Summer has just flown by and it is still hot! Camps are ending and school begins soon in Dallas! The summer months are known for only a few holidays and most are sad. We had the 17th of Tammuz and the Three Weeks, and then nine days of levels of mourning leading up to Tisha B’Av. It has been studied and found that the Jews who know about these dates either are observant and Jewishly knowledgeable or they went to Jewish summer camp where the observances of these days are set apart. It is certainly important to know and understand the many Jewish holidays, both sad and happy. Our collective memories as a people are key to our survival. The best part about Judaism is that the year goes round and round and you can always learn and study more!
Yet as we end the sad observances and get ready for the month of Elul filled with reflection for the High Holidays, we get a minor Jewish holiday called Tu B’Av (literally the 15th of the month of Av). According to the Mishnah, Tu B’Av was a joyous holiday in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem at the beginning of the grape harvest. Unmarried girls dressed in white and went out to dance in the vineyards. It was a day of love, matchmaking and more. There are various reasons for this day that can be found by Googling or going to any Jewish website. As with most Jewish rituals, there are numerous thoughts and reasons behind the day. It is an interesting fact that its coming in the middle of the month means there is a full moon — what is more romantic?
In modern-day Israel, it is celebrated as a holiday of love and a great day for weddings. There is only one established ritual, which is that the morning prayers do not include the Tachanun, the prayer for penitence. Some today see it as the Jewish equivalent of Valentine’s Day and therefore a great day for weddings, renewal of vows or proposing, plus lots of romance and gift giving.
This summer at J Camps, we talked about a variety of Jewish values and ended our learning with the value of tradition. The children shared all their holiday and family traditions and we talked about camp traditions. We focused on the importance of traditions and that we can also create new traditions that will quickly become important in our families or camp. As you think about this value, here are thoughts adapted from “Follow Your Conscience: Make a Difference in Your Life & in the Lives of Others” by Frank Sonnenberg.
Traditions represent a critical piece of our culture. They help form the structure and foundation of our families and our society. They remind us that we are part of a history that defines our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become.
• Tradition contributes a sense of comfort and belonging.
• Tradition reinforces values such as freedom, faith, integrity, a good education, personal responsibility, a strong work ethic and the value of being selfless.
• Tradition serves as an avenue for creating lasting memories for our families and friends.
• Tradition offers an excellent context for meaningful pause and reflection.
As leaders, role models and parents, we must strive to utilize every opportunity available to us to reinforce the values and beliefs that we hold dear. The alternative to action is taking these values for granted. The result is that our beliefs will get so diluted, over time, that our way of life will become foreign to us.
As we begin the new year, let us look to the traditions that we can enjoy from our heritage and strive to make new ones for our families and our community!
Laura Seymour is Camp director emeritus and Jewish Experiential Learning director at the Aaron Family JCC.