The first commandment in the Torah is to create a calendar by which to live. We may be surprised by this seemingly every day act that is deemed important enough to be the first, but we should understand what is behind this commandment. When the Israelites were living in Egypt, and then when they were wandering in the desert, they lacked clarity, organization and direction.
God instructed the Israelites to determine the New Moon each month (Rosh Chodesh), and to create a lunar calendar. Whether we use paper calendars, electronic calendars, or some combination of the two, most of us have come to live by our calendar, and I believer there is good and bad in this action. On the one hand, keeping a calendar, having a cycle that guides us month by month, year by year, gives us order to an otherwise busy and chaotic life. However, sometimes it seems as if our calendar is running our lives, as opposed to us taking charge of what is important enough (or not) to be on our calendar.
This week, as we are reminded of the mitzvah of keeping a calendar, let us embrace the gifts that an organized calendar gives us, but let us remember not to allow it to take over. Let us be free to simply be, to live, to experience, to feel and to see. Let the calendar be a tool, but not a compass; a guide but not a teacher; an order, but not orderer.
Many of the ancient lessons are so relevant today. One might ponder why this is the first mitzvah given to the Israelites. Perhaps it was meant to be a reminder that calendar is important, but don’t allow it to take over your lives. The existence of calendar allows us to celebrate and to mourn, to gather and to assemble, but it is meant to create a steady pace by which to live, not to become what the living is all about.
This year, let us find ways to embrace the rituals put on the calendar, but not let the calendar take over our lives.
Rabbi Deborah Bravo