calendar“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Do you recognize that quote? It’s attributed to Mark Twain…but he never said it. It’s a great quote, nonetheless.

Here’s my attempt to birth a memorable quote: “The shortest summer I ever spent on Cape Cod was when Rosh Hashanah fell two days after Labor Day!”   

We’ve all been talking about how early (with respect to our secular calendar) the High Holy Days (henceforward “HHD”) arrive this year. In the Jewish calendar, they’re neither early nor late….they’re right on time!

Like so much in my life, the things that demand my attention end up in triage, being juggled with any number of other things that require or deserve my attention. The “early” arrival of the HHD meant, among other things, that my annual anxiety nightmare–the one in which I am standing on the bimah in the Meeting House on Rosh Hashanah morning having forgotten to write a sermon–arrived early this year, in late July. It meant that my summer vacation break, pushed earlier into the summer this year, was permeated with just a bit more HHD-anxiety than usual. Such are the vagaries of life as a rabbi.

Truth be told, there is something about the way that our Jewish calendar is out-of-sync with the secular calendar that is refreshing and challenging. Call it “temporal dissonance”, if you will. While the rest of the world is thinking about “X”, the rhythm of Jewish life bids us think about “Y”.

For many of us, back-to-school sales and the pennant race compete with the daily sounding of the shofar during the month of Elul, the prelude to Rosh Hashanah. Summer suddenly gives way to “post-summer” and we feel an internal shifting of gears, a subtle preparation for our annual encounter with the Days of Awe[some opportunities].

Early or late–or right on time–the HHD arrive to remind us of timeless truths, sacred responsibilities, the joy of gathering as a community and of opportunities for renewal and growth. May the new year, 5774, that is swiftly approaching be filled with meaning and blessings for you and yours.

L’shanah tovah tikateyvu…may you be inscribed for a good year!

Reb Elias