THE AUTUMNAL EQUINOX OF 5780
A Crossing of a Different Sort
(Composed on 27 Tammuz, the 18th Yahrtzeit of my Dear Mother, Yehudis bas R’ Harry a”h)
Today (as I am writing this article) is July 19, and we are almost ready to cross over into the second third of the summer season. It is also the vernacular date (so to speak) of my mother’s 18th yahrtzeit, on 27 Tammuz.
But for all of you reading my monthly column just now, “today” is probably sometime around middle-to-late September, close to the AUTUMNAL EQINOX OF 5780 — which is September 22, 2020.
But what is an “equinox” anyway?
My dictionary tells me that the term refers to “the time when the sun crosses the equator, making night and day of equal length in all parts of the earth” or to “either of the two points on the celestial equator where the sun crosses it (about March 21 for the vernal equinox or about September 22 for the autumnal equinox).”
Whichever explanation you prefer, it is quite clear that the autumnal (or fall) equinox — as well as its opposite number, the vernal (or spring) equinox — is a time of intersection, of crossing, of moving from one position to another. But for such traversing, you need a modicum of caution. Undoubtedly, that is why I added the photographs of six “crossing-warning” signs to this month’s column.
And of what should we be careful, might I ask?
September 22 is the first day of fall this year. I suppose that if the season had been called “autumn,” it might have made us all feel just a tad better. But going from the vibrancy of summer to “fall”? Why, it sounds discouraging ipso facto! After all, who in his (or her) right mind wants to fall? Moreover, we summer people (remember that I am writing this article shortly after mid-July!) are already hearing dire predictions of an upcoming tough “fall” flu season coming on the heels of the already egregiously devastating COVID-19 pandemic. No wonder that the inexorable procession of the months seems to bring in its train little more than anxiety and depression.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our holy Yamim Noraim and their concomitant opportunities for shteiging present us with real occasions for spiritual development, simchah, and self-realization. After all, at no other season do we have such a proliferation of the “Shehecheyanu” brachah: on both days of Rosh Hashanah, on Yom Kippur, on the first two days of Sukkos, on Shemini Atzeres, and on Simchas Torah.
Wow! L’aniyas da’ati, we’re being told something here. Now what could that be?
Perhaps just this: LET US CELEBRATE THE SANCTITY OF LIFE—AND PRAISE THE HOLY ONE WHO HAS GIVEN IT TO US! Even in the autumn. Even when the leaves have begun to fall, the days have noticeably shortened, and the weather has become inclement.
From whom did I learn this approach?
My beloved mother, Yehudis (Janice) Yarmove, whose yahrtzeit is the 27th of Tammuz, corresponding to July 19th this year—was just the type of person who understood the gift of life, a fact which became more apparent even during the final, challenging years of her 88-year lifespan. It was she who had taught me, among so many other important lessons, to appreciate the change in the seasons—and to refuse to mourn the evanescence of summer, as so many people unfortunately still do. She also taught me that a number of the so-called crossroads of life seem to be so crucially important at the time but are essentially no more than “ten-day wonders,” as she liked to call them. Therefore, one must never take an insult or unkind word to heart; indeed, it will be forgotten in no time at all!
So on 27 Tammuz, 5080, the 18th crossing-point of my mother’s passing, I am convinced that her life is best honored by a renewed dedication on the part of her descendants to adhere to the spirit of life which manifests itself with a sense of vibrancy and purpose most obviously at the advent of the autumnal equinox and our sacred High Holiday season. Thanks to her, I am able to see beyond the dreamlike quality of summer and prepare for far greater things in the fall.
Yes, the fall! She taught me that, despite its name, fall can be quite uplifting.
May the wonderful memory of my mother — my teacher — serve as a blessing for all of us, at every crossroad of life!
Questions or comments? I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kesivah v’chasimah tovah, dear readers!
So goodbye, summer. It’s time to begin anew. With the brightest hopes for the upcoming months, we intone te “Shehecheyanu” benediction and m’chavein exactly what it is