Even as we are finishing up the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers, the end-of-the-year holidays are upon us.  When the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is so short—as it is this year—it seems to be a time that is busier than ever.

So many things to get done, events to participate in, traditions to observe, and—well, you know. We each have our own unique list of things that fill up our holidays. Before they get too far along, could I just squeeze in one little reminder here?

It comes in the form of two short sentences from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. I’m not sure if he was referring to the holidays when he first expressed them, but the ideas are so important at the beginning of an unusually hectic time.  “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”

Here are three ways I think this applies to the holidays—three ways that the holidays can be holy-days.

  1. First—Life itself is a great blessing! Certainly, one of the ways in which we “extend God’s care” is through helping each person we encounter better understand that our lives are intrinsically valuable. And so, as an organization and personally, when we celebrate a holiday together, regardless of the traditions and the trappings, what we are really celebrating is that our very existence—just to be—is a blessing.
  2. Second—Our lives are purposeful and everything we do matters. The bustle and busyness of the holidays doesn’t add to that or change it. We experience the benefits of celebration by just showing up and paying attention—by being available to one another and open to those moments when love and grace come shining through. Living is what really matters.
  3. And third—These blessings are for sharing; that’s how the holidays become the holy-days. We are communal creatures; we are at our best when we are engaged with each other. When we seek opportunities to bless and affirm one another. When we respond to this special time by bearing one another’s burdens and lightening one another’s hearts.

Happy Holy-Days! In the next few weeks, as so many things press in to capture your attention, remember what the rabbi says: “Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”