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Aug 15 2011

It’s the Jewish Day of Love

By at 1:09 pm

It can be a rude shock to come home after a dreamy vacation, but it helps when that first Monday is Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of Love.

And yay! whoopee! goody! That’s today!

“Tu B’Av” literally means the 15th day of the month of Av, which corresponds to the full moon that usually wanders through the sky in all its shining corpulent glory sometime during August every year. If you had a glimpse of Her Silvery Majesty glowing amongst the stars this weekend, you might agree with the notion that our closest heavenly body is looking particularly stunning lately. Perhaps all that global warming is doing wonders for her complexion?

Peoples around the globe have always related the moon to fertility, sexuality, femininity and emotional fluidity, and Tu B’Av is a simple celebration of all that. It’s a pretty minor holiday by Jewish standards, with no real religious obligations or special foods or complex rituals—for 19 centuries the only acknowledgment of it was the omission of prayer of penitence during the morning prayer services. MyJewishLearning.com attributes it to a matchmaking festival for the unattached ladies of the Second Temple era, who would dress in white and check out suitors while dancing in the vineyards (how very Bacchanalian of our ancestors!)

These days it’s basically Israel’s version of Valentine’s Day, with a similar industry of gift-giving and partying down. Its popularity could have much to do with it taking place hot on the heels of last week’s very, very depressing “holiday” of Tisha B’Av, a fast day that’s the culmination of three weeks of mourning for the many hideous and awful things that have happened to the Jewish people on the Ninth day of Av throughout the millennia. Tisha B’Av is the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day of Judaism, and Tu B’Av is a fine way to remember that life can be effortless and lovely once in a full moon.

Even if you didn’t fast on Tisha B’Av or even remember to light a yahrzeit candle because you were up in the mountains without a cell phone or internet let alone a Jewish calendar and were called out later on your Facebook page by a religious friend for being a bad Jew, don’t let that stop you from swilling a little hooch and boogie-ing down under the full moon. After all, I—ahem—we can always repent on Yom Kippur. (Technically, Tu B’Av began last night at sundown and ends tonight, but heck, as mountain wisdom dictates: If the bottle’s already open, you might as well finish it.)

Of course, love and the moon are hardly bound by traditions or religion or even our own minds, so here’s a soundtrack that captures the simple joy of Tu B’Av by the Plain White T’s (none of whom are Jewish, despite attempts to find a few agreeable degrees of separation). Remember to sway to the rhythm of love today and all days!

The post first appeared on Jessica’s blog yoyenta.com. Check it out, you won’t regret it.

Aug 10 2011

How I Observed Tisha B’Av

By at 11:06 am

Yesterday, Jews all over the world observed Tisha B’Av, the commemoration of the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Observance consists of refraining from luxuries such as wearing leather shoes (not an issue for this vegan), showering (not an issue for this overwhelmed mama), and not eating (a very big issue for this lover-of-food who is still nursing and can on most days use that as my excuse for constantly eating).

Not all Jews observe Tisha B’Av, and we don’t all observe it in the same way, but I find observing this day as a reminder that we are literally and figuratively living in exile. I was not raised religious, but I have come to find this day life-affirming and beautiful in its tragedy and complexity.

However, as the mother of an almost 3 and almost 6 year old, I struggle to find ways to explain the day to them. My older son knows the Temples were destroyed and he finds it sad–in an age-appropriate way–that Jews weren’t allowed to practice our religion and that the Babylonians and the Romans desecrated our Temple and all the things that we believed in. However, that’s about as far as it goes for him.

His day doesn’t stop simply because I am not eating. He still needs breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and snacks in between. He still rejoices in small pleasures: a new set of marbles (with a “shooter”), buying party favors for his brother’s upcoming birthday party, the way our cat rolls on the carpet in the sun to warm up. These things bring joy to my son every day, including on Tisha B’Av, when laughter, rejoicing, and celebration are significantly tempered among adults.

The beauty of this day is that in all of its sadness and profundity, we see as parents that life goes on. I may sit on the floor in mourning in disheveled clothing and feel heavy and sad, but you cannot ignore the innocence of a child even through a lens of focusing on death and sadness. I wondered today what children were like in the time of the Temple’s destruction. They must have been devastated and it must have been a tremendously tragic existence to live amidst all of that sadness. But I also know that children then, as now, rejoiced at a set of new marbles. They rejoiced when they were generous simply because they felt generosity well up inside of them. They rejoiced when they observed the wonders of the world. Just like my son did today.

