Sunday, April 22, 2012

Counting & Counting Cycles

The Jewish year is distinctively divided into two parts: The spring summer and fall is flush full of holidays (from Passover until Sukkot) and the other half has only three .  One interesting aspect of these periods of time has to do with the agrarian cycle of nature and the harvest habits of residents in ancient Israel.  The winter, or rainy season as it is better known, is more low key as residents hunker down from the cold, wet weather whereas the spring and summer dry season makes outings and holiday celebrations more natural and easy.

Another fascinating element of the seasonal divides in the Jewish calendar has to do with counting.  From the second night of Passover, Jews begin counting the omer. This ritual counting connects 49 days between Pesach and Shavout and stuffed in between are the holidays of Yom Ha'atzmut, Lag B'Omer and Yom Yerushalyim.  The counting doesn't stop with the receiving of the Torah on Shavout.  After 5 weeks, the next significant day on the calendar is the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, which starts the "3 weeks" period culminating with the 9 days and Tisha B'Av. From the end of the fast, synagogues read the 7 Haftorah readings of comfort.  This brings us to Hodesh Elul, the final month of the year and signals the beginning of the High Holy Days.  Starting with the blowing of the shofar at the start of the month and Sephardi Jews say Selichot prayers and gets us to the ten days of repentance and Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  The season really concludes with Sukkot which incidentally falls exactly six months to the day after Pesach.  (One more point of historical clarification is that this entire period parallels the Exodus from Egypt through the sin of the Golden Calf and the receiving of the second tablets on the first ever Yom Kippur - a propitious trend to relive each year).

Meanwhile from Sukkot to Pesach, you only have Chanukah, Tu B'Shevat, and Purim (all non biblical holidays).

All of this preface really leads to this educational message: counting time is cherished.  When you are looking forward to something happening, it often it makes it seem more tangible and present to countdown to the event.  There is an involvement and activity in the process of counting that shows commitment and passion. Time can be fluidly subjective at times, in that it will move fast sometimes and very slowly at others.  Think of your students and what periods of the day they watch the clock or pack up early.  How about in Tefilla time?  Are your students in the moment or counting down to exit?

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