The scent of summer is in the air. The pools are full of happy people, winter clothes are stashed away and students have a perpetual grin on their faces— school is almost over! All they can think about are late nights, breakfast at noon, exciting camp activities and endless time for anything except the appalling world of studying and learning.

As one matures and perceives life from a different perspective, the idea of endless summer days begins to seem nonsensical. Admittedly, children need a break, yet close to three months absence from academic learning seems excessive for a developing mind. In addition, a child's hours in school shape him/her as a person and infuse good study habits, ethics and character development, as well as the actual knowledge gained. A break from school is not a break from study The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, used to speak to groups of children prior to their summer vacations. The constant and key component in each of his talks was that the children must remember that a break from school is not a break from study and good behavior. He imparted to parents that it is incumbent upon us to ensure that a child continues to learn, albeit informally, and to encourage proper conduct, as both are inter-related. As the famous slogan goes, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

There is a Jewish custom to recite Pirkei Avot, Ethics of Our Fathers, in the days leading from Passover to Shavuot. During the time period commemorating when the Jews in the desert were preparing themselves spiritually to receive the Torah, it is apropos to study from a book which discusses character refinement and offers sage practical advice regarding our behavior towards each other, and likewise, regarding developing a relationship with G‑d.

Many communities extend this custom of reciting Pirkei Avot, a chapter a week, throughout the summer. Particularly for those who gain immense freedom during the hot summer days, when many rules are relaxed and temptation beckons, it is perhaps essential to be reminded of true ethics and proper conduct. For those of us for whom summer is a continuation of routine life, learning Pirkei Avot can be refreshing. Each Shabbat, there is always something new and insightful, a lesson to inspire us to delve deep within ourselves and examine who we are and who we really want to be. Character development is an ongoing job, and we should take it seriously. Summer is a great time for a spiritual makeover!