From the desk of Rabbi Howald

 On Wednesday, March 16th, we will celebrate Erev Purim with a reading of the Megillah (our special Temple Israe
In her recent book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, Katherine May speaks of winter and the narrowing of the light as a time of rest and renewal. Since I became a rabbi, however, the days of summer, rather than the nights of winter, have become my period of reimagination and respite. In part, this stems from the Jewish calendar which blessedly contains very few observances between Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah. More importantly, summer is traditionally a time in our congregation when we take a step back from bar and bat mitzvahs, from monthly meetings and from weekly religious instruction for our students. For that reason, when summer arrives, we have more time to devote to planning and thinking about what the New Year will bring with the coming of fall.
         In Hebrew, the word for “summer” is “kayitz.”  Kayitz comes from a linguistic root that refers to the picking of fruit that ripens during the summer months. To our ancestors, summer was a season in which the saplings they planted finally bore fruit. Those saplings needed nurturing and care to deliver their yield but, if tended properly, they helped sustain the community until the next harvest. As a metaphor, accordingly, summer is a time to pick, savor and store the fruit that will carry us to the next New Year.
         In her book, Katherine May sees winter both as a time of retreat and rest as the days grow colder and darker and as a metaphor for all those times, in whatever season, when we when we feel frozen out or unable to take the next step. During these periods, which occur in every human life, she sees “wintering” as a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order. Wintering, she believes, is not the retreat or death of life but is crucible.
         As a rabbi, “summering” has become my “wintering.” Relatively free from the demands of our rich ritual and community life at Temple Israel, summer allows time to think anew about our services, our instruction, and the direction of our congregation. This summer as COVID seem less deadly and we have greater opportunities to spend time outside holds the promise of a respite from some of the anxiety that has kept us cooped up in our homes for so long. After so long a period inside, I think and feel better on those days when I spend time out in the world away from my tablet, my computer, and my WiFi.  “Summering” allows me both the time and the landscape to do what May’s book allocates to winter as a season and a metaphor.
         None of this, of course, detracts from May’s book which I recommend to you, as well as her interview with Krista Tippett on the NPR program “On Being” (https://onbeing.org/programs/katherine-may-how-wintering-replenishes/).  As a metaphor for rest and renewal, she prefers winter and I favor summer, but we get to the same place eventually. We all need times to take a step back and reflect on where we have been and what lies ahead in our journey. Ideally, we would do this as a matter of course every day or week. Life is rarely ideal, however, and the increasingly pace of modern life often denies us extended time for real reflection. As this summer begins, however, I look forward to the opportunity for planning and contemplation that the months between one school year and the next, between the end of 5782 and the beginning of 5783, provide. Whether winter or summer is that time for you, I wish you all a little time to retreat from the hectic world, and all we have been through since March of 2020. In closing, let me paraphrase God’s words to Noah after the flood: So long as the earth endures, may cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, never cease!
Rabbi Michael Howald