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The Jewish Calendar

Why is it important to live one’s life with a daily awareness of the Jewish calendar?

Both the Written Torah and the Oral Torah open with clear awareness and indication of the significance of time. The written Torah begins with the words, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."[1] The Oral Torah begins with the question, “From what time may one recite the evening Shema?”[2]

The First Commandment

Moreover, the first commandment given to the Jewish people, as they were about to leave Egypt, was the mitzvah to sanctify the new moon—the foundation of the Jewish calendar, because the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar months (while accounting for the solar year). So important is this first mitzvah that the sages suggest that “[God] should have started the Torah with ‘This month is for you the first of months,’[3] for it is the first mitzvah that the Jewish people were commanded.”[4] the verse that describes this mitzvah.

That the mitzvah of keeping a Jewish calendar was given to us in preparation for our Exodus from Egypt, we may understand that the ability to determine the proper Torah-based, Godly reckoning of time, represents the Divine power needed to exit not only Egypt, our state of exile 3300 years ago, but all states of spiritual bondage we may find ourselves in, even today.

Discovering Our Higher Self

When Jews make a point of reckoning time according to the Jewish calendar, they enhance their spiritual consciousness. One of the most important principles of the Jewish calendar is how it accounts for both the lunar months and the solar year, creating a unified time-keeping system out of the two, a principle known as “the secret of the ibbur” (סוֹד הָעִבּוּר). The word ibbur (עִבּוּר) means “intercalation,” signifying the addition of an additional 13th month to every 7 out of 19 lunar years. However, ibbur literally means “pregnancy”—because the intercalated year is “pregnant,” so to speak, with a thirteenth lunar month. But on a deeper level, living life according to the Jewish calendar “impregnates” our minds with higher states of consciousness. In Kabbalistic terminology, the mind is in a state of pregnancy when the short-lived but seminal insights from our super-conscious, higher self (keter), appear as flashes of enlightenment within our faculty of wisdom (chochmah), which are then captured by the vessel, or womb, of our faculty of understanding (binah) where they develop into full-fledged mental structures. When this spiritual pregnancy runs its course, our mind can give birth to new, rectified, and positive emotions.[5]

The word ibbur (עִבּוּר) is also cognate to the word “Hebrew” (עִבְרִי), indicating that the ability to reveal and identify with our higher self, our crown, is a distinctly Hebrew trait first revealed to Abraham the Hebrew (אַבְרָהָם הָעִבְרִי). God’s promise that Abraham and his offspring would inherit the Land of the 7 Canaanite nations symbolizes his ability to replace the 7 natural and unrectified emotional and behavioral faculties of the heart with rectified ones originating directly from God.

Tikkun Olam with the Jewish Calendar

Remarkably, the numerical value of the most common idiom describing daily usage of the Jewish calendar, which is “Hebrew date” (תַּאֲרִיךְ עִבְרִי) is identical to that of the Torah’s first word, “In the beginning” (בְּרֵאשִׁית). This is a clear allusion to the fact that both our personal, inner process of self-rectification and our involvement with the rectification of the world at large (tikkun olam) begin with and depend upon the use of the Jewish calendar for reckoning time.

After the primordial sin, God addressed Adam with the question: "Where are you?" One's personal assessment of where he is in life begins with determining where he is in the world, both physically and spiritually. In Kabbalah, it is explained that the dimension of time is what connects the dimension of space (one’s physical location) and the dimension of soul (one’s spiritual state). By knowing today’s Hebrew date, we can become aware of the link between our physical location and our spiritual state, allowing us to focus on the best possible actions we can take and the attitude we can assume at this particular juncture in order to have the most positive influence on ourselves and on our surroundings. A case in point is Jewish jurisprudence’s awareness of challenging witnesses' testimony by examining questions related to time.

To be a Jew means to think like a Jew. In other words, it means to assess life and make decisions from a Jewish perspective, beginning with adopting the Jewish calendar into how we schedule and manage our time—down to our personal appointment books or diaries. Then we can appreciate where we are holding in life, and how we can succeed in bringing ourselves and our portion of the world to their proper and ultimate fulfillment.

 

[1]. Genesis 1:1.

[2]. Mishnah Berachot 1:1.

[3]. Exodus 12:2.

[4]. Rashi to Genesis 1:1.

[5]. This is one of the main themes of the Tanya, which posits that through this process, we are capable of replacing our normally broken, natural emotions and behavioral patterns with rectified ones that originate in our Divine soul.

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