I’ll take this opportunity to express my feelings on a topic which many of you have heard me discuss before, the calendar.
It was just this time last year that the entire human race was in a frenzy over the impending end of reality as we know it. As the ominous date of 1.1.00 approached we were led to believe that all planetary functions may come crashing down due to the lack of foresight by some programmers in the sixties. This of course was both frightening and carried tremendous potential as we all know that the tax records are just as computerized as anything else around. It gave us time for reflection about the dependence of Mankind on its machines and how fragile we still are despite, or rather because of, our technological advances.
Well here we are a year later and the sky did not fall, and as a matter of fact not much happened at all except for a whole bunch of people got rich creating solutions for a not existent problem. I think that a year later it is time for us to recognize how silly we are, and were. The date of January 1 was infused with religious importance, a true and real Yom Hadin a day where we would be bared of all outer vestiges and be left as caveman to face the sheer forces of nature.
The day came and went and nothing happened, it would not be surprising if the lack of an apocalypse would be treated as a sort of miracle to be marked each and every year by parties and revelry, oh whoops I guess that January 1 already is taken in the revelry front.
Judaism is very much against arbitrary dates and a system of time composed of sheer numerics. The Ramban, in a moving piece on Shmot 12:1 points out that in the Torah we have no names for the months rather we have ordinal numbers. A similar situation is evident when it comes to the days of the week, in Hebrew they lack names and are referred to simply as the first second etc.. day of the week.
The Ramban explains that this is very significant, as we do not simply measure time as a measure of chronological distance but rather all of our time keeping is relative to the events that give it significance, the months are counted relative to the leaving of Egypt and the days of the week are counted relative to the Shabbat. Each and every moment we are to be living our lives in a sense of meaning and purpose. We are to be asking ourselves what does this time mean to me as a Jew and as an individual? How does my life’s course match the big plan. Yes, a Jew is meant to get philosophical about something so simple as the calendar!!
The Calendar by which we choose to lead our lives says a tremendous amount about who we are. Do we chose to “complicate” our life and use a system different than all those around us because it is what really identifies us or do we chose the easy way out and just do things like the “rest of the world”? The choice is ours. It is a choice of Jewish identity in that the last 60-70 years has shown us just how influential it can be.
[For those of you Bogrot who had the opportunity to spend Shabbat together with us in New York last week the next part will be a bit of review] I just returned this week from a two week stay in The United States, On my first morning there I was greeted with the traditional Sunday Morning Breakfast- lox and bagel. A tomato was also served and as I saw it on the plate I began to consider the implications of the tomato. Yes I just said “implications of a tomato” What I am referring to is the dilemma that we now face in Israel as to the source of our vegetables. As it is Shmitta the religious issues arise as to whether or not to use produce that was grown in Israel under the ” Heter Mechira”- The sale of the land similar to the sale of Chametz before Pesach. Although this particular legal loophole is problematic, it has been employed for many years to insure the security if the agricultural aspect of Israel’s economy, which in recent years has undergone major changes. On the other hand another possibility for obtaining produce is from Arab owned lands, which puts us in another dilemma as whether or not to support the Arab farmers at this very delicate and sensitive time politically. In short a tomato in Israel today is an “Issue”, one that has to be treated very seriously and each and every individuals choices are important.
The tomato in New York was just a tomato.
We can choose the easy path and make our life simple but I would dare to say meaningless or we can meet the challenges that face us as Jews and learn to look at the world through the eyes that constantly ask us to make important decisions.
The choice is ours.