This is a hard time of year.

On the Jewish calendar, it’s nothing, just a stretch of time when we’re neither mourning nor rejoicing. It’s the dead dusty dry stretch of summer when we are meant to weep for the Temples, for the victims of slaughters, for the tragedies of Jewish history, as we slouch toward Tisha B’Av.

Now? Not so much.

But to live in this world, now, is to muddle our way through long swathes of icy, slushy, messy, gray days, days when the occasional outbreak of thin gold sun and pale blue sky makes your heart sing – but it has to be a short song. It doesn’t last.

It’s a long slog to the baby greens of spring.

Looking through the paper during these weeks, we see a theme that recurs repeatedly, strongly enough to be noticeable, and we wonder if the darkness around us doesn’t actively light it up.

Inclusion.

In one way or another, almost all of our stories during these last few weeks have been about inclusion. Last week’s cover story expressed it directly and dramatically – special needs students at the Sinai Schools are included in the life of the schools that house their programs, and everyone benefits.

This week, we write about Taglit Birthright Israel, young people wanting to be included in the communal understanding of Israel; the American Friends of Magen David Adom, schoolchildren wanting to be included in the mitzvah of tzdakah, as well as their elders wanting the same thing; Yachad, parents and teachers wanting their special needs children included in the best possible educational plans and outcomes; Shabbat dinners in Fair Lawn, with congregants wanting to be included in the warmth and love around a shared table on Friday night. Even this week’s cover story is about the yearning for inclusion in the archetypical story of our people.

There is something about the cold and dark that makes us want to draw close. It makes us warm, and together we make light.

-JP