Along with countless others, for the next few weeks my family and I will be enjoying a miniature “Summer Vacation”. It is a time honored custom in America to enjoy the slower place during the summer months, by going on trips, and shipping the kids off to camp. Even those whose work doesn’t allow them to completely take time off, often manage to arrange a more relaxed schedule during this time of year. As Jews, we view everything in our lives through the prism of Torah. Including Summer Vacation.
In this week’s Parsha, the Jewish People are complaining to Moses about a lack of water while in the desert. G-d instructs Moses to speak to a certain rock, thereby bringing out fresh water. G-d says, “You will bring forth water from this rock, and give the community and their animals to drink.” From the fact that G-d specifically mentions “their animals” in this verse, Rashi comments, “From here we see that G-d cares about the Jewish People’s possessions.” Even our ancestor’s cows benefited from this miracle!
G-d isn’t only interested in our souls or spiritual development. As is mentioned in the works of Maimonides, and the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law), a Jewish person has an obligation to take care of his or her health and body, by eating healthily and exercising. These aren’t just nice ideas. G-d -Himself cares deeply about our physical well-being, as the Chassidic classic “Hayom Yom” states; “We have no idea how precious the physical body of a Jew is to G-d.”
With this perspective, Summer Vacation can indeed be a noble, healthy, even holy idea, as a person usually has more time for mental and physical stimulation and relaxation. However, one common side effect of these summer months is very much not in line with Judaism. Along with taking a laissez faire attitude towards work and school, a person might apply this feeling to our connection with Judaism.
The relaxed, sometimes indulgent attitude that vacation brings in its wake, presents a challenge for those trying to maintain a spiritual connection. Synagogue attendance, Torah study, and preforming Mitzvot in the proper way can all too easily give way to laziness, apathy or worse. It goes without saying that we must all be diligent, remembering that the Torah is a Jewish person’s connection to life, and that all of our activities must conform to the ways of our traditions.
But Summer brings along an amazing opportunity as well. The time of vacation, when there is a lessoning of responsibilities and more freedom, gives a person the time and ability for greater Prayer and Torah Study which during the year is more of a challenge. For this time to be utilized in the ultimate way, along with physical recreation and rest, a person must devote extra hours to spiritual endeavors as well, each person on their level.
For instance, setting aside an hour in the morning for daily prayers, attending synagogue services more often, choosing a book from the Tanach or Talmud to study and complete, taking time to bake Challah for Shabbat; the possibilities are endless! I wish all of us the ability to utilize our vacation in the best way, preparing us physically, and spiritually, for the year ahead.
Wishing you a “Gezunte Zumer” (A Healthy Summer) and a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Akiva Hall