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The Dog Days of Summer

I always thought the "Dog Days" of summer referred to the end of the summer, when days were long and hot. Images of folks sitting on the their front porches in rocking chairs drinking ice tea come to mind. Sometimes it's a Norman Rockwell painting or wafting memories of listening to the News from Lake Wobegan that are conjured in my mind. I can hear the whir of a fan or hum of an AC window unit in the distance as melted popsicle juice runs down chins of the children running through the yard.

However, this year, I learned that the Dog Days refers to the 40 days that fall more or less after summer solstice, beginning July 3rd and ending of August 11.

According to the The Old Farmers Almanac The phrase “Dog Days” conjures up the hottest, most sultry days of summer. The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists the traditional timing of the Dog Days: the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. The rising of Sirius does not actually affect the weather (some of our hottest and most humid days occur after August 11), but for the ancient Egyptians, Sirius appeared just before the season of the Nile’s flooding, so they used the star as a “watchdog” for that event. Since its rising also coincided with a time of extreme heat, the connection with hot, sultry weather was made for all time: “Dog Days bright and clear / indicate a happy year. / But when accompanied by rain, / for better times our hopes are vain.”

I love this Canis Major Constellation by Adam Johnson that I found on Pinterest.

This year, the official end of the Dog Days of summer coincides with the new moon of the Hebrew month of Elul, marking the beginning of the month of contemplation, meditation, and reflection before the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which begins on Sunday September 9th, 2018 at sunset. The month of Elul is a time for spiritual preparation, in which we are to review the year gone by, work to repair relationships, and consider our deeds as we prepare for the New Year and the Days of Awe (which are the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). Elul is also a time to begin thinking about our goals, intentions, and hopes for the year to come.

May your Dog Days be bright and clear bringing with it a happy new year.

Happy Summer!

Rabbi Sarah