Should the upcoming magazine feel like a summer offering, or broadcast the gravity and purposefulness of Elul?
Once a week, our editorial board reviews the grids for the upcoming three magazines. We share updates — this writer needs more time, the photos still didn’t come in for this piece — and make adjustments for balance, page counts, and breaking news.
During one of those sessions two weeks ago, we considered the question of overall tone. Should the upcoming magazine feel like a summer offering, or should it broadcast the gravity and purposefulness of Elul?
This year’s calendar had Elul arriving while many of our writers and readers were still deep in summer mode. Part of our job is to reflect the reality of our readers, to pick up the conversation topics and atmosphere and energy of the market and transfer them to our pages.
But we know that a magazine also possesses a certain ability to set a tone, inspire thought, spark debate. Should we prep the stage for the season of teshuvah, or keep putting out light, relaxing material?
ost of the people in that meeting admitted to a tug between two competing feelings. At least three of the editors were dialing in from their summer locations. Schedules featured barbecue suppers, long, relaxed Shabbos afternoons with the extended family, hours at the pool. And in the background, children were singing Color War songs and camp cheers.
But by the time the magazine would hit the newsstands, we’d be starting our mornings with the blast of the shofar (at shul for the men, or via neighbors’ children enthusiastically experimenting for the women) and closing our davening with the supplication of l’David Hashem. Neighbors would be hurrying off to Selichos in the early mornings, and snatches of those melodic confessions were already sounding from taxis and frum radio stations.
(Years ago, during a similar calendar year, I remember scrambling to pack up bathing suits and towels for the kids before heading to work, then entering the tech hub of Har Hotzvim and finding fliers posted to the streetlight posts, advertising midday Selichos in a local office. That flier still encapsulates the mixed-season dynamic for me.)
ews are good at carrying competing feelings jumbled together in one pocket, and when the calendar is configured as it is this year, it’s not just mixed feelings, it’s mixed seasons. We’re in the season of savoring the sunshine and our families. And we’re also in the season of teshuvah, introspection, buckling down to schoolwork and office work and work on our own interior landscapes.
So for the last few weeks, we decided to incorporate that mix in our weekly offering to you — to herald the arrival of Elul and the new zeman in the front and midsection of the magazine, while sustaining the sweet tones of summer in the back. We published material about new starts and self-examination along with light reading and golden summer nostalgia.
Summer doesn’t leave all at once, but it’s starting to cede its ground. The sun is still beating down hard, but it gives up its fierce battle a bit earlier every day. School will soon begin, even for the very last and littlest of our waiting children. Soon everyone will be humming the refrains of Selichos together.
So in our weekly attempt to both reflect and inspire a shared conversation, we’ve retired that leisurely summer vibe. Every season comes to an end — even the season of mixed seasons.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 976.
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