09 May 2017
This week’s parasha, Emor, focuses on the laws regulating the lives and sacrifices of the priests and the set times of the Jewish calendar for the Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Pilgrimage Festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. “These are My fixed times…which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions,” underscores the importance of time rather than space in Judaism’s ability to survive dispersion and migration over the millennia.
But what is so important about specified times of the year? After all, shouldn’t we be able to approach and celebrate God when we are inclined to do so, rather than when the calendar is turned? Human nature being what it is, the delineation of time is a crucial and practical means by which we separate the ordinary from the holy. Anyone who has been in Jerusalem on Friday afternoon can attest to the dramatic shift from hectic to peaceful, from ordinary to extraordinary, from Friday to Shabbat.
Times have been set aside on our calendars to observe Shabbat and the holidays to enable each of us to create a powerful separation from the ordinary nature of our daily lives to the extraordinary nature of the holiday. And the beauty of this invention is that we can take it anywhere on Earth – a totally portable religion! And as participants in our recently-returned Federation Lion of Judah mission to St. Petersburg, Russia can attest, the beauty of Jewish heritage and ritual can be found wherever there are Jews.
Some argue that time is money – but time is eminently more precious.