High-Summer Pleasure-Seeking Before the High Holy Days

By Danielle Crittenden Frum

For the Israelis, summer is not a finite season — just a time when the weather get evens hotter. Part of its attraction to the Eastern and Central European Jews who emigrated there over the past century must have been the luxuriating and contrasting climate from where they fled. Whatever off-setting hardships they encountered in their new land would surely have been balanced by the fragrant, gentle winds and mild temperatures.

I grew up in Toronto, where summers are regarded as precious and fleeting as they would have been in Warsaw or Vilna. Six months of dark coldness lightens gradually into a late-awakening spring.  Summer arrives suddenly, usually in early June, by bursting through the door and waving its hands about, as if to say, “Hurry! I’m only here for eight weeks!” Canadians observe their summer weekends like holy days. Ten months of indoorness results in two months of inexhaustable outdoorness. Cafes patios are thronged, Lake Ontario fills with boats, and there is a palpable feeling of exuberance on city streets. Many go “up north” to spend the season at cottages on woodland lakes. The pleasure-seeking comes to an abrupt halt by Labor Day when, cruelly, leaves begin to change into their autumn colors.

The fall of course is a busy time for Jews worldwide, as we approach the High Holy Days. For those of us living in colder climates, August is the last chance we have to stretch out under the sun, embrace the moment, and take time to relax.

This will be Fig Tree & Vine’s second High Holy Day season. I’m spending this August at our family cottage outside of Toronto, in beautiful Prince Edward County, on a rural shore of Lake Ontario. Between snatches of summer fun on a boat, or cycling through back roads of farmland, I’m busy preparing for our High Holy Day coverage, including sourcing new products and dreaming up innovative menus and ways to celebrate.

Like me, you probably don’t want to think about all that now. We’re exactly at the mid-point of summer. There’s a healthy sense of time to go before we must pack away our sun chairs. The breezes remain soft; light stretches past dinner.