Yesterday was the last day in the series of Jewish Holidays that began with Rosh Hashana.
Most people have heard about Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur — the 2 major “high holidays.” In case you didn’t know: it doesn’t end there.
Following Yom Kippur is the holiday of Sukkot, a 7-day Harvest Festival during which we eat our meals in a sukkah — a small, temporary hut built for the holiday.
But Sukkot, in practice, is 9 days, because it flows right into the next 2 holidays: Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.
In total, the holidays from Rosh Hashana through Simchat Torah consume the first 23 days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei.
Approximately half of these days are “religious observance days” on which no work is permitted.
To give you a sense of the scale of this, imagine if Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter were each a 2-day holiday where you had the big meals and you also went to religious services. Now imagine they fell in a 3-week period, back to back. And in between you had to build a campsite outside your house. Then add another Christmas. But without the presents.
That’s kind of what this stretch is like.
It’s a lot. Not just in terms of time, but in terms of emotion and energy. This period is one of the most intense personal development experiences one could have.
No matter how they fall out, the “Tishrei Holidays” always seem to provide a disruption to life. It’s simply hard to get traction on anything amidst the constant preparations and the days in synagogue.
It recently occurred to me that this is the point.
To borrow a phrase from the world of software, the disruption is a feature, not a bug.
The best way to see something objectively is from the outside.
The questions we contemplate at this time require us to step outside of our normal routines, the busy-ness of life, and even our homes.
By stepping away, we gain new perspective.
Sometimes you have to let go of what you know to come home to yourself.
One of the lessons from this month of holidays is that we don’t need to travel far to get an outside view of our life. We only need to be willing to let go of our busy schedule and the constant hustle and doing.
This is not work that can be done in a few hours, a day, or even a weekend. It requires a stretch of time to be outside our daily routine, to immerse in new patterns, in order to get some emotional distance from our lives. We need to create space for listening.
The “disruption” of the holidays is a gift that helps us facilitate this.
Our “culture of doing” encourages us to go from idea into action without first pausing to assess whether the action is aligned or the right action for this time.
During this month of holidays, we are forced to be in listening mode without jumping immediately into action. This creates space for us to consider what is actually aligned before we take action.
That’s exactly what we get here.
In case you didn’t know, the Hebrew month of Tishrei is not the 1st month of the Hebrew calendar — it’s the 7th month.
And just like the 7th day is a day of rest in the weekly cycle, the 7th month is a month of rest.
A month to step outside ourselves in order to return to ourselves.
Disruptions to our normal routine — whether in the form of holidays or the coronavirus — can be a gift. And we don’t even need to go far.
We can get away, and return home, right in our own backyards.
step outside yourself
obtain a new perspective
new worlds await you