This week’s Torah portion, Emor, teaches us about the Jewish calendar. “These are the set times of the Eternal One, the sacred occasions which you shall celebrate each at its appointed times.” (Lev. 23:4) Three thousand years ago when we observed sacred time differently, the Israelites would bring their offerings-the best of their flock or harvest-to sacrifice to God, in the Temple in Jerusalem. As Rabbi Harold Kushner suggests, “The Israelites find the presence of God in the sanctuary, which represents the permanent holiness of sacred space, and on the festivals, which represent the recurring holiness of sacred time.” (Etz Hayim Commentary, p. 724).
Sacred time is most often celebrated in sacred space, because that is where community gathers. We celebrate the “set times of the Eternal One” in our synagogue, when we come together to celebrate Shabbat each week; or gather to learn through the gift of Torah, as we will do in a two weeks when we celebrate Shavuot; or turn inward, within the context of community, during the High Holy Days. Observing sacred time in sacred space is a core feature of Jewish life, and that is why the synagogue remains at the center.
The Torah describes several festivals and observances that are part of our Jewish calendar. Many sacred times were added long after the written Torah was completed. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the addition of sacred civic observances in Israel that mark both the tragedy and triumph of the Jewish experience last century-Yom Ha’Shoah, Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut.
Our individual synagogues, too, establish our “set times of the eternal one.” The month of May marks moments of culmination. Next week we celebrate Confirmation, as our students conclude their formal Torah school learning and affirm their place within our Jewish community. This Sunday marks the end of our Torah School year, which we observe with a siyyum (concluding ceremony) with celebration and reflection; and tonight we gather to celebrate Shabbat Ha’Morim, where we honor our teachers and madrichim (student aides) who contribute so much of their Torah to our children.
Confirmation, Torah School Siyyum and Shabbat Ha’morim may not be among the sacred seasonal celebrations that the Torah articulates; however, they are part of TBE’s sacred season and provide wonderful reasons to reflect, reminisce, and celebrate.
Please join us tonight at 6:30 p.m. for our Shabbat family service and Shabbat Ha’morim. We blend the weekly fixture of Shabbat with our annual celebration of our teachers. It is a special service and I hope you will join us to celebrate this “set time of the Eternal One.”