Shabbat Passover Day 8: Deuteronomy
14:22-16:17; Isaiah 10:32-12:6.
time, can fill it with significant matters
— and sanctify it.
very ancient people held certain
Thus, the concept of freedom and the
places and objects sacred. The
sanctification of time are bound up with
Jewish people, however, attached
the most importance to sanctifying time.
The first month in the Jewish calendar
The Torah reserves sanctification not
is Nisan, the time of the emergence of the
for the physical objects of creation but
Jewish people. The seventh month is the
for the Sabbath: "And God blessed the
month of Tishrei, the anniversary of the
Sabbath day and sanctified it"
creation of man. The major
(Genesis 2:3) — it became an
Jewish holidays occur in or
oasis of holy time.
near these two major periods:
Two Chassidic rabbis, the
Passover and Shavuot in the
Kotzker Rebbe and the Vorker
former; Rosh Hashanah, Yom
Rebbe, once discussed the
Kippur and Sukkot in the lat-
relative holiness of certain
commandments. The Vorker
The first group of holidays is
observed that on Sukkot,
characterized by its emphasis
when the Jew sits in the suk-
on the particular — on his-
kah, holiness literally encom-
torical events of relevance only
passes the Jew. Thus, sukkah
to the Jewish people, namely
is the greatest mitzvah.
emancipation from Egyptian
Special to the
The Kotzker replied that the
bondage and the revelation
at Mount Sinai. The holidays
the Sabbath is even greater.
of the second group, however,
The Jew can walk out of the sukkah, but
contain universal themes and occur
he cannot walk out of the Sabbath.
appropriately in the month when man
In other words, the sanctification of
time is the ultimate sanctity, and since
Despite the fact that there is tension
life is measured in time, holiness of time
between particularism and universalism,
means holiness of life. It is thus charac-
between chauvinism and cosmopolitan-
teristic that the first commandment God
ism, both are part of the Jew's life cycle.
gave the people of Israel as a nation —
That they can be reconciled is an
while yet in Egypt — was a mitzvah deal- important motif of the Kiddush. By mak-
ing with an aspect of time: "This month
ing reference in this blessing to both the
shall be to you the first of the months"
creation of the world and the Exodus
from Egypt, we affirm that there is no
The Torah clearly emphasizes our role
conflict between the two.
in transforming and ennobling the time
The Bible opens with the Lord of the
we are granted by the Almighty. As Jews,
universe creating a world designed for all
we must view time not merely as objec-
humanity and with instructions appli-
tive, disparate units, such as minutes,
cable to every individual. After the major
days, etc., but rather as subjective, inter-
Divine disappointments, first in Adam,
connected moments that we are empow-
then in Noah, the Almighty decides, as
ered to fill with content and to sanctify
it were, to create a family out of which
would be forged a "holy nation and king-
This idea is halachically manifested
dom of priests."
in the institution of sanctifying the new
This nation would, by its example,
moon, whereby we declare a certain day
inspire the world to accept God's teachings.
to be the beginning of the month.
Hence, at the very moment of his elec-
As Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (ca. 1475-
tion, Abraham is promised by God that
1550) observes in his Bible commentary,
"all the families of the Earth shall be
it is no coincidence that this command-
blessed" through him. From the eleva-
ment to sanctify time was given at the
tion of a particular people will follow the
moment of freedom from Egypt. Slaves
elevation of an entire peoplehood.
have no clear notion of time since it is not
theirs to dispose of. Only free men, who
Shlomo Riskin is chancellor of Ohr Torah
have at least limited control over their
Stone and chief rabbi of Efrat.
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