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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No New Year, Just a Number

It's that season when those of us memory-challenged have some added stress for some days, weeks, months.  In a couple of days, we're going to have to write a different number year on checks and forms.  OK, maybe the title of this isn't correct.  You can call it a "new year," but don't expect me to lift a glass, get drunk or even say mazaltov.

I just may make a little prayer hoping that I won't foul up a form or do some other dumb thing.

In Israel we are allowed to use Hebrew dates for banking and other clerical needs.  I'll let you in on a secret, if I could ever learn how to write/remember the Hebrew years in letters (and numbers so I'd understand them) I'd probably start using the Jewish Calendar whenever possible.  But I seem to have a bit of a mental block.  I just can't get the Jewish year in my head.  I know the months.  Yes, it certainly helps that I organize Women's Rosh Chodesh Prayers at Tel Shiloh.  Also, I can look at the moon and have a pretty accurate idea of which part of the Jewish month it is.

But January first holds no significance for me. 

The Jewish Calendar has a number of New Years.  In three weeks it'll be the New Years of the Trees, TU B'Shvat, the 15th day in the month of Shvat.  No, there's no translation from Hebrew into English for the months.

When I was a high school English teacher, I was amazed at the number of students who hadn't a clue as to the goyish months.  It was especially difficult to explain it to Ethiopian students who had just learned the Jewish Calendar.

Actually, until just over two years ago, the only real importance the first of January had was that it was Uncle George's birthday.  He died just a few months before his 90th.

So, in a couple of days, we'll remember that it would have been Uncle George's 92nd birthday.  We'll think of family, of good times, just like we do on all sorts of similar days.  And no, I don't know when his Hebrew Birthday was.  Yes, I could go to one of those sites to check, but he only celebrated his birthday on that 1-1 date.

When we first made aliyah, it was rare to hear any reference to celebrations on December 31/January 1, but now it's very common, especially in hotels and restaurants.  This year is a challenge, because it's on a Friday night, so kosher places can't have anything if they want to keep their certification.  I noticed lots of ads for celebrations a night earlier and some for a night later.

The goyish new year just doesn't jive with the Jewish calendar and Jewish Life.

Shabbat Shalom

11 comments:

yaak said...

Nice post, Batya.

When I was a high school English teacher, I was amazed at the number of students who hadn't a clue as to the goyish months. It was especially difficult to explain it to Ethiopian students who had just learned the Jewish Calendar.

Out of curiosity: what kind of background were the non-Ethiopians?

Batya said...

just ordinary dati le'umi, small-medium crocheted kippot

Ariella said...

"The goyish new year just doesn't jive with the Jewish calendar and Jewish Life." I agree.

Sabba Hillel said...

1 January 1919 was 29 Teves 5679 That makes the following day was Rosh Chodesh Shvat. This would make it easier for you to remember as you do keep track of Rosh Chodesh. This year his birthday will be on 5 January.

Batya said...

Sabba Hillel, thanks. Davka his great-grandchildren are the ones who are being raised on the Jewish calendar, B"H

MAOZ said...

Batya,maybe you could scribble the Hebrew designation of the year (e.g., Tav-Shin-'Ayin-Alef for the current year) on the inside cover of your checkbook as a reminder. Then you could just glance at that to reminder yourself, when you want to make out a check.

For a while after I made aliyah, around this time of year I'd hear people talking about "Sylvester", and I always wondered why they were talking about a cartoon cat.... ;)

Batya said...

maoz, I don't write checks that often either, but it's an idea. I'm sure I won't have to check it too many times before it will enter my head.

Neshama said...

All true, but the G-d of Israel is also the G-d of the world and that includes all non-Jews. They go by the secular calendar. For some it is a new start and new efforts for being better fathers, mothers etc. And the righteous among them will be with the Jews once Moshiach arrives.

Batya said...

amen

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
I try to always carry a calendar with me to check if I have to write a date.
Two anecdotal stories:
I was writing a check and couldn't remember the date. I asked the man behind the counter and he replied, "Ours, or theirs?"
The second is from an outdoor shoe sale, one of those sales at which the sellers arrive at a central location in a community and unload a shoe store from the back of a large van. The sellers weren't religious so I didn't want to possibly embarrass them if they didn't know the Hebrew date - as if I did... I asked the general crowd for the date. The seller instantly replied, "Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh so today must be the 29th." I left the sale thinking, "Never, never assume what a man without a kippa does or doesn't observe."

Batya said...

A couple of times I bought shoes in a small store in Machane Yehuda. the shopkeeper gave a dvar Torah about the name Medad when he saw our name on the check. I love those only in Israel stories.