Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Rhythm and Sometimes Lack of Rhythm of the Calendar.

Most of the time, there is a nice rhythm to the Jewish calendar. The stories in the Torah unfold chronologically, from creation at the beginning of Genesis to Moses's death at the end of Deuteronomy. Each week, we move forward a little in the story.

And most of the holidays fit in nicely, or at least do not clash, with this rhythm. During the long narratives of Genesis in the fall and early winter, there are no holidays. Tu B'shvat comes in the middle of the Exodus story, but celebrates trees, not a historical event. We finish reading about the Exodus from Egypt, and move to the slow legislation of Leviticus when Passover rolls around. And the numerous major holidays in the fall --- Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot --- all occur during the final weeks of Deuteronomy, where there is no real narrative, only a final speech by Moses.

But things are a little more dissonant this time of the year. The Torah parshot over the past few weeks covered the story of Joseph, his brothers, and the movement of the whole family to Egypt. This is a prelude to slavery and the exodus. We just finished celebrating Chanukah, celebrating the defeat of the Syrian-Greeks and the rededication the Second Temple around 165 BCE. Today is the 10th of Tevet, which commemorates the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar's attack on the First Temple in 588 BCE. So in the past two weeks or so, we have focused on three very different stories in three very different periods.

I guess when both history and Torah readings are coiled around an annual calendar, it is not surprising that disparate things sometimes end up next to each other.

blog comments powered by Disqus