Annual Thinking (pt. 2)

Prior to exploring the act and implications of heating his home from split wood, Deneen also expressed thoughts about the calendar:

I have always disliked that the celebration of the passing of the old year and the celebration of the new bears no relationship to the changing seasons. How much more appropriate were we to celebrate this date on the Spring equinox or summer solstice. And what more pleasant weather we’d likely be able to celebrate in. Nevertheless, this year I find it wholly appropriate to mark the day in the dead of winter.

It is worth noting that, according to the Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:1, the Jewish calendar contains four “new” year celebrations:

The day most commonly referred to as the “New Year” is the first of Tishrei, when the formal New Year festival, Rosh Hashanah (“head of the year”) is observed. (see Ezekiel 40:1, which uses the phrase “beginning of the year”.) This is the beginning of the civil year, and the point at which the year number advances. Certain agricultural practices are also marked from this date.

However, the first month of the year as prescribed in Exodus 12:2 is Nisan: “This month shall be to you the beginning of months”. [Nisan is also called the New Year for Kings] This means that the civil new year, Rosh Hashanah, actually begins in the seventh month of the year.

The month of Elul is the new year for counting animal tithes (ma’aser).

Tu Bishvat (“the 15th of Shevat”) marks the new year for trees and agricultural tithes.

There may be an echo here of a controversy in the Talmud about whether the world was created in Tishrei or Nisan; it was decided that the answer is Tishrei, and this is now reflected in the prayers on Rosh Hashanah.

The agricultural festivals (Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot) associated with Temple offerings also establish annual Jewish rhythms. In the post-Temple reinvention of Israelite religion (after the Roman destruction in 70 C.E.), Rabbinic Judaism employed the cycle of the agricultural festivals to set the new home and synagogue prayer-based holy days.

To extend the wisdom of the Jewish calendar, see Joel Ziff’s Mirrors in Time: A Psycho-Spiritual Journey Through the Jewish Year. The book incorporates Hasidic and modern psychological insights for the process of habit changes through dynamic work on the Ego and the Essential Self.

I may offer further ideas on the blog from Ziff and the Talmud about the the Jewish calendar. However, this time of year also focuses us on the difference between Jewish and Christian calendars.


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