repair. The weeks between Purim and Passover, or between Passover and Shavuot, or between any of our holidays, is a good time to schedule a family day of service or to commit to a regular time to help others.
Kveller readers: What ideas do you have to add to this list?