From Alienation To Reconnection

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling

The rabbis of the Talmud began a process of alienating us from nature, here is but one example.  We are told in Exodus to celebrate Pesach in the month of Aviv.  In the description of the effect of the plague of hail on the crops we learn that aviv is a stage in the development of the barley crop that is vulnerable to damage by hail.  Factually, this is the stage of the plant 15- 21 days before the barley can be harvested. Aviv is Hebrew for spring. In the Babylonian exile the name of the month was changed to Nissan which means first fruits.

The Hebrew calendar is a 19 year cycle, seven of those years contain an extra month of Adar, in order to keep the lunar and solar calendars in synch.  Prior to the mathematical computation of the calendar in the 4th century CE it was done by observation.  In the Talmud the rabbis recorded that “ For the following three things a leap year is made: because of the late arrival of spring; of the unripeness of tree products; and for the late arrival of the equinox.”  Pesach had to come after the equinox and the barley had to be ready.  The bible instructs that the cutting of the first barley sheaves had to take place during Passover, thus it had to be ripe.  On the last day of Adar the barley would be inspected if it was not yet in the stage of Aviv,  2-3 weeks from ripening , an extra month was declared , hence Adar Sheini.

The Jewish calendar was dependent on the stage of the crops, to fulfill our rituals we had to be in synch with the earth.  The biblical approach is to create a watchful balance between history- linear time, and nature- cyclical time.

The rabbis replaced visual observation with mathematical computation after the temple was destroyed and the barley was no longer brought to the temple. The nature aspect of the holiday began to dwindle in consciousness and importance-which was likely the intent of the rabbis trying to create a new Judaism no longer linked to the land.

It is now time to recreate a Judaism deeply linked to the earth.

Author bio: 

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling has worked throughout his career toward tikkun olam, repair of the world. He is the first to direct the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College’s unique Social Justice Organizing Program; he leads the College’s initiative to invest rabbinical students with the clarity of purpose, vision and voice to become uniquely effective, spiritually strong leaders in the drive toward social justice and environmental sustainability.


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