Dear B’nai Shalom members, friends, and families:

With the most recent chag (holiday) of Shavuot now behind us, we view a large period of time on the Jewish calendar in which the majority of the upcoming time truly lays “fallow.” The day after Shavuot was the 8th of Sivan and there are no other holidays or public celebrations for the remainder of the month of Sivan. For the next sixteen days, (the first sixteen days in the following Hebrew month of Tammuz), there are no holidays or public celebrations.

In fact, ON the seventeenth of Tammuz, we commemorate a serious, major fast day, recalling the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by our enemies, the Babylonians, in 586 BCE, leading to the destruction of the Temple (three weeks later), on the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, known as Tisha B’av. The period of time between these two fast days: Shiva Asar B’Tammuz (the seventeenth of Tammuz) and Tisha B’av (the 9th of Av) are known as “The Three Weeks” when a considerable number of restrictions and prohibitions are put in place on Jews all over the world.

But the main point remains that there are no holidays or public celebrations during this entire period of time. Continuing forward, once done with Tisha B’av (the ninth of Av), we DO have the overlooked and minimally-understood holiday of Tu B’av (the fifteenth of Av) which, by its nature of being overlooked by the vast majority of Jews worldwide, tends not to be seen as a reason or cause for widespread celebration.

Once done with the Hebrew month of Av, we begin the month of Elul, which contains no holidays or public celebrations although there are many traditions begun in this month connected with preparations for the high holidays (which follow in the next month of Tishrei).

It is interesting to note that our Talmud describes the two most joyous days on the Jewish calendar as two days we would NEVER consider or even guess, if asked to do so. They are Tu B’Av (referred to above) and Yom HaKippurim. Because of the modest, unknown nature of Tu B’Av and because of the solemn, sacred nature of the fast day of Yom HaKippurim, unless we had prior knowledge concerning these two holidays, we would typically not consider these two
days as the two most joyous days on the Jewish calendar. (More information to follow on the celebratory nature of each of these holidays in an upcoming Seudah Shlisheet class in shul. All will be cordially invited!)

There is no other time on the Jewish calendar with such a dearth of holidays or public celebrations. The only time that may even come close is the period of time from the end of the holiday of Sukkot (on the twenty-third of Tishrei) until Chanukah arrives two months and two days later. However, the current period of time eclipses the Sukkot-Chanukah stretch by approximately a full month plus two-thirds of another month.

You will notice, that I referred to Jewish holidays or public celebrations on our Jewish calendar that are known or recognized by Jews worldwide. However, right in our midst, within the Congregation B’nai Shalom community, we have strong reasons for celebration and congratulations based on the manner the shul has continued to support the ongoing activities of the shul and the way shul members have supported one another during this COVID-19 period. In Yiddish, we refer to this as a “Yiddishe Nachas”—the pleasure, joy, and pride we take in each other’s achievements growing out of Torah commandments, directives, or traditions. Witnessing and recognizing the lofty, worthwhile, and sacred undertaking by our beloved shul members in ensuring the ongoing functions of the shul through davening, study, and Torah commitment — is a true cause for deep pleasure, joy, and pride.

Regardless of where we find ourselves along the “mountains and valleys” of the Jewish calendar, there is ALWAYS a cause and reason for our celebration of each other’s steps and actions to improve and better ourselves. I have to believe that there is not one among us who would not desire to be kinder, smarter, and better tomorrow than we are today. And certainly, following this line of thinking, we would wish to be even kinder, smarter, and better the day after that.

This process is the small machination of the larger procedure known as “Tikkun Olam b’Malchut Shakkai,” repairing the world within Hashem’s sovereignty. How gratifying and uplifting is it for all of us to recognize that within our own confines, we have the ability, the means, and the revealed apparatus to accomplish this self-help, leading to the refinement

With Torah blessing,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin