In part 22 of this series we showed the Biblical basis for the Jubilee year to begin in Fall, even though God told the Israelites that the religious calendar begins in Spring. But as we move from Exodus into Leviticus we discover find an emphatic statement from God that the Jubilee year does not begin on the first day of the month, but the tenth day of the month:
“You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants.” Leviticus 25:9-10. NAS.
Because the release is proclaimed on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, which is the tenth day of the month, it is widely regarded that the Jubilee year only begins on this tenth day. This seems to make the Jubilee unique among years in that the civil new year in every other Jewish year begins on the first day of the seventh month, also known as Rosh HaShana.
This creates an obvious problem in the Jewish calendar. Do you see it? If the previous year begins and ends on Rosh HaShana, but the Jubilee year only begins on Yom Kippur, then for the 10 days before Jubilee begins, the Jews live in a time-gap in which they have no year at all! Similarly if the Jubilee year lasts a full year, then the last ten days of the Jubilee year create a time-overlap with the first ten days of the succeeding year, making the Jews not sure which year in which they are living for those ten days.
Time to Wake Up!
The answer to the dilemma, in our opinion, is once again found in the writings of Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun, who we referenced in the last article. When we read his opinion on this topic, not only did we find an answer to the Jubilee time gap, but we learned something about the nature of God, man, and time that might just change that way you view the Jewish calendar and even all time, entirely.
Our view of time in the Western world is shaped by the Greek mindset of classification that approaches complexity by breaking complex topics down into individual components and classifying each of them with distinction. In this thinking, for example, an automobile is understood by looking at all of its component parts and how they work. A year is understood by looking at units of time — days, hours, minutes and seconds, etc — and how they are organized. And by extension of that organization, one year transitions to another year at exactly 12 midnight on December 31st. The transition is instantaneous, so than any “moment” is classified as belonging to one year or the next.
‘Tis the Season
Now moving back to the Jewish calendar, this apparent conflict in the Jewish calendar, this competition, if you will, between the first day and the tenth day of the seventh month over which will be the start of the year, caused Rabbi Bin Nun to ponder and propose a very different idea:
Suppose that the “start of the year,” the “Rosh HaShana” in the Torah, was not meant to actually refer to a single day at all, but rather a season, one that begins with Rosh HaShana on the first day of the month, and ends on the very last day of Sukkot, the 21st day of the month.
In this view, the sounding of the trumpet on Rosh Hashana on the first day of the seventh month is not the start of a new year, but is sounding forth the beginning of the month in which the new year begins, and therefore also the beginning of the month in which the previous year also ends.
Rabbi Bin Nun noticed that if that view is taken, many problems and contradictions suddenly disappear:
- It explains why the Torah never refers to the first day of the seventh month as the day of the new year (Rosh HaShana), but it only refers to that day as Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpeting.
- It explains how a Jubilee year can have multiple starting points — both the first day of the month and the tenth day of the month.
- It explains why the Torah sometimes refers to the beginning of the year as the time of sowing, and sometimes as occurring after Sukkot.
- It explains why no elaborate feast is ever celebrated on the first day of any month, and even Yom Teruah is described ONLY as a time of blowing the trumpets.
- It explains why Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a day to forgive sins of the previous year.
- It helps reconcile the idea that the agricultural new year and the rains that go with it begin only after the festival season completes.
Poetry in Motion
Rabbi Bin Nun explains this view of time in the following way:
The perception of time in the Torah particularly, and in the world of religious thought in general, is not linear and detached. It is inconceivable, from this perspective, to circle specific dates in an office diary, or to tear off pages with days which have gone by. The religious view of time is built on a consciousness of continuity, cyclical repetition, and remembrance.
In a continuous consciousness, no day stands alone; it is always connected with the previous day and the following day in a chain of successive links… They are part of a chain that connects them to periods that have already come and gone, and especially to the parallel period last year and in previous years. They also look into the mists of the period that is to come, and of future years.
This consciousness is also inseparably bound up with the cyclical order of nature. Every season in nature is accompanied by its own special feelings, appearance, and familiar smell of sunsets and sunrises; days growing shorter or longer, alternations of heat and cold, humidity and dryness, sowing and reaping. This is in nature “a remembrance of the act of Creation.”
Beginning of the End, and End of the Beginning
Rabbi Bin Nun uses the transition from one day to the next as a way to visualize these ideas. The end and beginning of a new day occurs at sunset in the Hebrew calendar, but the transition is not instantaneous. The twilight of the previous day is still gloriously present on the western horizon as the new day begins. In the view of time we can see that “the period of twilight belongs to both days.” It is for this very reason that in the Jewish view, the Shabbat day lasts 25 hours rather than 24. “We hurry to bring it in and take our time parting from it,” says the Rabbi.
The same applies to the agricultural cycle where it is possible to be sowing and reaping at the same time, as described in Amos 9:
“Behold the days are coming when the plowman will overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes will overtake him who sows the seeds.” Amos 9:13.
The season of days that marks the beginning and the ending of a year, both a standard year and Jubilee, is marked by a period that simultaneously belongs to the preceding year and the following year, just as the links of a chain touch each other.
Coincidently, the ten days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur also fit nicely inside the 11 day difference between the 365 day solar year and the typical 354 day lunar year, showing that God designed the orbits of the earth and moon to correspond to his invention of the new year festivals. The difference between the calendar from one year to the next is accounted in time, meaning that Yom Kippur of the second year, is very nearly the time of Rosh HaShana on the preceding year, creating “links in time” from year-to-year.
Implications of this Idea
The implications of Rabbi Bin Nun’s ideas when extended further might be enormous. extending well beyond the topic of the Jubilee. In Rabbi Bin Nun’s way or perceiving time, the rebirth of Israel as a nation is not to be seen only as having happened on May 14, 1948, a nation born in a day, but also as a process, a transition in time taking many years. Similarly, the rebirth of Jerusalem must not only be seen as an event in June 1967, but as a season, one that might have lasted an entire 49 or 50 year Jubilee cycle in its length!
As we move into 2017, we arrive upon the date of the 50 year anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and the date of the 70 year mark since the world, through the UN, decided to create a Jewish state in 1947. We could view ourselves as not simply reaching an anniversary, but reaching “the period of the end of the beginning” of the birth of Israel as a nation. And what of the future? Might we also be seeing the beginning of the next phase in the life of the nation? Might this be the long term implication of Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement on March 3, 2015 before the United States Congress when he declared that “even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”
This idea of time also explains beautifully why a Jubilee year can be a year that births an idea that can take years or decades to fully develop, such as what we may have just witnessed in the recent referendum in United Kingdom to chart a new course for itself outside of the European Union. That vote was a “decision to leave” while the process of leaving will take months and years.
Finally, Rabbi Bin Nun’s idea brings explanation to the New Testament ideas that simultaneously say that while the season may be known, the day and hour will not be known by anyone.
Connect with Others
Does the view of time presented in this article resonate with you? Why or why not?
How might this affect your view of a “changing of a season” in your life?
Join us next time as we continue to watch current events and examine all clues to the meaning and the Mystery of the Lost Jubilee.