Being There – A Few Thoughts on Jewish Time

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, March 9, 2018 / 22 Adar 5778

MISHNA BERURAH CLASS resumes this Sunday, March 11TH.

Summary: Rabbi Kosak speaks about Jewish time and Passover and also updates the community on his open letter to Portland area students offering his help to make schools safer.

Being There: A Few Thoughts on Jewish Time

Jewish time. I’m not talking the tired joke about how all our events start late. Rather, you’ve previously heard me discuss how historically, every culture of substance has maintained its own calendar and its own clock. Time, after all, is the medium by which we measure the space between events. Each culture chooses which events it wishes to remember, celebrate or mark. That’s historical time—the way we carry the past into the present.

Jewish time also exists in the moment. Shabbat, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously described it, was a sanctuary in time. It is the nexus of Buddhist practice and Jewish belief—the way Jews, once a week, endeavor to live in the moment. Shabbat celebrates the expansiveness of a single recurring day in which nothing has to be done, yet everything must be experienced.

Jewish time also exists solely in the future mode, such as in the prayeraleynu.”

We call this expression of future time the messianic—the time beyond time when all is redeemed. For Jews, future time thus always demands that we take an optimistic and hopeful stance to what may yet be.

Finally, there is a form of Jewish time that exists simultaneously in past, present and future. I am thinking of how our sages ordained periods of special shabbatot, Sabbaths that lead us toward something. They might be directing us toward the dismal, such as the Sabbaths of admonition that carry us to the destruction of Tisha B’Av. Or they might motion us, instead, toward the comforting weeks of consolation which follow and uplift us as we hasten to the Days of Awe. In this way, by reading ancient prophetic sections that anticipate the future, we dwell in three time zones at a single moment. Such is the genius of Jewish time.

Passover Prep

We currently find ourselves situated in such a period—in the four special Sabbaths leading up to Passover and its promise of national and individual redemption. In connection, our sages of old wisely ordained that we should begin studying for Passover thirty days in advance. Our Mishnah Berurah class aims to fulfill that dictate.

Over the next several weeks, we will be studying many diverse, interesting and practical traditions. When should one search for hametz, for forbidden grain, as one prepares the home for Pesach? What happens if you have a rodent infestation, and a mouse brings a baguette into your already cleaned home? When the start of Passover falls on Shabbat, as it does this year, what special adjustments do we need to make? And how do we kasher our utensils so we may use them on Passover?

Even if you are not a regular in our Mishnah Berurah series on Jewish living, everyone is invited to attend these special sessions, beginning this Sunday, March 11th from 10:00 am-11:15.

Additionally, in the coming weeks, the office will get out  a special guide on Passover observance and provide you with a form for selling your hametz, your leavened products and foodstuffs.

Finally, I want to provide you with a quick update on the open letter to Portland area students that I sent out in this space two weeks ago. Since then, we have made a video of the message, which you can find here at Rabbi’s Video on School Violence.

On Monday, we are finally ready to send out the letter to every head of middle and high schools along with the same link to the video. And on Wednesday, I will be teaching at St. Mary’s Academy; one part of my discussion will touch on this initiative. Please  share the video and letter with anyone you think could benefit from it.

Shabbat shalom,

Rav D

Shabbat Table Talk

  1. When have you most deeply experienced Jewish time?
  2. In what ways is it similar to secular time? In what ways is it different?
  3. What can you do to make our schools safer?

If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.

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