All week I have been falling asleep and waking to the resonant song of the crickets singing me through the thick heat. And then this morning, the heat broke. According my kids this is the coldest day of the summer. They even asked if it might snow. And isn't this exactly what the crickets have been trying to tell us.
In the words of Charlotte's Web, "The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer's ending, a sad, monotonous song. 'Summer is over and gone,' they sang. 'Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.' The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year--the days when summer is changing into fall--the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change" (113).
In truth, it is not just the crickets singing the song of change. With summer's end, the Jewish calendar is calling us home and reminding us that change is part of every return. Next week is Rosh Hodesh Elul. We will sound the great shofar, the school year will resume, and along with it will come the intensity of increased routine and the relief of cooler days.
The crickets are not wrong. Summer is just about over and gone, which is sad, but it is also cause for celebration. According to the Hasidic masters, the most deeply honored day of all days is the day of death -- even more important than the day of birth. For them the day of death is turned into a day of celebration. So much so, that they don't typically use the term death. Rather they refer to it as the day of departure. I quite like to imagine these next two Shabbatot as a great celebration of summer's departure.
Our sacred texts are full of descriptions of the departures of tzaddikim, righteous teachers. Especially wondrous and soul-shaking is the description of the departure of Moshe Rabbeinu (Deathbed Wisdom, 5-7). In these final days of summer, as we read the Book of Deuteronomy, I invite you to hear it as the voice of a teacher who knows his final days are coming.
With summer's departure, may we create space for the sadness and the celebration, the anticipation and the excitement for what's to come. And may the crickets be our companions, reminding us we are part of something so much bigger.
Wishing you all a shabbat shalom!
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.