How to Get the Most out of Vacation

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Last Shabbos, I began my sermon by quoting noted Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen’s 18-40-60 rule. He says when you are 18, you worry about what everyone is thinking about you.  When you are 40, you could care less what everyone thinks about you.  And then you turn 60 and you realize that all along, nobody was thinking about you.


Well, perhaps that rule doesn’t apply to Rabbis. This past week alone I have heard of three separate rumors regarding my family and me. Firstly, I heard that I accepted a job in Washington D.C. and will be announcing it shortly.  False.  I love my job and have no interest in any other.  Secondly, I attended an ORB meeting that began by my colleagues asking me if the rumor that I am starting a new Kosher supervision is true.  After laughing, I told them of course it is not.  The most popular rumor going around is that I am leaving this week on a year Sabbatical to Israel.  Not true.  I am leaving for my annual summer vacation and I will be back before you or I know it.


Each year, like so many of you, I eagerly look forward to my summer vacation.  Used properly, a vacation is not only an opportunity to take a break from the rigors of work, but it provides tremendous learning and growing opportunities.  In fact, it can be said that how we use our vacation and what we do in our down time not only reveals much about our priorities, but has a huge impact on our children as well.


Every day in Shema we recite “v’sheenantam levanecha v’dibarta bam,” teach your children and speak about Torah, “b’shivtecha b’veisecha u’velechtecha ba’derach,” when you are sitting at home and when you are traveling on the way.    I once heard a very powerful interpretation.  We certainly teach our children Torah through the words we say and the messages we articulate.  But even more so, we teach them through our actions and behaviors b’shivtecha b’veisecha, what we do when we are at home, and b’lechtecha ba’derech, when we are out of our homes, traveling on the road, enjoying a vacation.


When we are on vacation with our families, do they still see us davening three times a day and making every effort to attend minyan?  Do they see us making time to learn, study and read?  Are we able to truly disconnect and spend quality time with those that we love in meaningful, memorable ways?


The summer is not only a time for us as adults to rejuvenate, revitalize and refresh.  The break represents an amazing, often neglected opportunity for our children to grow as well.  In fact, I would humbly submit to you that the 2 months in between school is as important and significant in molding and shaping a child as the 10 months they attend school.


For ten months a year, children that attend Yeshiva Day School are well versed and familiar with the weekly parsha from school.  Do we make sure that they study the parshios that fall between June and August as well?   For ten months a year, our children begin each day by Davening to Hashem.  Do we make sure that they realize that davening is part of a Jew’s daily routine, whether they are in school, working, or on vacation? For ten months of the year, many children wear uniforms that reinforce the value of modesty.  In the two months that they are off, are we vigilant to make sure that their choice of clothing and dress sends the right message?


For ten months of the year, our children are stimulated intellectually and challenged academically to think, read and study.  For the two months that they are off from school, do we allow them to be off from thinking and growing intellectually as well or do we challenge them to read for fun, explore their interests and expand their minds?  The down time and ability to have fun and be kids is critical to their development.  But, it doesn’t mean we should be indifferent to our kids spending their summer playing video games and watching tv and movies.


As I head off on my summer vacation, not Sabbatical, I want to wish all of you a healthy, happy, safe and super productive summer.