CLERGY CORNER: Don’t let the world change your calendar

Posted on 05 September 2018 by LeslieM

A student at Stanford University asked his professor permission to skip class because of Rosh Hashanah.

I am sorry,” the professor said. “You must attend this class. Your holiday cannot cancel it.”

But professor, it is Rosh Hashanah!”

Sir, do you realize that the Academic calendar of Stanford has been already arranged 10 years ago? A decade ago, we planned out our entire academic year, to ensure maximum achievement and success. Do you really expect me to change that for you now?”

The student went to his fraternity room, came back a few minutes later with a Jewish calendar.

Sir, look at this calendar. It has been established not 10 years ago, but 2000 years ago, by the great sage Rabbi Hillel, who established the exact date for every Jewish holiday over the next 3000 years!”

The professor remained silent.

Jews often say “Rosh Hashanah is late this year” or “The holidays are early this year.” In fact, the holidays never are early or late; they are always on time, according to the Jewish calendar!

That student in Stanford inspired me. Don’t let the world change your calendar; let your calendar change the world!

The Hebrew word for ‘secular’ – chol — also means ‘sand.’ This tells us how Judaism views secularism. Secularism is not bad. It is just like sand. Sand does not possess the power of stability. It shifts and moves; it is swept by the sea and blown by the passing wind. It lacks roots.

This is what our children lack without religion in their life. They can be wonderful people, but they are deprived of roots. They are on their own, detached from any constitutive commitments to the past, the future, tradition, a set of relationships, a substantive identity, a sense of binding loyalties, a firm foundation of values, ideals, dreams and morals. That individual, the bearer of rights but not responsibilities, free to enter any lifestyle but at home in none, is the human equivalent of chol, “like chaff blown by the wind.”

What is kodesh — holiness? Our connection to the past and our face turned to what is above. Kodesh – holiness — is the antidote to the rootlessness of chol — Secularism. In this world view, Rosh Hashanah is never late. We do not fix and bend our calendar to every passing wind. A person needs roots, a person needs an unshakable core. That is religion.

Kedushah — holiness means connection, to the universe beyond the self, to generations past and future, to a community of meaning, and to a transcendental reality that links us, ethically and existentially, to the totality of being. It is a voice which speaks persuasively of the covenant of marriage, the sanctity of the family, the moral challenge of parenthood; it is the Jewish view of community, collective responsibility, and the values of tsedakah and faith. It is the importance of education as the conversation between the generations, and the school as the citadel of civilization. It is the deeply humane Jewish view of the sanctity of life and its implications for medical ethics. It is our responsibility as guardians of the natural environment for the sake of future generations.

Above all, it is the voice teaching us of the dignity of human life, our power to change the world one mitzvah at a time, and the meaningfulness of history as the arena of redemption.

Have a happy and healthy sweet new year!

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com. See Pg. 7 for information on their Rosh Hashanah services, and more about the holiday on pg. 6.

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