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2018-11-02 digital edition
TODAY in the Jewish World:

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


November 2, 2018  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Jewish holidays and us

By RABBI JOSH HEARSHEN Congregation Rodeph Sholom

Wow. Time certainly does fly by way too quickly. It feels like only yesterday we were gathered in our synagogues for the High Holidays and now we are already preparing for Hanukkah. It is so hard to believe.

This past Kol Nidre I spoke about a very important subject regarding the Jewish people. I discussed the need of the Jewish people to take control of our own holidays and to stop adopting the holidays of other people. I would like to explain as we have just conclude a holiday that I am ambivalent about and are about to celebrate one that I adore and both are not Jewish holidays. Many are familiar with a Hasidic story that tells of a man who has a reoccurring dream each night where he sees a treasure under a bridge in a distant location. When he travels to the place he discovers that the location is guarded at all times by a guard who eventually reveals to him that he too has had dreams of a treasure, but his treasure was buried in the backyard of a man who looks just like the Jewish man who is standing in front of him. The treasure was in his backyard all along.

The Jewish people of today have inherited a great treasure and yet we tend to not see it or enjoy it. Our lives can be enriched by observing Jewish traditions and by making the Jewish calendar our yearly observances. Which brings me back to the two holidays that are on either side of this issue of the Jewish Press.

Many discussions about Halloween center on the origins of it and how it comes from non-Jewish traditions. All of this is true but it is not the approach I care to take at this time. I would rather discuss the issue of adopting alien holidays before fully celebrating our own. Jewish families will take their kids trick-or-treating and stay up a bit late doing so. Jewish adults will get dressed up and enjoy the festive mood of the day. But on Purim each year we struggle to convince families to let their kids stay up a bit late on a school night and adults refuse to dress up because it is juvenile. My issue isn’t with the celebration of Halloween so much as the lack of celebration of Purim in the Jewish world.

A much more easily palatable celebration from a Jewish point of view is the forthcoming Thanksgiving. When the Pilgrims originally looked for a way to celebrate the gifts that they had found here in North America they looked to their biblical heritage to find an inspiration for the celebration. They found that in the holiday of Sukkot and so it can be said that Thanksgiving is the secular version of Sukkot.

At Rodeph Sholom each year on Thanksgiving we say Hallel, the celebratory psalms reserved for the Jewish holidays over the year and we also end by singing America the Beautiful. I am a huge fan of Thanksgiving but there is still a problem. As Jews embrace Thanksgiving every year without limitations and with open arms we find that our observances of Jewish holidays still dwindle. We decorate our tables and cook like there is no tomorrow. We spend money on traveling to be with family and friends and so much more. We need to not diminish that energy but to take inspiration from our celebrations of Thanksgiving and put it into more Jewish celebrations as well.

So what does all of this mean for our community? I would like to offer all of you the same challenge I offered to my congregants on Kol Nidre. I challenge every Jewish person to examine the Jewish calendar and choose a new celebration to embrace this year. To go all in on it and make it incredibly meaningful. In order to do so you might need some direction and I am sure your rabbi will be able to help with that but spare nothing and make that new holiday for you an extra special one.

If you have already adopted all of the Jewish holidays of the year then I have a challenge for you as well… make one of those extra special moving forward. Perhaps you find yourself on autopilot for some of the holidays… make it a point to not be for that one.

Through doing this we will make our Judaism more meaningful and our community much stronger.

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