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Trail Mix for the Soul

Sep 11, 2023

Backpackers in the Negev desert (

דַּבֵּ֛ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לֵאמֹ֑ר בַּחֹ֨דֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֜י בְּאֶחָ֣ד לַחֹ֗דֶשׁ יִהְיֶ֤ה לָכֶם֙ שַׁבָּת֔וֹן זִכְר֥וֹן תְּרוּעָ֖ה מִקְרָא־קֹֽדֶשׁ׃

Speak to B'nei Yisrael thus: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts.

da-BAYR el b'-NAY yis-ra-AYL lay-MOR ba-KHO-desh ha-sh'-vee-EE b'-e-KHAD la-KHO-desh yih-YEH la-KHEM sha-ba-TON zikh-RON t'-ru-AH mik-ra KO-desh

Leviticus 23:24

Imagine setting off on a camping adventure, complete with a tent, compass and hiking boots. You’re super excited, but then it hits you—you didn’t pack any food, forgot the first-aid kit, and left the sleeping bags at home! Sounds stressful, right? Well, this tale isn’t just about an ill-prepared camping trip; it’s a metaphor for life itself.

Just as a camper requires the right tools and preparations to thrive in the wilderness, so too do we need the right spiritual tools and guidance for the expedition of life. When it comes to the Hebrew calendar, the month of Tishrei provides us with our ultimate camping gear, preparing us for the journey of the year ahead.

If the Hebrew calendar had its own spotlight, it would shine brightest on Tishrei. This month, considered the seventh month when counting from Nisan, kicks off the Jewish year and packs a punch when it comes to holidays. It starts with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), continues with the Ten Days of Repentance leading to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and ends with the festive days of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) and Simchat Torah. That’s a lot of celebrating, soul-searching, and, let’s be honest, eating!

Have you ever wondered why God packed so many special days into Tishrei? This question becomes even stronger when you consider that the month right after it, Cheshvan, contains no holidays at all. Seems a little lopsided, doesn’t it? So why did God plan the year in this way?

Rabbi Yossi Braun explains that the month of Tishrei prepares us for the whole year. Imagine stuffing your camping bag before setting off into the wilderness. You pack everything you’ll need: a map, food, and a flashlight. That’s exactly what Tishrei is all about—stocking up on all the essentials for the journey ahead. Tishrei isn’t just another month, it is the first month of the new year, and it is therefore packed with all the spiritual essentials that we need to get us through the year ahead:

  • Rosh Hashanah: Acceptance of God’s Sovereignty and awe of Heaven
  • Yom Kippur: Repentance
  • Sukkot: Joy and festivity
  • Simchat Torah: Dedication to Torah.

Now, back to our camping story. Let’s say you’ve packed well and now you’re out on the trail. This is what Cheshvan, the month following Tishrei, represents. It’s the month where you walk the talk, putting to use all the spiritual gear you packed in Tishrei. Tishrei, with its wealth of holidays and traditions, equips us for the journey. It arms us with spiritual necessities, enabling us to journey through the vicissitudes of life with faith, purpose, and resilience. Cheshvan, devoid of holidays, challenges us to apply what we’ve learned, internalized, and celebrated.

So, as Tishrei approaches, it’s time to ask yourself: Is my spiritual camping bag ready? Tishrei gives us a golden opportunity to fill up on blessings, insights, and inspiration that will sustain us all year long.

Happy camping!

Related Names and Places:

Relate Bible Verses: Chapter 23

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