By Rabbi Eliyahu Safran
There are calendars which provide the convenience of viewing one day at a time. At the end of the day, the day’s page is torn off and disposed of. When the year ends and all the days and pages have been discarded, all that is left is the page less, empty cover.
Then there are calendars designed in such a way that the days of the month can all be viewed with one quick look. Such a calendar requires for the user to tear off and discard only one page at the end of the month, twelve times a year. But tear and discard, nevertheless.
There are people whose lives and accomplishments are synonymous with these two predesigned calendars. Their days months and years speedily flee by and are then discarded just as their calendars. These calendars govern human lives; dictate schedules, and program accomplishments. The only human response to these calendars is the passive acknowledgement of their passing. These calendars alert their owners of their inability to control or hold back passing and fleeting time.
On the other hand, there are serious and sensitive human beings who refuse to be controlled by the predesigned calendar. So they design their own. These are people for whom life in this world is too short and precious to allow days and months to be discarded simply because a calendar points to the end – of a day, week, month or year. Their life philosophy revolves not around calendars dictating to people, but rather people dictating to calendars. Their calendars are not mass produced, nor are they mailed by hundreds of synagogues, yeshivot, hospitals or orphanages. They are carefully and diligently hand written, drawn, measured, and designed by thoughtful and prudent individuals. These calendars are never torn or discarded. They are treasured and preserved for posterity, to be passed on to future generations as legacies of human fulfillment and achievement.
A conversation between almighty God and the angels is recorded in the Midrash. The angels inquire of God:
“When is Rosh Hashanah, and when is Yom Kippur? God is amazed by this type of question and responds unhesitatingly, “Why are you asking me? Let us go down to the lower [human] court and find out. Does it not explicitly say: ‘Blow the shofar at the new moon, at the full moon for the feast day. For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob.’ ”
God is teaching the angels that man has the knowledge and ability to meaningfully create and design his own days of celebration. Man has been given tools, methods and techniques to infuse his days with values, content and meaning. True, the calendar dictates when certain formal occasions and celebrations occur. It is man however, who must use his intellect and skill to actually celebrate and mark these days with fervor and meaning.
In teaching Moshe about the celebration of special, sacred and eventful days, God says:
“These are the special times that you must celebrate as sacred holidays at their appropriate times.” The prerequisite for the proper celebration of God’s festivals is the complete and full participation and involvement of man: Halachically through Kiddush Ha-Chodesh, cross examination of witnesses, announcements of the new moon to other distant communities…and personally, through infusing the days with meaning, fervor and spirit.
A little girl was tacking up a new wall calendar. “It is going to be a beautiful year, she exclaimed. A friend who heard the girl’s prediction, asked: “How do you know it is going to be a beautiful year? A year is a long time, and you never know what will happen.” “Yes,” she answered, “but a day is not a long time. I am going to take a day at a time and make it beautiful. Years are only days put together, and I am going to see that every day in the New Year gets something beautiful into it.”
A little girl determined to author her own calendar.
Let us approach the beginning of this new year by resolving to author and design our own days and calendar. Let us not be enslaved to predesigned schedules and preordained programs, timetables and resolutions. Let’s not just tear off and discard precious and valuable time, never to be retrieved. May the 5770 calendar be designed with care, adorned with precision and love, accompanied with health, happiness and contentment – so that our individual and collective accomplishments are many. Shanah Tova.
Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran serves as OU Kosher’s Vice president of Communications & Marketing.