Being a Jewish parent means living with tension no matter what you practice or how or why. How do we embrace our past while allowing our children to move into their own future? We can’t stop their rejoicing any more than we would want to quash their innocence and we also can’t stop them from hurting any more than we would want to shelter them from reality.

To every thing, there certainly is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.

Read about why Mayim doesn’t have a nanny, how she studies on the set of The Big Bang Theory, and why she breastfeeds a toddler.

Aug 8 2011

It’s Tisha B’Av–See You on Wednesday

By at 5:06 pm

Jews remember the destruction of the Temple on this sad day.

Tonight is the beginning of the holiday of Tisha B’Av, the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av. And if you thought Yom Kippur was serious, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Tisha B’Av is the most solemn day of the Jewish year. It commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, and is a day of mourning and fasting.

You can read more about the history and observances of Tisha B’av here.

So our offices are closed tomorrow. We hope your Tisha B’Av is meaningful, and we’ll see you back here on Wednesday morning.

Nov 26 2010

Friday Night: Thanksgiving Shabbat

By at 8:46 am

I'll be enjoying at least two of these this year.

My family rarely celebrates Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving anymore.

It all started when my dad was in his first few years as a doctor and could never have the day off. We’d celebrate on Friday. But then we had about a 20 year run of Thanksgiving on Thursday, until I met my husband and felt the pull of being with his family on the holiday too.

So, we started doing Thanksgiving on Friday again. In fact, my brother- and sister-in-law are celebrating with her family on Thursday, we’re celebrating with my family on Friday, and we’re celebrating with my husband’s family on Saturday. Try to say that three times fast.

Beyond the fact that I actually don’t really like turkey, I kind of love having lots of Thanksgiving. Of course it’s somewhat fraught with drama (what’s Aunt Helen going to knock over this year?) but it’s also just a great time. You get to see everyone. My daughter gets to play with her cousins. And my husband’s family, I hear, is even planning on having a karaoke party between the meal and dessert. It’s a day (or two, or three) filled with family and love and plenty of food.

As such, I love that we’re celebrating on Shabbat this year. Shabbat’s supposed to be all about rest, joy, and holiness. And though I wouldn’t call two 20-person meals restful necessarily, to me there’s not much more holy or joyful than family, in all its crazy wonder.

So this week, instead of Shabbat Shalom, I wish you a Shabbat Sh…anksgiving.

Nov 23 2010

Thanks-Giving

By at 10:36 am

When I was in the second grade, we put on a play for the school about the beginnings of the holiday of Thanksgiving.

From my second grade recollection, a woman named Sarah Hale convinced President Lincoln that the people of the United States needed a special, dedicated day to appreciate the bounty of this land. (Perhaps that’s just my spin on it–I played Sarah Hale. I’m told I was very convincing.)

But according to Wikipedia (perhaps a more reliable source than second-grade-me), Hale did convince Lincoln that nationalizing Thanksgiving was important. At the time, it was celebrated on different days in New England, from October through January, and not really at all in the South.

I’ve long felt a kinship of sorts with Sarah Hale. She convinced the president that it’s important to have a holiday where we take a step back and appreciate our lives. What an amazing concept. A whole day, nationwide, that’s dedicated to saying thanks. Thanks to our parents, who changed our diapers and taught us how to get along with other people. Thanks to our friends, who keep us sane and make us laugh. Thanks to our spouses, who love us for who we are and tolerate our quirks. Thanks to our children, whose wonder at the world around them helps us remember what life’s all about.

Judaism is filled with moments to say thank you. It’s written throughout the prayers we say, the blessings for food, wine, and holidays, and the philosophy of our sages. There’s even a psalm that basically says: It’s good to give thanks (to God). Maybe Sarah Hale was channeling Jewish thought when she convinced Lincoln that we should nationalize Thanksgiving. Because it’s good to give thanks. So, thanks Sarah. Thanks Abe. Thanks Judaism.

And thanks to all of you.

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