The Jewish Relationship With Time
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week’s portion discusses the sacrificial offerings brought on the holidays.
Besides the more well known holidays such as Pesach, Sukkos, Shavuos, Rosh
Hoshanah, and Yom Kippur, one other holiday is mentioned: Rosh Chodesh—new
moons. On this day, as on the other holidays, an extra offering (a korban mussaf)
is the significance of the new moon?
are several ways of counting time. The two most common ways are the use of a
solar calendar and the use of a lunar calendar. When using a solar calendar, the
maintenance of the calendar is quite simple: the earth revolves around the sun
in a cycle of 365 and a quarter days, thus necessitating an extra day (February
29th) to be added once every four years. A lunar calendar, however, is much more
complex. The moon revolves around the earth in cycles of 29 or 30 days, 12 such
months equaling 354 days. This is problematic, as by using this calendar the
Jewish holidays would fall eleven days earlier every year. To eliminate this
problem, once every two or three years the sages would add another month, a
second Adar, to ensure the holidays would be in their proper time, i.e., Pesach
in the spring, Sukkos in the fall, etc…
The obvious question is, why would G-d want us to use a calendar which
entails so much upkeep; why not just go with a solar calendar, which basically
takes care of itself.
determination of the new month worked as follows. The court would sit and wait
for testimony on whether the new moon had been witnessed. If it was seen on the
afternoon of the 29th, then the next day would be the new month. If it was not
seen, then the month would have 30 days and the following day would
automatically be the new month.
process, although much more complicated than simply using a solar calendar,
entails a certain responsibility—a requirement
to interact with the calendar. This shows that we have the G-d given power to
exercise our dominion over time.
the one hand, time can be a human being’s greatest enemy, manifesting itself
as missed opportunities and wasted chances. On the other hand, the ability to
control time, i.e., to use it wisely, is the greatest of all skills.
every commandment, behind the actual physical commandment lies a deeper
spiritual obligation which is meant to be unearthed through the performance and
learning of the commandment itself. The message here is that by controlling
time, by keeping the Torah, the Jewish people are actually above time.
is evident by the survival of the Jewish people. If we look at the other nations
that were around when we became a nation, such as Ancient Egypt, Midian, Moav,
to name but a few, we see they no longer exist. Yet the Jews’ active
involvement in the Torah continues to this day, ensuring our survival.