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Av 5776

 

Shalom chaverim, shalom friends,

 

It feels like this summer has epitomized the ephemeral nature of time: sometimes time flies; sometimes time feels like it crawls to a standstill.

 

As usual, the summer season feels too short.  The warm days, green trees and flowers that feel like they have just arrived are starting to fade.  Vacations and those long weekends have flown by.  

 

At the same time, I’m probably not alone in feeling that other elements of this season seem to be dragging on for longer than we would expect.  Specifically, I’m thinking of the start of the Jewish High Holy Days and the U.S. presidential election. 

 

For the Holidays, there is good reason to feel this way. Like many of us, I associate the Jewish Holidays with the beginning of autumn and the start of a new year; it’s when things seem to start back up again.  Why, then, doesn’t Rosh Hashanah begin until October 2nd this year?  Why is it so “late?” 

 

The Jewish answer is that it isn’t late at all. Rosh Hashanah always falls on the 1st day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei.  This year is no different.  This year -5776 - is a “leap year,” meaning the year contained 13 lunar months instead of 12.  We add that thirteenth month during the spring seven out of 19 years to keep our lunar calendar in sync with the seasons and the solar calendar.  This is called intercalation.  So, while observing Simchat Torah in late October may seem like a long wait for the new year to really begin, if we didn't have leap years (or add that thirteenth month), Passover would occasionally occur in the fall or winter and we would observe the High Holy Days in equally incongruous seasons.

 

The presidential election is another story.  Media pundits will have to provide good reasons as to why the U.S.  has had non-stop election coverage for over a year, when campaigns in France, the UK, Canada and Mexico last no longer than 60 to 90 days. 

 

But here we have it. This year, the last six weeks of the campaign will go hand in hand with our people’s most intense time of introspection and prayer.  Although I am writing this letter in August, I have no doubt that by the time you read it, the election will still be front and center in the news. We will be in the home stretch of making crucial decisions about the future of our country, what we value, who we aspire to be and what we want to bequeath our children and grandchildren. I cannot imagine a more powerful and important way to spend the month before we cast our votes than to be part of the Jewish community remembering who we are and what we believe in.

 

A quirk of the calendar in 2016 or a Divine wakeup call from across the universe: who can say?

 

With blessings for shalom, justice, good health, prosperity and strength in the coming year,

 

Rabbi Leana Moritt