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After the High

After the High

Internalizing the Holidays

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The High Holidays are over, and we're buckling down to the long winter months, with only Chanukah candle lighting times to break us out of our routine. One of my first grade students is already building a Chanukah menorah out of lego and promising to take a picture of himself lighting it on Chanukah. There is no arguing with these kids – holidays are more exciting that the rote schedule of a long stretch of school and work. And now is really "back to school." Though school begins in September, every Jewish student knows the school year doesn't start in earnest until after the holidays.

We can take part of them with us Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah, are such sweet and memorable days, that it is with reticence that we embrace the rainy months ahead. But maybe we can take part of them with us into the winter.

A project that is sometimes done in younger grades the day school resumes provides food for thought for the teacher and the students. The children cut out a paper suitcase and four pieces of paper. They are asked to reminisce about everything that happened over the holidays, and to draw four things that they want to carry with them. They place these four drawings in their "suitcase" to keep them company in the months ahead.

My students drew the dancing on Simchat Torah, and the songs from synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. A smiley face surrounded by various holiday symbols represented the joy the child saw in all the mitzvoth and customs. One boy drew the idea of the Divine Presence which is represented by the sukkah, which we are taught protects us from all harm. And another drew the dessert that he ate in the sukkah! His favorite foods made a lasting impression and connected him to the joy and holiness of the holiday.

I was tempted to draw my own pictures on small rectangles, and slide them into a paper suitcase. Mine would definitely be similar to those of my first graders. If only there were a way to keep those beautiful melodies of the holidays humming in my head throughout the winter! Surely the rest of the year would be different. And why not? If my three-year-old is still singing songs from Lag B'omer which we celebrated almost half a year ago, why not continue to hum our favorite holiday songs deep into the next few months as well?

We live their lessons daily And the dancing from Simchat Torah… Let's remember that love of Torah and that joy of being the Jewish people that we expressed in the continuous, boisterous circling of the bimah with our holy Torahs. The enthusiasm with which we completed the last Torah portion, and immediately started again from the beginning with Bereishit… Let's tuck that into our suitcases to pull out in the middle of November, or January.

What else would I draw on the rectangular papers? The awesome realization that our Creator runs this world and the tremendous responsibility that accompanies that knowledge. And the heartfelt prayer, offered in silent devotion as I was about to begin the final prayer service on Yom Kippur, "Hashem, G‑d, please let me pray with the joy of closeness, with no worldly interruptions. And if my children do make it too difficult to concentrate, please, G‑d, now as always, grant me patience and forgiveness of them!"

While we might celebrate these holidays at particular times of the year, my first graders have shown me that there really is no reason we can't live its lessons, meaning, and memories on a daily basis.

Rafaella Levine is a translator, writer, and teacher living in Jerusalem with her family.
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gershon m October 23, 2009

Such a great author! Let's get more of her wisdom! A weekly column maybe? Reply

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