Wayne Stiles has never recovered from his travels in the Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter (@WayneStiles) or on his blog at www.waynestiles.com.
uses a calendar. Some hang it on the wall with large pictures of
puppies, or landscapes, or old cars. Others use Google Calendar on the
Web or carry their schedules with them on their smartphones. Some do all
of these. But everybody uses a calendar.
Without this simple
tool, our lives would be chaotic. That’s because a calendar organizes
our days for religious, business, or personal purposes. In fact, most of
us operate with multiple calendar systems at the same time. For most, a
calendar year begins in January, but we also march to a fiscal year, a
school year, and occasionally, a leap year. Multiple calendars have been
a way of life for millennia.
Originally, the Hebrews celebrated
their New Year in the month of Abib (March-April), according to the time
of the Exodus and Passover (Exodus 12:1-2; 23:15).
Today, however, the Jewish New Year of Rosh
Hashana is celebrated in the fall—in the month of Tishri—and is
connected to the Feast of Trumpets. The feasts in the spring as well as
in the fall have always pointed the Jews to the inseparable connection
between the land and its produce.
The agricultural calendar of
Israel shows itself clearly in an epigraph discovered in 1908 at Tel
Gezer. Called the “Gezer Calendar,” this limestone tablet represents our
earliest example of Hebrew script, dating to the time of King Solomon
in the 10th-century BC.
Some have suggested the inscription represents a schoolchild’s exercise or mnemonic device designed to assist in remembering the months of the year. Today the Gezer Calendar is housed in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. A enlarged replica stands at Tel Gezer.
W. F. Albright translated the Gezer Calendar as follows:
“His two months are olive harvest,
His two months are planting grain,
His two months are late planting;
His month is hoeing up flax,
His month is harvest of barley,
His month is harvest and feasting;
His two months are vine-tending,
His month is summer fruit.”
Gezer Calendar clearly delineates twelve months and matches the
agricultural progression that occurs in the land of Israel beginning in
Tishri, or September.
Priests would blow trumpets to announce
the Sabbath and the start of festival days. The Feast of Trumpets
especially relates to this act: “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying,
‘In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a
reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do
any laborious work, but you shall present an offering by fire to the
Lord’” (Leviticus 23:24–25; see also Numbers 29:1–6).
blowing of the shofar during Elul—the month prior to Rosh
Hashana—traditionally calls the people to self-examination in
preparation for the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur.
Rosh Hashana, participants add a prayer service to the regular
services, read poems, eat symbolic foods, and exchange traditional
greetings. On the first day of Rosh Hashana, many Jews engage in a
ritual called tashlih
(“casting off”). Participants pray near natural flowing water and symbolically “cast off” their sins in the water.
calendars on our walls and on our smart phones do more than keep us at
the right places at the right times. They also help to keep us in the
right frame of mind.
As holidays and holy days come around each
year, they remind us of the essential themes of life we would otherwise
neglect in our busy schedules—themes like family, faith, and the
forgiveness God offers. One of the greatest reminders from Rosh Hashana
each year is that it is never too late to start over. Wayne Stiles has never recovered from his travels in the Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter (@WayneStiles) or on his blog at www.waynestiles.com.