The shofar blast on Rosh Chodesh heralds the month of Elul, the period of soul-searching and introspection leading up to the Yamim Nora’im. It serves as a thunderous wake-up call that Rosh HaShanah is quickly approaching.  Do teshuvah! Get your affairs in order!  But at the same time, there has been another low hum reverberating in the air here, which has increased over the last few weeks and has now reached a resounding crescendo: Shmitah is coming! 

Being an astronomy enthusiast, I like to keep track of the evening sky, meteor showers, planet rotation, and the like.  For years I’ve had the wish to travel away from the city to a spot where there is limited light pollution so that I could view the stars and planets under a crisp, clear sky.  However, the members of my family who share many of my interests don’t share the same enthusiasm as I have for this particular hobby.  Somehow, I finally managed to convince my husband and daughter to join me on a Sky Tour in Makhtesh Ramon, the Ramon Crater - one of the best places in the country for stargazing. One of the great things about living in Israel is that in our tiny country we have a considerable variety of climates, topography, and scenery, all within a short distance.  After a quick two-hour drive from our home, we reached the desert.

As we inherited a timeshare in the center of Jerusalem from my parents, during the summer, we try to take advantage of the opportunity afforded to us and spend Shabbos there. So, last week our daughter kindly dropped us off at the hotel and waved goodbye. She was happy to have the car to herself for a few days, and we were happy not to have to spend our entire vacation looking for parking. Win-win.

 This month, we celebrate the twenty-third anniversary of our aliyah.  I’ve written many articles on these pages depicting life here because I want you to truly understand what a terrific place Israel is to live in.  As I reflect about how lucky I am to live here with my family, so many thoughts come to mind. I love that the country is in sync with the Jewish calendar.  On Erev Shabbos and Erev Yom Tov, the destination signs on buses display the words “Shabbat Shalom” and “Chag Sameach.”  During the time of the Siyum HaShas, some buses even displayed the words “Talmud Bavli.” Candle-lighting time of Shabbos is announced on the radio every Friday. At the end of the summer, the bill from the electric company reads, “Shanah Tovah.”  For better and for worse, the whole country enters holiday mode during the weeks leading up to Rosh HaShanah, and many projects are put on hold until “Acharei Hachagim,” after the holiday season.  Seasonal displays in supermarkets and stores heavily reflect the Jewish calendar.  Whether it’s Sukkah decorations in the month of Tishrei, Chanukah menorahs, oil, and candles in Kislev, a cornucopia of fruit in Shvat, shaloch manos paraphernalia in Adar, household cleaning products in Nisan, or barbecue supplies in Iyar, one is greeted with a prominent display of all that one needs for the upcoming chag upon stepping foot into the supermarket.  A shopping list is unnecessary.

In appreciation for the beautiful sheva brachot my neighbors organized for our son and daughter-in-law, my husband and I decided to buy them a plant. We knew that while she made it look effortless, Dina* worked very hard to make sure everything was just perfect, so we wanted to get her the perfect gift.  We went to the nursery and strolled around until we found just the right plant, green and leafy with a burst of color.  Then we picked out a flower pot that would match the décor of their well-tended garden.