In many cultures and societies around the world and far back into antiquity, the word used to describe this most treasured season is derived entirely from a description of its weather. Is that all the summer is about? Heat? One could certainly argue that heat is the dominant feature of the summer. I’d like to believe that summer is about so much more than just the heat.

There’s a certain magic in the air when summer begins, a certain feeling that can’t be found any other time of year. It’s not just because of the heat or vacation from school. The Jewish People and our sacred texts have referred to this time of year as “kayitz”. “Kayitz”, the Hebrew word for summer, shares a root with the word for “end”, “ketz” and the word for “chopping wood”, “katzaz”. One possible explanation for the similarity is that summer was the time in Ancient Israel when trees would be dry enough to be chopped for firewood.

There are two words which we often use interchangeably, but which have very different meanings: “end” and “complete”. When something ends, it is often sad, but when something is complete, it is almost always happy. Projects, marathons, books–when you complete these
things, you feel a sense of accomplishment, and you grow from the experience.

Some say that the journey of the trees is completed in the summer – some see their ultimate purpose is to serve as firewood as if this is an honor. In this line of thinking (rather anthropocentric, if you ask me) at the moment they are chopped down, they are, in effect, being completed – brought to their true purpose in this world.

Even though I have mixed feelings about this metaphor, maybe this is what a “Jewish summer” is all about: putting the finishing touch on all that we’ve done
throughout the rest of the year, and coming one step closer to completion, peace, and fulfillment, all of which, by the way, share the same Hebrew root, “shalom”.

That is the magic of summer, the sense of wonderment that fills the air each year as this long-awaited season draws nearer. We innately know that something great is coming and that during the summer we will have the chance to put the finishing touches on our year and on ourselves, to bring ourselves to completion and achieve fulfillment. When times get tough, even the anticipation of completion, peace and fulfillment is a source of joy.

Rabbi Scolnic