Summer is without doubt a special time! I have always lived my life following the rhythms of the academic schedule. June always means the conclusion of the program year and the beginning of summer activities.
As a child, summer meant it was time to go to camp! For a few days after school ended, I could stay out all day with my friends and come home when the street lights went on. Then it was off to camp for the summer. I looked forward to it each year. In fact, for the past 18 years, I have had the honour of serving on the faculty of Camp George, the Reform movement’s camp in Canada. In general, the pace of summer is slower, giving us time to reflect and consider.
There are no major Jewish holidays during the summer. We do have the observance of Tisha B’Av. This year, we will observe it beginning on the evening of August 13. Tisha B’Av – literally, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av – is the date both the first and second ancient Temples were destroyed. For a thousand years or more the Temple in Jerusalem was the central address for Jewish worship. When the second Temple was finally destroyed, and the people of Israel scattered all over the world, the sacrificial rites also came to an end. Being resilient, we created what we now know as rabbinic Judaism. This system replaced the sacrifices with oral prayer. On Tisha B’Av, we lament the Temples’ destruction.
After the Second Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE, Judaism underwent the most significant change in our history. We transformed ourselves from sacrificial prayer to spoken prayer. We replaced the priesthood with leaders and teachers we now call rabbis.
The truth is that I really have no desire to see a return to the ancient sacrificial rites. As a Reform Jew, I am not really very interested in the re-establishment of the Temple. I am, however, deeply moved when I think of the incredible loss the destruction of the Temple was to our people. We could no longer worship in the ways we had become accustomed. Indeed, God had been evicted from the sacred home.
For me, Tisha B’Av has always been a time to pause in the middle of a wonderful sunny summer, and thank God for the blessings we enjoy today. For many years, I have often been up at camp for Tisha B’Av – which is always a great opportunity to create powerful, meaningful experiences for our children to learn about our people’s history.
Whatever your summer plans may be, I encourage you to take some personal reflection time. For all our children who will spend time at Jewish camps this summer – I wish you a summer filled with the incredible blessings of camp: community, spirituality and personal growth.
Have a wonderful summer!