April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Although the Torah is the blueprint for life and positive living, I am not aware of any section in the Shulchan Aruch called The Laws of Vacation. Throughout the Five books of the Torah I cannot recall when Avraham, Yitzchak or Yaakov took a vacation. Where, then, did we get the idea of vacationing? What are the origins of Pesach hotels and the Glatt Yacht?

The Talmud, on the other hand, does share many instances when people traveled far away to learn from masters and to glean experiences. Throughout European Jewish history we are aware of specific spots on the map that the heads of yeshivot would gather during summer recess to recharge, refresh and engage with one another. In our times, the Catskill Mountains have become the weekend getaway for masses of religious Jews from the New York area. Then there is the Hamptons crowd and those who frequent the Jersey Shore and the Poconos. What are we meant to accomplish on vacation?

For many, the question may be a non- starter: What do you mean accomplish on vacation? The whole point is to not accomplish on vacation—or is it? Not accomplishing can also be an accomplishment. To be sure, many aim to study or review what they accomplished in their learning during the previous year. There are scholars who specifically use the summer-time vacation to write, when they have more unstructured time on their hands.

Perhaps the greatest thing we can accomplish during our time away is to remove focus from our daily lives and return home and refocus with a fresh set of eyes and perspectives. We live in such a crazy, busy world, with distractions 24/7, that it is easy to get lost and forget why we are doing what we are doing to begin with. A productive vacation allows us that opportunity to truly unplug, refresh and decide how we want to advance instead of continuing on autopilot.

Time off allows for refreshing relationships with spouses, family members, Hashem and, most importantly, with ourselves. Not everyone takes that vacation in the summer; that’s fine—it’s good whenever one can make it happen. In a similar vein, Shabbat is meant to provide us with this unplugging and refreshing every week.

In any case, for those who are traveling during the summer, I want to wish you a wonderful, refreshing and meaningful time away that will enrich your lives both while you are away as well as when you return.

Shabbat shalom, and safe travels.

By Rabbi Ephraim Epstein

 Rabbi Ephraim Epstein, who grew up in Northern New Jersey, has been the rabbi at Congregation Sons of Israel in Cherry Hill since 2000.

 

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