Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
When I was a kid, we had multiple calendars hanging on our kitchen cabinets: the school calendar, the Sunday School calendar, the Jewish holiday calendar, various sports schedules and just a regular calendar with family birthdays, events, and appointments. Now, with smartphones and computers, I suspect most of us still have many calendars, but they appear on our phones as just one integrated calendar.
On my iPhone, I see my work calendar, my personal calendar, the Jewish holiday calendar, and a birthday calendar (which I think Facebook mysteriously imports!). And, often, a Jewish holiday will pop up on my calendar, and I’ll think: Wow, is it that time of year already!?
This past Sunday night marked the beginning of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). This coming Sunday night will begin Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day), followed immediately by Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) beginning on Monday night.
Those are three days of immense significance in a short time. And while I certainly always pause on Holocaust Remembrance Day to remember those who lost their lives during that horrific time, and while I try to remember to think about my connection to Israel on Memorial Day and Independence Day, I must admit they are not always front and center on my mind.
The only time that these holidays were at the forefront for me was when I lived in Israel for a year. There it is powerful to know that you are in a country where so many people are marking these important days. The most palpable moment is on Memorial Day, when a siren is sounded for one minute – and Israelis stop everything they are doing and stand in silence. They even stop their cars, so highway traffic comes to a halt. I’ve never experienced anything else quite like that.
The truth is the entire Jewish calendar was much more central to my life when I lived in Israel. On Fridays, I would go to the small market up the street to buy fresh flowers and a loaf of challah, and it turns out that’s what everyone else was doing too! I lived in Jerusalem, so many stores were closed on Saturdays and almost nobody was working, which meant I actually had Shabbat lunch with my friends every single week. I’m not sure I’ve had a Shabbat lunch since returning to the US, where pausing on Friday nights and Saturdays just seems to be countercultural in our fast-paced world.
I am thinking a lot this week – not just about the three important days we mark on the calendar in a short time – but also about how I can take more time to integrate my various calendars, not just on my phone, but also in how I live my life. How can I better recognize the rhythms of the Jewish year while also fitting them in to all of those other calendars that once hung on my kitchen cabinets? I think I’ll start by inviting some friends over for Shabbat lunch tomorrow.