In the coming days, we will conclude our annual cycle of reading the Torah and begin this cycle anew. In this repeating, yearly cycle, Jewish time provides a paradigm where space (the land of Israel) and the passage of time (cosmic, biological and historical) link us to our past, present, and our future through renewal and redemption.
Culture is the voluntary and purposeful functioning of society, interpreting a people’s self-image and understanding of their place and role in the universe. Culture sets a consciousness of mutuality wherein a people exists together in the same time sequence and where living together in the same local shapes communal practices.
For the Jewish People, having spent much of our time in the Diaspora, living together as a single community became impossible, thus living in the same time sequence became critical. Through rabbinic adaption, the land of Israel remained the barometer for counting the passage of time, the seasons, and the historical events that have shaped our memory, our hopes, and aspirations.
Through the generations, three structural principles of the calendar and annual cycles coalesce. As discussed by Eliezer Schweid in The Jewish Experience of Time, the cosmic principle sets the measured units of night and day, month, year, and seasons. The biological principle determines the course for individuals as they develop and change with the passage of each life’s stages and the passage of generations. The historic principal marks events that symbolize the goals and aspirations of the people and express the value judgments that determine a way of life.
Linear time becomes reshaped into forward movement from past to present to future, with a cyclical ebb and flow, linking one historic and cosmic moment to those points in time among current and prior generations: creation renewed, sowing, harvesting; birth, maturation, death; redemption, revelation, freedom. Cosmic, biological, and historical moments become imbued with meaning, significance, and consequence. Continuity becomes no longer about genetic transference from one generation to the next, but instead, of memory and hope. And each day constitutes a trajectory, not simply a repetition. Each day stands alone, unrepeatable, new, singular, and part of a purposeful design, towards renewal and redemption.
May each day in this New Year be a day of fulfillment and renewal.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Jay Strear at CEO@jewishcolorado.org with comments or questions.