דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם, מוֹעֲדֵי יְהוָה, אֲשֶׁר-תִּקְרְאוּ אֹתָם מִקְרָאֵי קֹדֶשׁ–אֵלֶּה הֵם, מוֹעֲדָי
Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them: the appointed times of Ad*nai, which you will call holy assemblies, these are My appointed times.
If you’re a regular reader of my musings, you may have noticed that there was no musing last week. This is something that has rarely happened over the last 18 years. Usually, if I’m pressed for time, or know I’ll be traveling or away from internet access, I might simply recycle an older musing. Once or twice, I posted a musing right after Shabbat. I can’t think of a case, however, with the exception of the Shabbat following 9/11/2001, when I simply neglected to write and post a musing, or if not musing, at the very least an apology or explanation.
Truth be told, I have always felt an obligation to myself and to my readers to always post something. Now, the fact of the matter is, last week was a very busy one. So is this one. As busy as it was, I am sure I could have found some time earlier in the week, or even the previous one, to prepare a new musing (or even prepare one to recycle.) I’ll readily admit to a tendency to be a procrastinator (there’s some evidence that some people do work better under pressure) so, knowing this, I could have made a better plan.
You know what? I didn’t. I just didn’t write a musing last week, or send out a notice or apology. I didn’t beat myself up about it, I didn’t loose sleep, hell didn’t freeze over, and the world did not end. In a way, I felt free. It was a good feeling.
Having “appointed times” is a good thing. Having routines is a good thing. A cycle of religious festivals, celebrations, and rituals is a good thing. Here in this parasha we are given a somewhat specific set of “fixed times” from G”d through Moshe. These “fixed times” remain, with some slight modifications, adjustments, additions, and creative tinkering, and are with us today. That’s a long history of following the schedule. Yet even we have had to miss an appointed time or two. The classic example is the delayed celebration of Sukkot during the time of the Maccabean revolt. Though it’s not a unanimous opinion, it’s not at all beyond the realm of possibility that Hanukkah as we know it began as a delayed celebration of Sukkot.
That the “fixed times” were, once we were in galut (diaspora,) tied to the schedule of the land of Israel was a unifying factor that helped keep us together as a people. At the same time, we lived/live in so many places where the local seasons of the year didn’t/don’t exactly match well with the seasons in Israel. We made accommodations for locality in many of our traditions, however, except for the addition of second-day chagim, and an occasional “in case you missed it here’s another chance to do this holiday” addition, we haven’t messed with the actual schedules, once the rabbis het finally settled on a standard luni-solar calendar. (Of course, as we know, if we don’t fiddle with the calendar itself, as amazingly accurate as it was, the little discrepancies will add up enough to throw the chagim out of the seasons in Israel in which they were intended – we presume – to fall.)
Does G”d really need “fixed times?” In G”d’s timescale, what does it matter? Of course, we can play the old ineffable G”d card, and believe that although we don’t understand the reasons, G”d really wants and needs to have these fixed ritual schedules. Observably, the universe works on fixed times. Approximately 364 days pass in one revolution of earth around the Sun. 7 is, conveniently, a divisor of 364. This could, however, be seen as the tail wagging the dog. Our systems of measurement are simply based on the extant characteristics of our local planetary system and our attempts to synchronize them – which we have done throughout history with varying degrees of success. Some ancient person noticed that the average lunar cycle divided nicely into 4 segments, and thus the 7 day week was born. The Babylonians used a 7 day week, as did the Greeks. For a time, the Romans actually used an 8 day week. The point is, other divisors could have become the norm. They didn’t. Assuming that everything G”d did, G”d did for a reason, our ancestors assumed G”d wanted a week to be seven days, with the seventh day a day of rest. so it wasn’t a huge leap from that to having G”d ordain other set festivals and observances.
Having these set times of year gave some order to our lives, and G”d knows, we seem to require, as a species, a certain amount of order. G”d, however, really created a universe of balancing forces. Thus, the universe itself tends towards chaos. Order helps balance the chaos. So if we have fixed times, shouldn’t we also have random/floating/unfixed times to balance them out? Or is a simple failure to observe a fixed time every once in a while enough balance things?
That’s sort of what it feels like to me. I just took a week off of writing my musings, normally one of the fixed ritual acts of every week. If, as I might normally have done, I scurried to at least throw a terse “sorry, no musing” message together, or if I had spent this whole week feeling terribly guilty over having not sent out a musing last week, I might not have experienced the sense of freedom I did, and my act of “not observing a fixed time” might not have been enough to balance out my universe. (Balance is a deceptive thing, especially when it’s not being viewed in a scientific sense as equal mass. Sometimes, it might only take one not doing something over a long span of time to balance out having done it every other time it was supposed to have been done. The pen can be mightier than the sword. The dove feather cannot outweigh the cannon ball, but a symbol of peace can balance a symbol of war. Remember, too, that gravity can act equally upon the feather and the cannon ball.)
I cannot say with any certainty that I might not skip a future musing. I think I can say that having skipped this last one, and allowing myself the freedom to have done so, is likely to enable me to continue writing more musings in the future. It may have been a brief vacation, but the positive mental effect it had upon me was significant.
Interestingly, although I missed my fixed time, my appointment for writing my musing last week, I didn’t miss my Shabbat. That part of the ritual I had. Is it a slippery slope to wonder if maybe Shabbat can be more meaningful if I occasionally (but rarely) miss my appointment with Shabbat? (Some might argue that my musing is a fixed time of my own creation,whereas Shabbat is a fixed time commanded by G”d. That’s fine if you believe that G”d shaped the universe, as opposed to humanity shaping G”d to fit the universe as we perceived it.)
This week, I am keeping my appointment with my musing, and with Shabbat. I come to both with a renewed sense of desire and a sense of healing and wholeness. I’ll try not to let this good feeling lure me into becoming a more frequent slacker. The balance is delicate and needs to be maintained, carefully.
©2015 by Adrian A. Durlester
Other Musings On This Parasha:
Emor 5774 – Lex Talionis (Redux & Revised from 5759)
Emor 5773 – The Half-Israelite Blasphemer
Emor 5772-Eternal EffortII: We Have Met the Ner Tamid and It Is Us
Emor 5771-B’yom HaShabbat, B’yom HaShabbat
Emor 5770 – G”d’s Shabbat II
Emor 5767-Redux and Revised 5761-Eternal Effort
Emor 5766 – Mum’s the Word (Redux 5760 with new commentary for 5766)
Emor 5765-Out of Sync
Emor 5764-One Law for All
Emor 5763-Mishpat Ekhad
Emor 5758-Gd’s Shabbat
Emor 5759-Lex Talionis
Emor 5760-Mum’s the Word
Emor 5761-Eternal Effort