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Home » Bo, Events in the News

Bo: The Miracle of Nature

Submitted by on January 25, 2009 – 4:56 amNo Comment | 1,262 views

Months and Years

Have you ever wondered why there are annual cycles in the lunar calendar and monthly cycles in the solar calendar? Think about it. The solar calendar is defined by the cycle of seasons as the earth tilts on its axis for three-hundred-and-sixty-five days; nothing in this calendar lends itself to demarcation of moths. The lunar calendar is defined by the waxing and waning of the moon, which occurs roughly every thirty days; there is nothing in this calendar that marks the passage of a year. (1)

Why are months recognized in the solar calendar and years in the lunar calendar?

Static and Dynamic

This question is further amplified when we consider the spiritual significance of the two calendars. The solar calendar represents the constant and immutable laws of nature. The sun’s position seems static; the daily shifts gradual and indescribable to the naked eye. The lunar calendar represents the dynamic, renewable properties of life. The daily changes are marked as the moon appears anew every month.

Not surprisingly, chodesh, the Hebrew word for month shares etymological roots with chadash, the Hebrew word for renewal. The order of months, the lunar cycle, represents renewal. Equally unsurprising is that shanah, the Hebrew word for year, is similar to shinuy, the Hebrew word for change. The sun’s journey across the sky represents the gradual and constant journey that marks the course of nature.

The dynamic, renewable property of the lunar cycle is interpreted by Jewish theology as G-d’s power to overrule the otherwise static laws of nature and even them recast anew. The lunar calendar’s relation to miracles explains why the order of months was established in the Torah in response to a profound miracle, the exodus from Egypt. (2)

In light of the spiritual significance of the two calendars our former question takes on more cogency. Why are the two calendars merged? the miracle of nature - innerstreamThe natural and the miraculous should not intersect; they are opposites. Yet they do; the solar calendar is demarcated by twelve months and the lunar calendar is defined by an annual cycle.

Supernatural Nature

The apparent contradiction is resolved when we consider the Jewish belief in the renewable aspect of nature. Our sages taught that the Creator renews the universe every moment. The drama of life, as we know it, is a series of momentary snapshots that seemingly play out like an unfolding progression. Though we experience the setting of the sun, the fall of the rain and the rise of the tide as a moment by moment progression, it is, in truth, a series of single moment units, each created with the sun one millisecond closer to setting, the rain one inch closer to the ground and the tide one sand crystal closer to its goal. (3)

Though the laws of nature seem static they are in truth renewed every moment. This renewable quality is the miracle of nature and is precisely why the lunar cycle, as symbolized by the order of months, is inherent in the solar calendar.

The two systems, the repetitive system of the natural and the renewable system of the supernatural are not in conflict. They are handmaidens; co-equal expressions of a single creator. At times G-d creates a world that is in lockstep with the world that preceded it and at times He creates a world that is radically different from its predecessor. Both are profound acts of creation; one is called natural, the other supernatural. (4)

We now understand why the two calendars are interwoven through the sharing of monthly and annual cycles. They are not opposites that should avoid each other; they are partners that compliment each other.

We also come to a more profound appreciation of the relationship between the lunar calendar and the exodus from Egypt. The Egyptian decision to enslave the Jews seemed as if it were undertaken by Pharaoh to further Egyptian goals. Yet the story of the Exodus demonstrates that episodes of history, decisions of monarchs and the course of nations are determined by G-d. Pharaoh was not at liberty to free the Jews; he was at the mercy of G-d who had hardened his heart. The Egyptians were not at liberty to keep their slaves; when G-d judged that the time for liberty had arrived the Jews were miraculously freed. Mankind’s natural history and G-d’s miraculous history were married on that eventful day.

This was the most appropriate day to introduce the lunar cycle because it too marries the natural and the miraculous. The lunar cycle celebrates renewal and miraculous intervention through its order of months, but it is also defined by the annual cycle of the solar calendar. It telegraphs the bond between the natural and the miraculous, the miracle of nature; announcing at once that both are expressions of a single creator. (5)

Barak Obama

As the United States of America Inaugurates its forty-fourth president many wonder whether Obama will be good for the Jews. Some say he will be great for Israel others worry that he won’t. I would like to remind readers of this column that the hearts of kings are in the hands of G-d. (6) The march of history and the course of destiny are not chartered by presidents and prime ministers. As we look back to centuries and millennia past, the message that whispers across time is not the accomplishments of individuals but the will of G-d.

Charming and inspiring as one man is, he alone cannot bring peace to Israel or solve the problems of nations. His efforts will only succeed if they are blessed by G-d. Let us pray that he is led along a path of peace anchored by security and affirmed by justice. Let us pray that his efforts in this direction meet with success.

Footnotes

  1. Ibn Ezra on Exodus 12:2.
  2. Nachmanidies, Drasha Lerosh Hashanah. The Torah’s original calendar is associated with the solar cycle; the one that represents the natural unfolding of history. The order of months that marks the history of miracles was unfolded in the Torah to honor the miracle of the exodus.
  3. Midrash Theilim on 119:89. Also reflected in the liturgy of our daily morning prayers
  4. Likutei Sichos v. XVII p. 152. See also Shalos Uteshuvos Chacham Tzvi IIXX that nature is just a name for a continues string of miracles.
  5. We now understand why the verse that introduces the order of months also specifies the order of the year. “This month shall be for you the head of the months, the first it shall be for you of the months of the year.”In light of our previous discussion this verse makes perfect sense. The purpose of unrolling this system was not to contrast the natural and the miraculous, but to join them. Maharam Shik on Exodus 12:2.
  6. Proverbs 21: 1.
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