FROM OUR RABBI…
January is going to be quite a month, a month of new beginnings. Did you know that the Jewish calendar as described in the Talmud actually has four new years? Listen:
THERE ARE FOUR NEW YEARS 1) ON THE FIRST OF NISAN IS NEW YEAR FOR KINGS AND FOR FESTIVALS, 2) ON THE FIRST OF ELUL IS NEW YEAR FOR THE TITHE OF CATTLE, (R. ELEAZAR AND R. SIMEON, HOWEVER, PLACE THIS ON THE FIRST OF TISHRI.) 3) ON THE FIRST OF TISHRI IS NEW YEAR FOR YEARS FOR RELEASE [OF SLAVES] AND JUBILEE YEARS AND FOR PLANTATION AND FOR [TITHE OF] VEGETABLES. 4) ON THE FIRST OF SHEAT IS NEW YEAR FOR TREES (ACCORDING TO THE RULING OF BETH SHAMMAI. BETH HILLEL, HOWEVER, PLACE IT ON THE FIFTEENTH OF THAT MONTH.)
TALMUD: ROSH HASHANAH MISHNAH 1.1
Apparently, there was a day of the year when coronations were to occur (the first day of the month of Nisan); when taxes were due, i.e. tithing (the first day of the month of Elul); when beginning the counting of days and months (the first day of the month of Tishri); and a day for the birthday of trees, like Arbor Day, (on the fifteenth of Shevat).
There are parallels here, are there not? On January 1, we take joy as the secular new year begins, on January 15 estimated taxes are due, on the 20th of January we will watch the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden and on Wednesday night, January 27, at 5:30 p.m. our synagogue community will observe Tu B’shevat, the birthday of the trees. We’re not releasing slaves, as the Talmud mentions, but with new vaccines being administered to conquer COVID, many of us will be less homebound.
This last year has been difficult, to say the least. In so many ways we have been challenged, especially when it comes to our altered experiences of time and space. Going out into the world simply to shop has been a dangerous enterprise. Re-imagining prayer space on Zoom has been a major adjustment. Even the feeling of Mondays versus Wednesdays has been confusing because long-time routines have been changed. I, for one, am not going to work in the morning and coming back for dinner in the evening. One moment has been flowing into the next. I feel like I have been floating.
So I’m looking forward to any significant marker of time that is filled with appreciation or hope, and during this January there are many. Each new beginning is going to bring me pleasure and make me smile. (OK, maybe not filing my taxes, but every other marker.) I’m going to appreciate every day and I’m going to enjoy it.
Let’s all celebrate this month, as we read in Psalms: “This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps.118:24)