The month of Tishrei is the 7th month in the Jewish calendar. It is to the year what the 7th day is to the week: a time for rest.
Our lives get disrupted by design with the new year holidays, starting with Rosh Hashana through Simchat Torah: 23 days in total.
It’s truly genius.
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.
But what happens when Simchat Torah ends?
Do we jump right back into life and “get back to normal?”
I would suggest that this misses the point.
The point isn’t to “go back to normal.”
In fact, it would be impossible to do so.
In nature, there is no going back. There is only moving forward.
Harvesting what we learned is part of the “harvest” we reap in harvest season.
We return to the beginning of the cycle with the benefit of what we learned from the previous cycle.
This is part of the process of “return” — the act of Teshuva that started this process.
The teaching of the sages regarding repentance — is that repentance is not complete until you are in the same situation again and choose to act differently.
It’s not enough to apologize; you must show you’ve changed by choosing a different path when faced with the same choice again.
Learning Through Integration
This raises the importance of integration. What we learn — whether in a school classroom or the classroom of life — is of little value unless we integrate it into our lives.
Integration helps us take what we learn and turn it into knowledge through the process of embodiment. Our knowledge is always available to us because it lives inside us; it’s a part of who we are; it fuses with our identity.
Without integration, we can find ourselves relearning the same lessons repeatedly without actually moving forward.
At the conclusion of every major seminar or program I pause to take stock of what I’ve learned and how to incorporate it into my daily life.
Anytime we have a profound learning experience — whether the holidays, a seminar, retreat, or even the COVID disruption — we need to create space to cement our learnings and devise ways to integrate them into our lives. Otherwise what we learn becomes a faded memory.
Reintegrating Into Life
This brings me back to the month of Tishrei — the month of rest. The holidays consumed the first 23 days of the month.
But the immersion into them actually began the month before.
Just like a workout has a warm up and cool down period at the beginning and end, so too does any experience. In nature, the seasons don’t simply turn from one to the next with the flip of the calendar. It’s a gradual process of transition from one to the next, with each transition a mini season of its own.
We need time to adjust, to allow ourselves to sink into the experience.
I like to think of the final week of Tishrei as that transition time. As I emerge from the spiritual high of the holiday “sprint,” I consider how to keep that high with me, how to ground through daily practices and rituals that integrate what I’ve learned so it becomes a part of me — my embodied knowledge.
Integration is about re-entering life in a way that is intentional and that honors what we learned.
Honoring Transitons on All Levels
This same principle applies as we reintegrate to the next stage of COVID life (not post-COVID, because it’s still something we are all living with).
It applies as we transition to the next stage of autumn, or from one week to the next, one day to the next, and even from one part of our day to the next.
On the micro and macro levels, life is constantly offering us these moments to transition: to pause for a “harvest” and integrate what we’ve learned and take it forward into the next phase.
The Power of Rituals
That’s where ritual comes in. Rituals help us integrate this work into our daily life. They concretize it. It’s a way to make it practical — to put it into practice.
Ritual can help us integrate and implement the lessons we’ve learned from an experience so that we turn information and learning into embodied knowledge.
integrate what you have learned