Is time a line, a progression from a "beginning" in which the idea of a world is conceived and launched to an "end of days" in which its ultimate purpose is realized, with each increment in the line marking a point that much closer to the culmination?

Is time a circle, a set variety of events repeating with each turn of the wheel? Or perhaps a series of interlocking circles — cycles of seven, of 24 and 365 and of 30 and twelve and nineteen and one thousand — with every event in our lives defined by the point it occupies in each of the cycles and the way that these points bear upon and pull upon each other?

Is time a spiral, in which we are always coming back to the same place, constantly repeating the events of our lives and of history, but each time on a higher (or deeper?) plane?

Is time a swinging pendulum, a perpetual to and fro, in and out, rush and return, striving and settling? Perhaps it also turns as it swings, drawing lines in the sand or a cross-hatched circle? Maybe it also drops a notch with each swing, while the counterweight that is its tether and twin climbs upward?

Is time a terrain, with pathways and landmarks, mountains and valleys, barren deserts and lush meadows, dangerous jungles and fruitious gardens? Or is it a sea whose every drop is identical, the differences between them representing only the variances in the play of light upon its surface and the reflection of forms submerged in it?

Is time a living organism whose various cells, organs and faculties interact with each other, each fulfilling its individual function and imparting its effect upon the whole?

Time is all these things, which is why no artist has ever successfully painted its portrait. Each of the previous six paragraphs can be sketched or diagramed — but can a single illustration incorporate them all?

But no matter: we live time, we experience it, we know what it is. We sense its forward progression, we're familiar with its repetitions, we throb with its pulse, we roam its terrain, and we marvel at the perfect regularity it provides as a canvas for all of life's colors and textures.

And every Rosh Hashanah, we stand in awe as time is born anew, setting in motion yet another repeat of the annual cycle — even as it introduces "a new and renewed light, which has never yet entered the world."1