Joseph D. Steinfield: Looking Back My holidays and the change of seasons – Monadnock Ledger Transcript

Posted By on August 30, 2022

Its that time of year again. Labor Day is Sept. 5, and fall arrives on Sept. 22. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sunset on Sept. 25, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sunset on Oct. 4.

Growing up Jewish, I was taught that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the high holidays. But I later learned that Reform Judaism refers to them as the High Holy Days. I prefer what I grew up with, which seems less pretentious, but I dont suppose its worth picking a fight over.

Fall is also the time when our New England landscape becomes biblical and dons a coat of many colors, often called fall foliage. The fact that this coincides with the Jewish holidays is interesting. One signifies an ending, while the other marks a beginning.

I used to dread the fall for several reasons. Unlike my grandchildren, I didnt love going back to school, which meant less time to play baseball.I didnt look forward to raking leaves, which also kept me off the ballfield. And sitting in temple on the holidays was, how else can I put it, boring. A fourth reason comes to mind the end of the Major League Baseball season, although this year it cant come soon enough for Red Sox fans like myself.

As for sitting in temple, you cant do that in Claremont anymore. Institutions do not have eternal life, and for Congregation Meyer-David, this fall marks an ending.. I havent been inside the temple building for many years. Boring or not, just this once Id like to go back, but its too late.

Foliage, however, is still in business. I dont plan on doing a lot of raking, Ill admit, but Gilmore Pond in Jaffrey will take on new colors, reflecting the trees that surround it. Its a sight that always seems new no matter how many times youve seen it.

Then, theres our country. I gave a talk recently to a group of Massachusetts lawyers, and I was anything but optimistic about the state of American democracy and the rule of law. During the discussion period, a woman said she agreed with me but added, theres always hope.

My reaction was that hope should not be used as a crutch to obscure reality. People often refer to hope when they dont want to face the facts. As I made that comment, I started to recognize myself as a convert to pessimism.

I should not have been so dismissive. When people talk about hope, theyre just being positive. They refuse to see only the dark side. And when it comes to the community, whether local, stateor national, they just want to help make the world a better place, live peacefully with their neighborsand do what they can to restore harmony with nature. I can sign on to that kind of hope.

One more thing. If were lucky enough to have grandchildren, as I am, we want to enjoy being with them and watching them grow. On that subject, I should add one holiday to those mentioned at the beginning of this essay -- Sept. 11 is Grandparents Day.

Fall is a good time not just to atone for our misdeeds (if youre Jewish) but also to dwell on our blessings (whatever your religion or non-religion), and thats what Ive decided to do. But meanwhile, summer isnt over yet, and the leaves are still green.

Joseph D. Steinfield lives in Keene and Jaffrey. He can be reached at

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Joseph D. Steinfield: Looking Back My holidays and the change of seasons - Monadnock Ledger Transcript

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