Holidays your Rabbi never mentioned

With the High Holidays behind us, we are now in the month “Mar Cheshvan”, or “bitter Cheshvan”. It’s considered bitter because there are no holidays at all this month, just a long stretch of ever-shorter days until we get to the Rosh Chodesh Kislev (the start of the next month of Kislev) and beyond that, Chanukah on the 25th of Kislev.

However, I think many of our Clergy and synagogue staff consider Cheshvan anything but, as they are probably still recovering from the marathon of sermon writing, long services, and massive scenery changes (dress the Torah’s in white. Now change them back. Put up the Sukkah. Take down the Sukkah. Put out snacks for the oneg. Hide them all for the fast. Set up chairs for capacity seating. Take all the chairs out so we can dance. etc).

But for those of us who are looking to spice up those quiet moments, I want to let you in on the secret holidays. Believe it or not, these are great if you have little kids. Or adults who like to act like little kids. Keep reading and you’ll see why:

As long as All Hallows Eve falls somewhere close to Shabbat (it’s never further than 3 days, right?), you are looking at the spookiest Shabbat of the year. The Sabbath candles fit in beautifully with the lights in the pumpkin; you can bake mini-challot to put into goodie bags instead of candy; and you are guarenteed the night will always be a Treat, rather than a trick. For extra fun, you can sit around recounting all the chilling tales of horror from the Tanakh, including the destruction of all humanity in Noah, the horrors at Sodom and Gomorrah, the 10 plagues in Egypt, the death of Nadab and Abihu and of course “the graves of craving”.

In America, the fourth Thursday in November is always Thanksgiving. Which means that the fourth Friday in November must be this very special Shabbat. Traditions vary from family to family. Some have dubbed this “The Shabbat of Salad”, expressing regret over the overindulgence from the day before. If your Thanksgiving involves a visit to (or from) large quantities of family, you may consider this to be the “Emotional Recovery Shabbat”. The moniker “Leftover Shabbat” needs no further explanation. It should be noted that Halachically, discussion of “the big game” is limited to less than half of the time allotted for Torah study.

During the Festival of Light, at least one Shabbat must fall. No matter whether Friday hits at the beginning, middle or end of Chanukah, it’s always a magical time. This Shabbat actually requires the least amount of contrived effort to blend. You may want to note that any fried food will honor the spirit of the holiday, so rather than latkes (or “Shabblatkes”, if you eat them on Friday night) you may want to consider doughnuts, elephant ears, or deep fried pickle on a stick. Who knew carnival food was Jewish?!?

4th of Shabbat
It’s a special year when we can celebrate both our freedom from the work week and our freedom as a new contry on the same day. From red-white-and-blue braided challah to spicy “fireworks” cholent there are many ways to allow Shabbat and Independence Day to go hand in hand.

Labor Shabbat
Also known as the “Back to School Shabbat”. While Labor Day is always the first Monday in Spetember, open minded parents can use the Friday before as a way to soften the blow of academic inevitability. After all, on Shabbat there’s still a whole weekend (and a long one, at that!) ahead. Families can use the commandments against work as an incentive to spent time together and focus on the summer that has passed and all the possibilities of the year ahead.

Of course, there are many more possibilities out there. Looking beyond America’s borders, it’s not hard to envision Boxing Shabbat, Guy FawkeShabbat, ShabbANZAC day or even ShabbaTomatina.