When is Rosh Hashanah this year? How many times have you asked that question? You know the answer is always the same, right? Rosh Hashanah is pretty much always the first of Tishrei. Passover? Yep, always the 15th of Nisan? My dad died on 27 Tammuz, and my anniversary this year is always Lag B’Omer, 33rd day between 2nd night of Passover and the first day of Shavuot.
Are you following me, or does it sound like an alternate reality? It is, in a way. It’s Jewish calendar life.
This week’s parasha is Emor, in which we read, “These are My fixed times, the fixed times of Adonai which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions.” (Lev 23:2) The text takes us through Shabbat, Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, “Those are the set times of Adonai that you shall celebrate as sacred occasions..” (Lev 23:37)
If you want to keep a people together, there are a couple of things you can do: have them eat the same way (rules of kosher food), and tell time differently. Jewish time goes evening to evening; “secular” time goes sunrise to sunrise. We have a whole separate calendar, and our holidays are based on it. It’s a lunar calendar, which moves the holidays around on the “regular” calendar. Except for Shabbat, our holidays are always either early or late… Somehow they’re never on time!
Except for Shabbat, almost all of our holidays are based around agricultural timing, too. They’re tied to the harvests, the seasons, the natural world. These things are going to happen on their own. The flow of the seasons is beyond us, but it’s our choice to plug into it, and plant/reap/sow/connect with that rhythm.
It’s the same with Shabbat and the holidays themselves. They will come and go, whether we celebrate them or not. We have the choice to be a part of them. They are opportunities to connect with what’s happening naturally in a specifically Jewish way. There’s going to be another Friday every week. We can mark that time Jewishly. Harvest seasons roll around every year; we can mark those times Jewishly.
Maybe you “do” Shabbat differently than I do, but whatever you do, you can do it on Friday night, not Thursday. However you “do” Yom Kippur, you can do it on the 10th day of Tishrei, not just any fall afternoon.
I was going to talk about how, when I got a new calendar, the fisrt thing I did was write in when the holidays were. Most of us don’t work off paper anymore, but our electronic calendars usually don’t mark when Shavuot or Sukkot are, but Chanukah and High Holidays may be. Take the next step – choose to participate in the rhythm that is uniquely Jewish. Log on to a Hebrew calendar site, and plug in those holidays. Choose to know when the set times are, and celebrate!