Sep 07, 2022 eJewish Philanthropy

By Rabbi Joshua Herman

This time of year, as summer turns to fall, I am filled with memories of this season in Israel. I am writing this from my backyard in Milwaukee, Wisc., where the earth is fully in bloom from the summer rains. Yet two years ago, I was living in Israel, where this time of year the earth is scorched from the hot Mediterranean summer. I recall that at this time of year, everyone was taking vacation, the morning traffic was much lighter, and any suggestion of a new project or undertaking was met with the response, “acharei ha’chagim”—after the holidays. It was as if both the land and the people were hibernating from a long hot summer, waiting for the fall rains to wake it up.

Then, after Simchat Torah and the end of the holidays of Tishrei, I remember driving to work and the highways would be crowded again. The first rains had fallen and the dry, brown earth was starting to come back to life. It felt as if the land and the people had woken up from their long end-of-summer nap, rejuvenated and ready to begin the new year. Everyone was returning to the daily routine of work and school after weeks of holidays and vacations.

Naomi Shemer famously captured this feeling in her song, entitled Hitchadshut, which means “renewal” or “rejuvenation.” She writes in the chorus:

Acharei hachagim yitchadesh hakol
Yiychadshu v’yashuvu yemei hachol
Ha’avir, ha’afar, ha’meter, v’ha’esh
Gam ata, gam ata titchadesh

After the holidays, everything will be renewed.
Ordinary days will return, renewed.
The air, the earth, the rain and the fire–
Also you, you too, will be renewed.

This song captures the feeling of rejuvenation at this time of year so beautifully. Yet I am struck by an irony in the song and in this rejuvenating feeling of returning to our routines. At other times of year, it seems to me that ordinary days, our normal routines, are the daily grinds from which we seek rejuvenation. Yet, in the song, “ordinary days” are renewed along with us, and their return is that which rejuvenates us. Are ordinariness and routine problems in need of rejuvenation, or are they the very agents of renewal? Do we need to be rejuvenated from routine, or does routine rejuvenate us?

The answer to this irony may live in the relationship between the old and the new. When a routine is old, we seek renewal and refreshment from it. When we lack a certain structure in our life, the creation of routine can be rejuvenating. For example, for those of us who ceased the grinding routine of a daily commute during the pandemic, stopping the commute may have been rejuvenating. However, after a lengthy period of working from home, a return to the commute may have felt rejuvenating as well.

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Rabbi Joshua Herman is a senior educator at The iCenter and also serves as the organization’s director of research and evaluation, seeking to optimize and improve The iCenter’s work in the field of Israel education.