EARLY OR LATE?
This most common of comments is ironic indeed. According to the Hebrew calendar our Jewish holidays always come on time because they fall on the same day of the same Hebrew month year after year. It is only in comparison to the secular (civil) calendar that they appear early or late. The fact that we unfailingly make the comparisons is testimony to Mordecai Kaplan’s thesis that we really do live in two civilizations, which he called Jewish and Western (and can be called “Jerusalem” and “Athens” when referring to philosophical world views [see Rabbi Schwartz's previous column, From Athens to Jerusalem).
Well, this year is a doozy. Talk about the holidays coming early… by the time you read this Purim will be over, because it is in February instead of March, and Pesach is in March instead of April. Rosh HaShana is two days after Labor Day and Sukkot and Simchat Torah are done by the end of September.
But the craziest thing of all is that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving come at the same time this year! No, that’s not a mistake… check your calendar and you will see that we actually light the first candle the night before Turkey Day (in my case Tofurkey Day). Due to vagaries of the Hebraic and Gregorian calendars (too complicated to explain) this confluence is unprecedented and will never happen exactly this way again. The next time anything remotely similar will occur will be in 2070 and 2165.
But back to our next holiday, Pesach, which happens to be the most widely observed Jewish holiday. You don’t have to belong to a synagogue. In fact, you don’t have to leave home. A special family meal is the centerpiece. And the celebration of rebirth of spring and freedom in the context of the great Exodus story are universal themes that appeal to all Jews, and indeed, all people.
Consider adding a special dimension to your observance of Pesach this year. Congregation Adas Emuno is proud to host the Pesach Morning Reform Community Service this year (Tuesday, March 26 at 10:30 am). The rabbis and cantors from Temple Beth Emeth in Teaneck and Temple Sinai in Tenafly will join us. Any of you who have attended these communal services know that the worship is spirited and joyful. You will even be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the kosher-for-Passover reception that follows! Even if you are up past your bed time and eat too much at your family seder… come early, stay late, and you’ll be right on time for our festival gathering.
After all, it makes no difference if the holidays are early or late, so long as we celebrate.