I started a new congregational position this year. The job, which is part-time, is at a wonderful congregation that meets in a 315-year old Presbyterian church. Since my working hours are limited, I am focused on making the most of my time there.
Whenever I'm asked if the Jewish holidays are coming early or late this year, I promptly answer that they'll be coming on time. And that's partially true. Rosh Hashanah will always arrive on the first day of the Jewish month of Tishrei just as Hanukkah will always begin on the 25th of Kislev.
Tekiah! Teruah! Shevarim! Tekiah Gedolah!
In the traditional liturgy, the special character of each holiday is particularly conveyed by the piyyutim (hymns, liturgical poems) that are recited or chanted on that day. Most of these piyyutim have been omitted in Reform liturgies since the nineteenth century, out of a sense that their Hebrew diction is too arcane and their theology too medieval. Yet, some of these poems have routinely been retained in Reform High Holy Day prayer books, particularly for Yom Kippur.
This week, the Jewish community celebrates Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, a holy day that continues through today.* While we in the Jewish community are celebrating a new month, the Muslim community is observing Eid al-Fitr, one of two Muslim festival holidays commemorating the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the beginning of the month of Shawwal.
This confluence of celebrations is bound to happen because both Judaism and Islam follow a lunar calendar. But even the fundamental fact that both faith traditions follow a lunar calendar is an important reminder that we have more in common than what makes us different. The coinciding holidays remind us to celebrate the similarities of our faith traditions, exploring the values, teachings, or practices that unite us.