Hodesh Tov! Today is Rosh Hodesh Iyyar, the first day of the Hebrew month of Iyyar in the year 5782. Today is also the 15th day of the Omer, the season of 49 days between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot. And it’s May Day as well!
Living on the Jewish calendar is a way of aligning with ancient practices of marking time. As a lunar calendar, the days of the month correspond to the visibility of the moon. Rosh Hodesh will always be on the new moon. The 15th of the month will always be on the full moon. And the months themselves are always around 28 days long. When we situate ourselves within this cycle, noting the current Hebrew month and day, we pay attention to the moon itself. And who can look at the moon without feeling awe and wonder?
This is where it gets interesting. The Hebrew calendar is actually lunisolar! Since a purely lunar calendar would lead to some weird seasonal issues (like Rosh Hashana winding up in the spring and Pesach happening in the fall), the length of the years is adjusted to keep the calendar aligned with the seasons of earth’s northern hemisphere. This is really important for our sense of continuity and recognizability, and in ancient times was central to agricultural life as well.
Of course we also live on the calendar of the dominant culture, which defines yet another weekly and monthly cycle, a different set of holidays, and its own weekday/weekend delineation. Consider how dates such as February 14th, April 15th, and July 4th each hold a certain power in this culture. Whether or not we send love letters, file our taxes on time, or fly the stars and stripes, we all share an understanding of American time.
It’s almost as if we live in three time zones at once: the secular, the lunar, and the solar. I love this interplay.
Sometimes, though, we want to rebalance our time so that the rhythms of Shabbat and Rosh Hodesh become louder drum beats in our lives. Some fairly low-tech practices like lighting candles, tracking the moon, and going outside at dawn or dusk can help us shift our awareness to these cycles. Rituals such as prayer, special gatherings, and immersion practices also anchor us in these cycles and support the shifts.
Tomorrow, Monday May 2nd, The Soul Center is going to celebrate Rosh Hodesh Iyyar live and in person. I’m so excited! Come join us for a special Morning Gratitude service in the Weil-Mandel Pavilion for music, wisdom, and reflection, with coffee, tea and breakfast treat when we’re done. I really hope to see you there!
PS. I have a geeky mnemonic for remembering the months of the Hebrew year. Let me know if you want to hear it, or if you have your own to share. Want to talk about rebalancing your calendars? Email me and let’s meet for coffee, or go for a walk, or sit on the cozy couches of The Soul Center!
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