Here in Israel not everyone owns their own home, let alone a summer home as well. In Israel the summer vacation is only for three weeks, during the time in between Tu B’Av and the first day of the month of Elul.
This special time period is called bein hazmanim, literally meaning in between the times. Since the yeshiva boys learn all year long, the time they take off is in between that time period.
There are no bungalows with beautiful homes, pools or activities for everyone all day. At best, people go away for a few days, sometimes for a week, and this is the summer vacation. No sleepaway camps for two months or hotels or vacation villages for the whole summer.
Having said all that, the summer experience here is tremendous. Since vacation isn’t very long, the few days that are spent are of great quality time. Every second is utilized to its maximum. And people come back from their time away recharged with energy to get started with a new year.
I went away with some of my children and grandchildren for a few magical days up north. Despite the heat wave we are experiencing here in Israel, there’s nothing like the Sea of Galilee to chill the blazing sun.
We stayed in air-conditioned tents and spent most of our waking hours in the water. What was so beautiful for me was the scenery of the people all around. The Kinneret is beautiful all year long and so are the beautifully groomed grounds.
However, during these few weeks, all the religious families are out and about and the atmosphere is simply divine.
Men and boys of all religious types gather on the grass in the early morning, before the sun gets the better half of the sky, and pray together.
The mothers and children are hanging out on the grass as if there were no tomorrow, and the food that was brought from home seems like a feast.
The few shops near the gas station turn into a social scene, everyone smiles as if they know you. After all, we are all here for just a few days, and the feeling is so uplifting.
The water in the Kinneret seems to be hugging all the people who came, and gives them energy to go back and learn till the next time.
And of course, no trip is ever complete in Israel without stopping at the holy gravesites of our righteous rabbis, such as Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes and Rabbi Akiva, and so many others buried up north.
Israel is like no other place in the world. Even a vacation that is very physical and down to earth always has some kind of twist that brings us, the Jewish people, back to our center. Taking a trip and feeling elevated spiritually is an experience that most share during this time in Israel.
Since the vacation is short, one doesn’t forget from where they came and to where they are retuning. The vacation simply gives each and every one a bit more strength, and happiness, so that when they return home several days later, they will get back to their routine, with a lot more strength.
Beginnings are usually exciting. Sometimes challenging but with a lot of energy to succeed. The month of Elul just began and with it our work and worship of Hashem.
We are constantly waiting for the true and full redemption of the Nation.
There is something very special in the month of Elul, something very humbling and intense.
What a wonderful gift Hashem gave us, allowing us to plead and beg for forgiveness a whole month before our court case. Hashem is so merciful, not only does He want to judge us all favorably, Hashem made sure that we are all recharged and full of energy after our short summer vacation, so that we may have great strength to pray and beg G-d for forgiveness all month long. And there by ensuring each one of us, a wonderful happy and healthy new year.