If the Jews are so smart, why is it we bundle five holidays together in a row, one on top of the other, through an entire month in the fall?
Of course, every month, except one, does include a Jewish holiday. The exception is Heshvan, the month that follows these fall holidays. I guess even God realized we would need a break. There is only so much partying even the most dedicated of us can take.
And perhaps that is the point. These fall holidays were bunched together originally because travel used to be a big deal and once you got somewhere you usually would stay for a while. A month is about right to feel the trip of days or weeks, to Jerusalem, or perhaps a closer city where relatives lived, was worth it. That month–after the harvest was in–was like our summer vacation, time to kick back and enjoy life’s pleasures. Today our holiday season falls at the beginning of what, for many, is the programmatic or academic year–a time to hit the ground running after the relaxation of summer. The disconnect between being busy at work and a demanding holiday schedule reminds us we live in a non-Jewish world. It also reminds us how difficult it is to live Jewish time within the non-Jewish world.
Rabbi Waxman is right: many Jews are holidayed out by the time Sukkot comes around. But it is a shame that for so many Jews their only experience of synagogue-Judaism is sitting through endless prayers and fasting, rather than the wild singing and dancing that marks the last holy day of our holiday season: Simchat Torah. They are not only missing out on the joy of Judaism, but the major message imbedded within the bundling of our holy days: that self-reflection, self- improvement, and the repair of the world must ultimately be fueled by joy to be truly transformational.