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Riding with the Moon

Riding with the Moon


Clowns are cavorting to the music, children are clamoring for sweets, people are lining up to be frightened or thrilled or amused. Another day in the glorious theme park of life.

Do you take the Ferris wheel or the roller coaster?

If you’re a Ferris wheel kind of guy, you want your ups and downs to follow an even cycle. You acknowledge that life is a ride—that there are times to ascend and times to descend, times to move and times to halt, and times to sway gently in the breeze. But you need for it to follow a regular pattern, so that you can reflect on what has been and prepare for what’s to come.

If you opt for the roller coaster, it’s because you know that the real fun comes when you’re caught unawares. When you inch up a long, seemingly endless incline, only to plunge into a bottomless pit; when a slow, graceful somersault follows a twisting hurdle through dark tunnels. When you never know what the ride will throw at you next, and have only your grip on the handlebar and your faith in the designer’s ingenuity to get you through it.

Another day in the theme park of life. Do you take the Ferris wheel or the roller coaster?

Did you ever wonder why our calendar has both weeks and months? Why follow two different cycles that never match up?

The week came first. As the Bible tells it, G‑d created the world in seven days—six days of work and a seventh of rest. According to the Kabbalists, everything in creation is modeled upon a structure of seven sefirot (“lights” or “spheres”)—including time itself. The weekly Shabbat, first observed by Adam only hours after his creation, is thus the key to living our lives as “partners with G‑d in creation,” of attuning our own creative powers with those of our Creator.

In other words, the seven-day week is nature’s inner clock—the system by which it was brought into being, and by which it continues to be sustained and maintained by its Creator.

And then, one dark night in Egypt some 2,448 years after the first Shabbat, the month was born.

And G‑d spoke to Moses and to Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: “This new moon shall be for you the head of months, the first of the month of the year for you . . .” (Exodus 12:1–2)

The week is generated by seven sunsets and seven sunrises, a repetitive event by which each day in the cycle is virtually indistinguishable from its fellows; the month, on the other hand, has its progress marked by the moon’s phases, as it grows from crescent to fullness, only to dwindle back to oblivion and await another rebirth. The week was programmed by the Creator into creation; the month, on the other hand, must be created anew each time—according to Torah law, a new month is proclaimed only after the Sanhedrin (supreme court) hears testimony from two witnesses who saw the new moon. Shabbat, which commemorates the creation of the natural order, is a product of the week; the festivals that commemorate the miracles of Jewish history (Passover, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, etc.) are all products of the month.

If the week represents all that is regular and immutable in our world, the month represents the new, the unanticipatable, the miraculous.

Do you take the Ferris wheel or the roller coaster? Imagine that you could ride both simultaneously. If you can imagine that, you know the experience of living with the Jewish calendar.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
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Anonymous Prescott, AR September 5, 2011

lunar calendar did you mean to say, "the first of every month is very close to the first of the year" ? Reply

Menachem Posner for Montreal, Quebec September 4, 2011

RE: lunar calendar Our fixed calendar is indeed designed so that the first of every month is very close to the first of the month. However, it can drift a day or two out of sync. For example this current (Ellul 7771) month for example: NASA records the new moon as having appeared on Monday, August 29. However, the first of Ellul was only on Wednesday, two days later. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma September 4, 2011

Sun and Moon/Thee and There People have navigated using the sun and moon since the "beginning of time". The moon's pull is great and does provide for the ebb and flow of the tides, our water, Mayim, which is life. And the moon itself, riding high, is beautiful in the night sky.

I think it's beautiful to understand in a deeper way, the thinking that led to the Jewish calendar, this record of days, of time and the River.

We went to the moon and discovered rocks and yet, we cannot conceive of the moon entirely in this way, because it must, in our minds, down below, remain a beautiful shining upstairs, in the ever present, ever changing skies, and in a night of stars, we see so many many moons in the twinkling waters, by the shore.

There is this shifting beauty to what we see, and what we know, and we can walk in two worlds at the same time, because truly, man has, walked on the moon.

Sun and moon are consorts, and we with G_d do walk together, as sun, and moon.

We're entering a New Year. Sunny side up: beaming. Reply

Jay Tompkins Fulton, MO September 3, 2011

lunar calendar My understanding is that Hillel the Great calculated the Hebrew calendar as we know it today because there were not enough scholars in his land during the times after the defeat of the Bar Khokba rebellion. This tells me that the determination of the High Days before then must not have been so simple as an observation of a new moon. Several organizations I know about base High Day observances based on visual New Moon observances. Some of these reject the aspects such as observing Yom Kippur on Friday, yet simple new moon observations always coincide with the current Hebrew calendar. I wonder if you could show me an example of where a simple new moon observation led to an erroneous determination of a High Day observation. Reply

Anonymous prescott, ar September 3, 2011

weeks and months Ahhh, but what about me who dislikes both ferris wheels and roller coasters!

It explains well why the Jewish calandar is as it is, and how crazy it can feel to operate within both it and the one the rest of the world uses. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma August 31, 2011

moonlighting Thank you. This is beautiful. Reply

carbonblack7 March 18, 2008

Shabbat and the week and the moon I have been doing some reading and was wondering if all the moed of G_D are directed by the moon, how come Shabbat is not? Reply