Thursday, April 03, 2014

Consistency v. Creativity

Bonus! This year you got additional prep time for Pesach, compliments of the extra Adar. A Jewish leap year adds a whole extra month just to ensure that Pesach arrives in the correct season. The timing of Pesach is based on the position of the Sun. Seeing as the Jewish calendar follows the Moon, we need the occasional adjustment to keep our holidays where they need to be.
You may find it ironic that the Lunar calendar was introduced by G-d to the Jewish people in the month of Nissan. Nissan is the month that has to suit the seasons, which means that, in the one Jewish month that has to match the solar cycle, G-d presented us with a calendar that follows the Moon. Christians and Muslims seem to have it easier, as their calendars follow the Sun and Moon respectively. Only the Jews would insist on having the best (or the trickiest) of both worlds.
A Jew cannot live without a calendar. We need to know when Shabbos is, when to invite the gantze mishpocha for the Seder and when to book seats for Kol Nidrei. It's no surprise that the first mitzvah our nation was given was to establish a calendar, because without one Jews can't be Jewish.
Seeing as the calendar is so central, the specific design of the calendar must carry a fundamental message for us. The Sun and Moon operate very differently. The Sun is predictable; constant. The Moon looks different every night. Some nights it is large and bright, others it is merely a sliver and there are times when we don't see it at all. The Hebrew word for month, chodesh, is derived from the root "chadash", meaning "new", because we start each month as the Moon starts its cycle afresh.
Life is a Sun/Moon mixture. Some things in life are like the Sun, constant and predictable, others are volatile.
A Jew is a Sun/Moon person. We are expected to have certain reliable Jewish commitments like davening and studying each day, eating kosher or wearing Tefillin. Such consistency keeps us Jewish. But, we also need inspiration and freshness from time to time- an awakening like the New Moon.
Yom Tov offers a chance for that kind of freshness. Yom Tov allows us to become excited again about our Judaism, to inject life into the cycle of observance that can simply become habit. Yom Tov is when we should be at Shul more than usual. It is time to study something we've never explored before. Yom Tov allows us the chance to get a fresh start on elements of our Judaism that may have become staid.


Claire Bennett said...

It's no surprise that the first mitzvah our nation was given was to establish a calendar, because without one Jews can't be Jewish.

Thank you; I never thought of it that way.

Rabbi Ari Shishler said...

Thanks, Claire.