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    The message of the calendar – Bo

    Jewish liturgical calendarThe 12th chapter of Sh’mot starts the history of the Jewish calendar: “This month (Nisan, the month of the Exodus) shall be for you the first of the months” (Ex. 12:2).

    We might have thought that this command was merely addressed to Moses and Aaron, since the previous verse says, “HaShem spoke to Moses and Aaron…” But Ramban points out that our verse is linked with what follows, “Speak to all the congregation of Israel”, which indicates that the establishment of the list of months is addressed to the whole of the Jewish people.

    The great founder of neo-orthodoxy, Samson Raphael Hirsch, used to say that if you want to know what Jews believe, you have to look at their calendar.

    On one level this means, “Look at the festivals”. Hence Pesach stands for freedom, Shavu’ot stands for duty, Sukkot affirms God’s protection, Rosh HaShanah represents destiny, Yom Kippur assures us of reconciliation with God.

    But it is not only the festivals that tell us what Judaism stands for: the months too have a message about the principles of the Jewish way of life. Every month we see the moon wax and then wane, which symbolises the way in which faith functions.

    There are times of gadlut emunah, greater faith, when no-one can have the slightest hesitation about believing in God; there are times of katnut emunah, when our faith is tested and events tempt us to deny the Almighty.

    That’s the way the human soul works, and our task is to contain the moments of doubt and return to the spiritual equilibrium in which we wholeheartedly affirm our Creator.

    With the coming of each new month we overcome our hesitations and once more grow in faith and belief.

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