In day school they tell you that the Hebrew month after the jam-packed fall holidays is called Mar-Heshvan; the pre-fix “mar” here means “sad.” We are sad that we have run out of holidays and have a blank month ahead. I feel terrible admitting this, but I feel a bit relieved and, of course — because being Jewish — I feel a bit guilty for feeling relieved.
We all love holidays, but the condensed way that the season barrels into the first weeks of school and work schedules, knocks us over every time. Out-of-office e-mails, the huge outlay of money and the tedium that can accompany meal after meal, service after service, cleanup after cleanup can be daunting. People at the office think Shmini Atzeret must be made up. How many holidays can one religion possibly have in a month?
The sudden death of a cousin in Florida several years ago forced Erica Brown, left, the Jewish scholar, educator and writer (and Jewish Week columnist), into the role of spiritual adviser and counselor for her grieving family.
If I were hard-pressed to describe the state of American Jewish life today in 10 words or less, I surely couldn’t top Steven M. Cohen’s assessment: “We are demographically distressed and culturally creative.”