Thursday, July 10, 2008

High Holidays ... already!?

On the way in to work this morning, while compulsively checking my BlackBerry, I got an e-mail, subject line: "High-Holiday Synagogue Companion - Early Bird Sale" from the Jewish Learning Group. My reaction was shock: What!? High Holidays!? It's only July! It was then that I realized that the High Holidays really are only a few months away ... yikes!

When I worked retail and in the fast food business, I was always aware of upcoming holidays. Even when I was in school you're always conscious of how far away or soon the upcoming festivities are, because you're counting down with everyone else in class or on the job. Jewish holidays? Not so much. There isn't a gigantic section cleared out in the local Wal-Mart or Target full of Chanukah or Purim merchandise, nor is there a special on white garments at the GAP (well, maybe white button-downs -- summertime chic). Usually, I'm lucky to see an endcap featuring menorahs or cookie cutters in the shape of whatever Jewish holiday is present. But in the retail market, they start planning for Halloween in August and start planning for Thanksgiving in September and Christmas? Well, I've already seen signs hailing "XX shopping days till Christmas!" Isn't it a lot early for planning this far ahead? Then, of course, after Christmas the Valentine's stuff goes up and the cycle starts over and we're looking at Easter baskets in February. It's a cycle, and there's always some holiday coming up and things to buy and reminders on endcaps reminding us to prepare since these things inevitably creep up on us.

So I guess I should thank the Jewish Learning Group for this little "early bird" notice. I haven't really thought about where I'll be or what my plans will be, but since I'll be off at graduate school, I have to hope that Chabad or the Hillel will have things planned. Trekking to West Hartford from Storrs would be a pain in the tuches, so I'm planning on a convenient fully observed Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this year (compared to the past several years which have been disappointing repeatadly for reasons of shul incompatibility and work schedules). But at least I'm thinking about it in advance, eh?

Another upshot to this email is that I discovered an interesting book: Going Kosher in 30 Days. I might have to pick this little gem up (though, in reality it won't necessarily apply for a few years since, well, dorm living means Kosher dining hall if I do indeed go the route of kashrut). From the website:
The book is organized into a 30-day education for beginners, but will hold the interest of anyone interested in Judaism. From Kabbalistic insights into the spiritual basis of the kosher laws to practical advice for people in varying circumstances (families, singles, college students, etc.), Rabbi [Zalman] Goldstein has addressed just about all the concerns and questions that may come up along the way.

Keeping kosher, he explains, is not just about separating meat and dairy or avoiding non-kosher foods. It's about tuning in to the potential of the Jewish soul, about having the power "to enable all creation to soar higher than any individual component of the material order can do individually."

After a brief historical overview that places kosher observance in the context of the experience of previous generation, when keeping kosher was truly a challenge, Going Kosher in 30 Days addresses some common misconceptions that people have -- like the idea that kosher has to do with cleanliness or that it means a rabbi blesses the food. It includes an explanation of what kosher agencies do and a glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish terms relating to the kosher laws.
There are a bounty of other stellar books on the site; I suggest you give it a go (their Companion series looks interesting).

Note: For those curious, from what I can tell, the group and the rabbi are of the Chabad persuasion. I mention this only because I know that when it comes to Judaic books, many look for those that are related to their particularly branch/movement, so this could be useful for those who find the texts interesting and/or want to know more about who is behind the texts!