The Power Of Jewish Holidays

Spring is truly a time of transformation. We certainly witness it in nature as the weather becomes warmer and buds develop on trees, but it can also be a time of transformation for ourselves. When Passover approaches (this year it begins at sundown on April 10), many Jewish households take daily cooking and cleaning activities to a higher level. Our everyday routines turn into a larger community ritual. Cleaning, shopping and cooking for this holiday can become a major focus of our lives, perhaps even an obsession.

Passover has always been a holiday that I love very much. It is filled with memories of the family gathering at my grandparents’ apartment. I remember singing the traditional songs and competing with my cousins to see who could rattle off the Chag Gadya and Who Knows One the fastest.

In my adult life it has also become a holiday that feels a bit daunting because it requires very careful planning. Sometimes I think, “Why am I doing all of this? Why are these rituals so important to me?” The answer for me lies in the enduring cycle of the Jewish year. Jewish time can be viewed as a timeline of the long history of the Jewish people, or it can be seen as a yearly cycle of celebrations. Fall, winter, spring, summer: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, Pesach, Shavuot.

I schedule my life around these holidays. However, just trying to keep up with this cycle can mean that there is never enough time to pull myself (or my house, or my paperwork) together before the next special holiday—and all its associated, but meaningful, rituals—is infused into my daily schedule.
Nevertheless, this is the beauty of the Jewish year, no matter how we celebrate it. It keeps us focused on the things that are most important in life, giving us consistency and pleasure in a predictable fashion throughout the year. It helps transform us… from season to season, year to year.

As CJE’s Director of Religious Life, I help residents of Lieberman Center and Weinberg Community celebrate the holidays. Of course, these celebrations may be a little different than they remember, especially since they’re living in an assisted living or skilled nursing community and surrounded by people who may not be family members or lifelong friends. However, for those who may not have celebrated holidays in a long time, it can be a way to reconnect to Jewish life or provide comfort during a difficult time of transition.

Ritual life, celebrations, as well as pastoral support from CJE’s Rabbi/Chaplain Michelle Stern, can help people cope with many losses. Respecting our residents’ need to experience the cycle of life—in both secular and spiritual ways—is just as important as providing food and medical care.

So, from all of us at CJE to you, please take a moment to enjoy this season of renewal and all the spring holidays. And before you turn around, Rosh Hashanah will be right around the corner…again!