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Monday, September 9, 2013

Rosh Hashannah Early? No, Right on Time

For those who run their lives according to the "goyish" aka solar or Christian Calendar, Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year, which we just celebrated last week on September 5th came "very early."  Jewish schools in the northern hemisphere had to decide whether or not to open before their usual September date or earlier or later.  Yes, that includes Israel, where many schools started a week early so the children would have some educational preparation for Rosh Hashannah.

Many of us live rather schizophrenic lives when it comes to the calendar, and that includes yours truly.

I must admit that this morning when I went into the kitchen for my second mug bucket of coffee, and I noticed the dark grey clouds trying to mask the orange sunrise, I knew for sure that we are in the Month of Tishrei.

Rosh Hashannah is behind us and the Israeli fall has begun.  Our evenings and early mornings have been getting chillier and the days more humid.  This is typical weather for the season of the Jewish High Holidays, Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur.  Of course this summer-fall weather will yoyo for another month, and then G-d willing it will begin to rain.

When I stepped out the door to take more pictures of the sunrise I was impressed by how little of it I could see.  The trees are beginning to seriously block my view.

There was a time when standing in exactly the same spot I could see a lot more sky, but Baruch Hashem, thank G-d we've had rain, and the trees have been growing.

For those who schedule and function strictly according to the Jewish Calendar, there are no debates or discussions or even feelings that the Holidays are "early." That's because strictly speaking they aren't.  This is a year that will have a second Adar, which G-d willing will give us an extra month of rain and prevent the calendar situation the Muslims have.  Their holidays travel around the seasons, because they have an inflexible twelve month lunar calendar without any leap (extra) months.

Since Jewish Holidays are also entwined with specific harvests, we must celebrate them in their exact solar seasons.  The coordination of the two types of calendars, lunar and solar, in the Jewish Calendar is brilliant.  Another aspect of the calendar is that our two weeklong holidays, Succot and Passover begin with the full moon, in the middle of the lunar month.  All of this must match perfectly.

So, whether the Jewish Holidays are early or late depends on your "focus" or "lighting."  Two pictures I took this morning form the same spot illustrate it well.

Picture #1 was given an automatic flash by the camera.  The flash emphasizes the tree by my door and deemphasizes the sunrise.

Picture #2 So I quickly turned off the automatic flash and took another shot of the same scene.

Now I'll leave it in your hands.  Which should be called the Jewish Calendar and which the "goyish" calendar? 


goyisherebbe said...

I have to point out that the very situation of having a calendar at all is a result of galut, exile. When we had a beit din, a Sanhedrin, which had the authority to sanctify months and years according to direct testimony of witnesses, there was no calendar. The day of Rosh Hodesh could be either the 30th or 31st day after the beginning of the previous month according to the decision of Beit Din based on the testimony. They had expectations, but the determination of when there would be an extra day of the month or an extra month of the year gave them certain discretionary power. If the winter cold ended early or late, or harvest or the rains were early or late, they could adjust and re-correct the next year as long as the time of the holidays did not vary too much from the equinox. So in a sense any fixed calendar is exilic or "goyish". The "Jewish" calendar months have Babylonian names. The solar calendar reflects an astronomical reality which halacha also has to deal with (times of prayer and Shabbat, for example), but we consider it "goyish" because of the Greco-Roman names of the months. Of course the numbering of the years is supposedly Christian-based, but of course the protagonist of the Christian bible was not born in the year 1 CE. OTOH Avraham Avinu was born in 1948 from creation and the State of Israel was born in 1948 CE. I don't have an explanation for that, but I'm sure it's not coincidence. The Chafetz Chaim says that the "Jewish" calendar is slowly slipping out of sync with the seasons even with the 19-year correction cycle. But, he says, before the slippage will be critical we will already have a beit din sanctifying months and years the way the Torah told us to do it. Maybe we could just be a little less in-your-face about jealously guarding the "Jewishness" of our calendar since that behavior is also an outgowth of the exile.

Batya said...

goyish, the set calendar isn't as "goyish" as it is modern. In modern life we have to be able to plan in advance and use the set calendar.

Anonymous said...

Pray tell Batya, the name of the fruit that is on picture one.



Batya said...

stella, what fruit? I don't see fruit on the pictures here. There's an olive tree blocking the sunrise, but there aren't many olives and they aren't visible.

Anonymous said...

Batya, you are scaring me. I know I am old, but my eye sight is not too bad yet. B'H!
Look at the picture of the tree (picture 1), go right down and the branch that goes to the left of the pic, I see, orangie-yellowish which looks like some sort of fruit. May be olives, never seen an olive tree, though have eaten them.

Batya said...

Sorry, a, now I'm more awake to follow. What you see in the artificial light of the flash as "orange" are almonds, which are brown.

Shy Guy said...

Ger Rebbe (I can't bear to call you "Goyishe"!), all we need to do is reconvene the Sanhedrin.

So simple.

"Mah Titz'ak Ailiy?!", exclaims HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

Batya said...

yes, if only it was so simple

Anonymous said...

Todah Rabah, Batya.



Batya said...

glad I could finally help

Anonymous said...

I have no love of the Chief Rabbinate, but it has the same civil legal authority that any Sanhedrin ever had. And yes, "civil" authority is crucial because no Sanhedrin ever had a Police Force. The Royal Court's police were the law enforcers.

If the Chief Rabbinate of today is not seizing its rightful authority, it's only because they really only are interested in the revenues attendant to issuing this or that piece of paper.

Batya said...

a, interesting re: chief rabbinate
It would take international Jewish support/recognition to make it Sanhedrin...