Torah Study Notes 5-12-12

May 12, 2012
Leviticus p. 826
This is a description of the scheduling of important holidays in the Jewish calendar.
23:23 On the first day of the 7th month – a day of rest – a sacred day (New Year) commemorated with loud blasts – the announcing of holiness. The Hebrew is a series of nouns that can be assembled in a variety of ways. Why are we commemorating the sacred occasion with loud blasts? This is a form of remembrance – ala the tolling of bells or a twenty one gun salute. There are five festivals – why is this one announced in this manner – is it a measure of importance? The seventh month is in the fall in which the world appears to “die”. This is the period of time when we remember those who have passed away. AF: How is this applicable to the rest of the world? How would a Jewish Eskimo celebrate the harvest? PG: The distinction between the seasons in the eastern Mediterranean is rain or no rain. We really don’t know how the calendar worked in biblical times. Some contend that the day started at sunset not sunrise. This was a point of contention between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The reference is to a new moon – which would have been identified by the priests. See the work of Solomon Zeitlin: He takes the position that years were established to be 360? days long so the first day would always be a Sunday and the last a Saturday – every year. This causes “draft” and the lost of days. To compensate the priests established the creation of a fifty day year – the Jubilee year. The control of time has political as well as sacred elements. It is a statement of who is in control. When it comes to Shabbat everyone can identify the day by counting days seven days. Here the priests tracked the months – not the ordinary person. DC: Isn’t this being set up so as to identify Yom Kippur as the holiest day of the year? PG: There is no parliament of holiness here.
23:26 The tenth day of the seventh month. Here the Day of Atonement is identified – plus the penalties for violation. Yom Kippur begins before the sun sets. Compare the instruction of God to Moses in Exodus 12. This is all in preparation for Succoth. There are hints in the text as to the changes that can be made as Jews are scattered throughout the world. Memory is how we create immortality. But what makes one worthy of being remembered? That is the self examination of the tenth day. This is the most deeply theological moment of the year. There is a disconnection from the harvest that can be observed by Jews in Alaska. LL: Sadly, history remembers the unjust as well as the just or the wise.
23:33 On the 15th day of the 7th month – the feast of booths. This is the principal harvest festival. What is the connection of the 10th for the harvest. What is the relation between the introspection of Yom Kippuir and the harvest celebrated at Sukkoth? In any given year the yield of the harvest will change – it is out of the hands of the farmer and in the hands of God. On the 10th day we are preparing ourselves mentally for what will be the result of the year’s labor. DC: Is this like the sequence of confession and communion? LL: An interesting analogy but it doesn’t entirely fit. PG: The harvest is such a big deal that we will celebrate it for eight days! SF: The key word in 23:26 is “expiation” We have to purge ourselves from guilt – emotionally – in a deep biological way – so that we are prepared to be grateful. PG: And also prepare ourselves to be just. The key to Succoth is in Deuteronomy “You shall feel nothing but joy.” This is whether the harvest is good or bad. What could Succoth mean while in exile – or when Jews do not own land? The Babylonian exile and Diaspora call for a theological explanation that can be understood not only by the landless Jew but also the modern Jew who feels little or no connection to the harvest. See: The Festival Calendar (23:1 – 44) in Gleanings on p. 833 of Plaut.

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