A Torah guide to summer vacation

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Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

We read the farewell speech of Moshe Rabbeinu at the height of summer's heat. When millions of children are at home, the Torah portion of Eikev offers a few golden rules for life that are especially appropriate for summer vacation.

  • "You shall not bring an abomination into your home." Everything is available today; good and evil. But not every kind of garbage needs to gain entry into our living rooms, into our digital devices, and into our hearts. How difficult but essential it is to filter, to supervise, to say "no."
  • "Because HaShem your God is bringing you to a good land . . . a land of wheat and barley and grapevines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey." For thousands of years, Jews read these words while looking out of windows in Yemen or Russia. They could only imagine. This year, especially since fewer of us are flying abroad, we have the opportunity to become familiar with this good land.
  • "He does justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing." This is how the Torah describes God, Who is concerned for the weak and the needy, while we are enjoined to walk in His ways. During vacation, there are numerous opportunities for channeling kindness, being charitable, and volunteering, even within the home.
  • "Carve for yourself two tablets like the first." Our Torah portion describes moments of reconciliation: After the sin of the golden calf and breaking of the first Tablets of the Covenant, God tells Moshe to carve a second set of tablets. Our commentators learn from this story the importance of forgiveness and atonement, that we have the capacity to pardon and to make peace. During vacation, we are often packed together in cramped quarters and are under stress. But it does not matter how much we may fight or get angry at each other, we can always forgive and begin anew.

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