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The First Shabbat of the Year

January 3, 2014

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, January 3, 2014. 

The First Shabbat of the Year

Whoa! Is that right for a Jewish Shabbat blog - the first Shabbat of the year? Isn’t the first Shabbat of the year just after Rosh Hashanah… also known as Shabbat Shuvah? What’s the deal?

Well… nothing speaks about our long diasporous history more than the way we navigate through our calendars. Diaspora is a Greek word which means “dispersion.”  It refers to the fact that ever since the “Babylonian exile” in 586 BCE, and then the “Roman Exile” in 70 CE – Jews have been scattered all over the world. The ancient term for this dispersion was Galut (or Golus) – EXILE. But calling this condition of Jewish life “exile” is hardly a fair assessment of Jewish history. Our dispersion throughout the world has actually immeasurably enriched us, and has been the source of vast creativity. One of the outcomes of this unique Jewish existence is that we’re forever following multiple calendars. The Talmud (that ancient source of Jewish laws) itself speaks of four separate Jewish New Year’s: Nissan 1 in the spring, the month of Passover, the month used to calculate the reign of kings, and the month referred to in the Torah as the first month; Ellul 1 in the summer, the tax month responsible for the tithing of animals; Tishrei 1 in the fall, Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of the creation of the world; and, Shevat 15 in the winter, Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees, the Jewish Arbor Day. However, for those of us who live in the Diaspora, we observe other New Years as well, don’t we: January 1, the Gregorian New Year’s Day; The Fiscal Year beginning in July; The “School Year” beginning in September; April 15, the IRS New Year. And… ever since I lived in China, I’ve celebrated the Chinese Lunar New Year as do many Jews with a China history!

So… celebrating multiple New Years has always been part of the Jewish Story. And, indeed… this Shabbat is the first Shabbat of the New Year.

Shabbat Shalom