In our Maariv prayers, we thank Hashem for being, “Machalif es hazmanim – Changing the seasons.” Since it adds spice and variety to life, we acknowledge our appreciation for this on a daily basis. And although every season has its unique delights, no time of the year elicits such anticipation and excitement as the happy months of summer. I’d like to discuss some ideas to ensure that our vivid expectations for summer should become all that we’ve waited for – and that they will be spiritually productive as well!
Before all else, let’s remember safety! A major concern is with the roadways. Don’t tackle those long drives to or from the mountains when you’re bushed even before your start the drive! Chas v’Shalo-m, if a car becomes a bed, it will likely also become a coffin! New drivers should be trained to safely negotiate curvy country roads at safe speeds and taught how to switch rapidly between the ‘brights’ and dim headlights correctly during the nighttime hours. Impatient teens, anxious to squeeze every available drop from vacation time, should be lectured about the insanity of randomly passing cars on narrow country roads. Fun-seeking children should be sternly told that New York is NOT a safe place to hitchhike, and bicyclists must wear helmets – as it takes only a millisecond to injure the brain!
Swimmers should be cautioned about the absolute need for proper supervision and the great danger of going ‘solo’ to the pool. Also, remember that long exposures to the sun can be unhealthy. Use a sun blocker!
Then, there’s the subject of ‘dreams.’ Not the nighttime ones, but our daytime dreams! Couples should discuss with each other what they dream about for their summer pleasure. For men, dreams might mean a Sunday ball game, or ‘conking-out’ on the hammock. For women, it might mean lounging by the pool with the ladies, some brisk country jogging, or driving through the nooks and crannies of the mountains in order to browse in quaint shops and malls. For some couples, the reverse of these may be the truth. Still, whatever our spouse’s summer hopes might be, let’s try to bring them to fruition – for a happy spouse is nicer to live with. Furthermore, we will be properly fulfilling one of our main objectives of life: For the women, being a proper ‘helper;’ and for the men, fulfilling the directive of ‘V’simach es ishto – Making his wife happy.’
If we have some ‘free’ time in the summer, reserve a nice chunk of it for ‘reconnecting’ with our loved ones. Because of the frantic pace of life, especially during these harsh economic times, many of us spend very little time with our spouses and children. Therefore, although we might be personally drained and washed out, we must make sure that our marriages and parental responsibilities get some much needed attention as well.
Another avenue of attention for our free time is to ‘find’ Torah this summer! As the posuk teaches us, “Ki chaim heim l’motzeihem – It (the Torah) brings life to those that find It.” So, let’s rediscover the delights of learning mishnayos (Join me on Kol Haloshon for Mishna Yomis at (718) 906-6471) or for reviewing the summer Torah portions, or for sinking our teeth into a small masechta with the self-challenge of finishing it over the summer. And we might even consider tackling a few sugyos b’iyun, in depth, something which we have absolutely no time for during the winter. While thinking about learning, we might also try to help our children get a head start, ensuring a successful beginning of the new school year, by beginning with them the masechtos they will be learning in the fall.
Another very rewarding campaign is to make some time to learn the meaning of those sections of our davening which we don’t know as well (for example, the daily shir shel yom, brich shmei, tachanun, etc.). We will feel a great sense of accomplishment from this since it will help us pray more sincerely the rest of our lives! Now, that’s time well spent!!
Let’s keep in mind that since the summer is the season to recharge our batteries, a very good prescription for this is Torah. This is so, since it states clearly, “Toras Hashem t’mimah, m’shivas nafesh – Hashem’s Torah is pure, It rejuvenates the soul.” Indeed, there are a lot of frustrated people who find themselves eager to get back to work simply because they don’t know what to do with their time (they’re not athletic, nor are they readers or socialites – not that these types shouldn’t be concerned about their learning as well!). Yet, if they would but take the initiative to engage in a Torah project, fulfillment and glorious pleasure is right nearby ! Let’s remember, as we try to make our summer a happy one that, “Ein simcha k’simchas HaTorah – There is no greater happiness than the joy of Torah!”
Many of us will be sending our children off to camp. One of the things parents should insist upon (besides the brushing of teeth) is that they write us a weekly letter. If you feel you must, arrange with them that if the letter doesn’t arrive neither will their allowance. Explain that you must work very hard, and sacrifice much, to send them to camp which is a summer luxury. Thus, it is only proper that they should willingly share their thrills and excitements with you on a regular basis. This arrangement will accomplish many things. First, it will allow them to fulfill weekly a beautiful mitzvah of kibud av v’eim. Second, it will force them to communicate with you and enhance your connection with them as opposed to growing apart from them while they’re away from home. Third, this lesson in communication is great training for their marital careers. It will begin conditioning them about sharing their happenings and feelings with others. Finally, these letters will be a vehicle which you could use to stay current with their spiritual accomplishments in camp. In so doing, you can spur them on to greater heights in Torah and mitzvos.
We should also counsel our campers (our children) on the importance of wisely choosing their friends, reminding them that we pray every day for Hashem to protect us from bad influences, and reiterating how the mishna in Pirkei Avos teaches us to acquire a good friend for ourselves. Let’s also advise them to be on the lookout for the lonely and sad child, and teach them to strive, once and awhile, to cheer up someone who is downcast and melancholy.
I hope implementing these tips will prove helpful and may Hashem bless all of us with a very healthy happy and spiritually productive summer!!
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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