The Jewish festivals celebrate the miracles that have occurred throughout our history. Passover celebrates the Exodus from Egypt. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. SukkotThe connection is tenuous celebrates the miracles that our ancestors experienced during their journey through the desert after the Exodus.

The festivals are named after the miracles that they commemorate. The festival of Passover is named for the miracle of G‑d skipping over the Jewish homes in the plague of the firstborn. (The holiday is also known as the Holiday of Matzah after the unleavened bread that our ancestors ate at the time of the Exodus.) The festival of Shavuot, literally “weeks,” is named for the seven weeks that our ancestors counted between the Exodus and receiving the Ten Commandments. The festival of Sukkot, literally “booths,” commemorates the safe cocoon of clouds that formed a secure booth-like environment for our ancestors in the desert.

In addition, G‑d gave these festivals names that reflect the seasons in which they fall. Passover is called the festival of ripeness, Chag HaAviv, because it falls in the early spring, when the crops have just begun to ripen. Shavuot is called the Festival of the Harvest, Chag Hakatzir, because it occurs in the late spring during the harvest. Sukkot is called the the Festival of Gathering, Chag HaAsif, because it is celebrated in the fall when the crops are gathered.1

On the face of it, the connection between our festivals and the seasons they are in is tenuous. The festivals celebrate miraculous events, while the seasons during which they fall appear to be coincidental. Yet the Torah emphasizes this link, and goes so far as to manipulate our calendar to ensure that the holidays are always celebrated in their respective phases of the harvest cycle.

The Dual Calendar

The Jewish calendar is lunar based. The Gregorian calendar is solar based. The lunar calendar is eleven days shorter than the solar calendar. And so, every year, the festivals should occur eleven days earlier in the season than they did the previous year. Accordingly, the festivals should float around the seasonal calendar. And yet, Passover always occurs in the spring, Sukkot is always in the fall and Chanukah is always in the winter.

This is because we adjust our calendar every few years to ensure that it coincides with the solar calendar. We do this because we want to ensure that the Jewish festivals fall in their correct seasons. This tells us that the link between the festivals and the seasons is deliberate. So much so that G‑d gave each festival a name that reflects its season.2

In The Seasons Of Life

G‑d wants Judaism to be ingrained in the pattern of our lives. He does not want our festivals to be abstract exercises, divorced from our daily activities. He wants the two to be interwoven; our lives suffused with religion, and our religion etched into life.

In plain words, this means that He wants us to be aware ofG‑d wants Judaism to be ingrained in the pattern of our lives the approaching festival without needing to consult a calendar. He wants us to see our festivals in the change of the seasons, and to think of the season as we consider the festival. He wants life and religion to be seamless.

G‑d wants us to see Passover in the melting snow, returning warmth and blooming flowers. When we see full crops and a hot sun, G‑d wants us to think of Shavuot. When the fields are empty, the winds blow and the rains fall, G‑d wants us to feel the approach of Sukkot. When the snow falls and the cold sets in, G‑d wants us to think Chanukah. He wants our lives to navigate a seamless transition from life to faith and faith to life. He wants us to think of G‑d when we are at work as well as at home, to associate the patterns and seasons of life with Him, to know that He is present wherever we are.

Seeping Into The World

Judaism is not just about us remembering G‑d, it is also about making the world holy.

Of the Ten Commandments that G‑d gave at Sinai, five summon us to live with soulful faith and morality. The other five legislate the boundaries for the enticements of human nature. When G‑d taught Moses the rest of the Torah, He began with the legal code for monetary disputes rather than with lofty spiritual subjects. This taught Moses that G‑d wants us to practice the Torah in the mundane reality of the daily grind, not just on the pinnacles of spiritual worship and devotion. It was only after Moses understood this that G‑d gave our festivals their agrarian names.3

G‑d’s purpose in giving us the Torah was not just to make us more spiritual or more moral. His intention was that we use it to make the world a habitat for G‑d. A place that recognizes G‑d, and is welcoming to Him. G‑d’s greatest hope is not just that we absorb the message and sanctity of Torah, but that we allow it to seep into the world around us.

A Jewish farmer prepares for Passover by checking that hisIn every event, we incorporate G‑d crop has blossomed. He harvests his crop to prepare for Shavuot. Gathering in his crop fills his mind with Sukkot. The harvest is a living part of the festival. The holiness of the festival seeps into the harvest.

Similarly, we don’t go shopping just to fill our cupboards. We go shopping to fulfill the mitzvah of keeping kosher. We don’t just clean our homes for ourselves, we clean our homes to honor Shabbat. We don’t just learn to read and write, we do it to help us study Torah. In every activity, in every event, we incorporate G‑d. Every object in a Jewish home becomes a funnel for holiness, a vehicle for a mitzvah. Every moment in a Jewish day is suffused with G‑dliness. Every day in a Jewish life is sanctified.

It Is for Us Too

In fact, when our entire life is centered around our Judaism, and there is a seamless transition between religion and life, our commitment is sharpened and our passion is stoked. And when our passion seeps out and inspires others, when our conviction touches others, when our holiness ignites others, it all becomes deeper and more real for us.

We learn this from Abraham. He spent his life lecturing about monotheism to every passerby at every opportunity. But in the process, his own conviction was sharpened. He wanted to call out to G‑d, but he wanted to do it with the masses, to merge his call with the call of others. Since others weren’t calling, Abraham resolved to recruit them to the call. Once he got others to call, his own call became stronger. The same applies to us. When we ensure that the world around is holy, our own environment becomes holier, and consequently so do we.