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March Madness

03/07/2021 10:15:14 AM


Rabbi Jamie Arnold

Approaching a full year of living under the cloud of Covid-19 gives new meaning to the expression ‘March Madness.’  So much change, yet coming back full circle.  I’ve been reflecting on the fact that the timing of this long, arduous march from March 2020 to March 2021 aligns with the original Hebrew calendar.  The Biblical injunction to create a calendar directs our ancestors to start the count with the first new moon of Spring (Ex. 12:20).  This is in fact the first commandment given to the nascent nation of Israel, before standing at Sinai, before the Big 10 [commandments], before they have even left Egypt.

This ’original’ Hebrew calendar has been largely overshadowed in Jewish consciousness by the whole Rosh Hashanah thing (and in American consciousness with January 1 as New Year’s Day).  These later calendrical counts track a chronology of solar years on earth, 5781 and counting, 2021 and counting.  They give us something to count on.  It can reinforce a sense of progress, a purposeful trajectory in time.  It suggests we are going somewhere.  What are you counting towards?  A new CBE outdoor amphitheater?  Visiting family?  Hearing or performing live music?  Attending services and classes again in person?  

Solar years are future oriented.  Meanwhile, in the lunar calendar the carousel of time goes round and round, to paraphrase Joni Mitchell lyrical reply to Neil Young.  And Torah calls on us to also notice the monthly orbits of the moon.  And the lunar year reboots each spring, now.  In contrast to the solar year, this spring to spring fling through time is more circle than line, more wave than particle, more symbols on seder plate than dayeinu songtrek through Jewish history.  On the carousel of time, are you feeling more stuck or enjoying the ride?  How do you feel about the fact that we are spinning around circles?  Dizzy?

I recently read a fascinating little book called, Einstein’s Dreams, which imagines a young patent clerk dreaming about the nature of time in advance of revealing to the world a special theory of relativity.  Is time linear or circular, constant like a clockwork or more fickle like the tossing of dice?  How has your relationship to time shifted since last spring?  Has it effected your relationships – to the natural world? To the political world?  To your family and friends?  To your spiritual community and cultural heritage?  To your sense of self/soul?  To God and/or your godly senses of wonder and awe?

The onset of spring invites us to circle back to such questions.  As the spring equinox approaches, so too does the promise of balance – between night and day, dark and light, solitary reflection and communal belonging, between safety and freedom, between work and rest, between, zealous pursuit and peaceful rest. 

The midot [qualities of character] we’ve chosen for March and April are Generosity and Courage.   May we invoke these two qualities in encounters with time and with one another. May you be inspired by the generosity that has been flowing to and from CBE lately, and be encouraged by the prospect of safe, in-person opportunities to gather and rejoice here at Beth Evergreen in the near future. 

Wishing you and your family a healthy and joyous Passover and an uplifting march into March 2021.

Mon, April 12 2021 30 Nisan 5781