High Holy Days

16 thoughts on “High Holy Days”

  1. That’s a good point about Lent. Late winter and early spring were known as the “starving time”, because the winter stores were running out and the new harvest was well ahead.

    Easter and Passover are similarly timed, but Passover also kicks off the growing season with the “counting of the omer”, a seven week count ending with Shavuous or Pentecost which commemorates the receipt of the ten commandments.

    An omer was a unit for measuring grain. I gathered that this also tax collection season with an omer of wheat owed to the temple each day of the count. This must have involved stored grain from the previous season. The count covered the growing season as the first wheat harvest was allowed only after the end of the count.

    Judaism and Christianity both latch their calendar to the seasons. Some of the mechanics of the Jewish lunar calendar show up in the computation of the date of Easter. Islam uses a calendar with no links to the seasons.

  2. Also, the Umayyad caliphate was a good place for Jews, but after the more Islamist Almoravids (in 1086) and Almohads (in 1147) took over, the Christian side of Spain was actually more Jewish friendly for a couple centuries. By 1492, however, Christian Spain tilted the other way, and the Jews relocated to the Muslim world again. Until the 20th century there was a language used by Jews in Thessaloniki and Istanbul, called Ladino, that was related to Spanish as Yiddish is to German.

  3. Johnny,
    Ahem!! Because Muslims use a calendar year of only 354 days, their holidays are not tied to the seasons, so Ramadan can be any time of year. Good point about Lent, however.

  4. Well, of COURSE there is a huge amount of societal practicality in the world’s religions — but I suppose there are folks that you need to point that out to….

    Interesting thoughts on Lent/Ramadan and solar cycles. Nice to hear you think in text.

  5. Another interesting easter ‘root’ that I learned of recently: apparently at this time of year, seabirds would have just finished laying their eggs. So this was the time when everyone would go out egg-hunting. And so that’s apparently where the tradition of egg hunting at easter came from – a practical, rather than religious, tradition!

    1. There are a number of traditions that surround the egg. In the Orthodox Church, we dye eggs red in remembrance of St. Mary (Magdeline)’s miracle before Tiberius, the emperor of Rome.

  6. My point here is that religious traditions often perform practical functions that help hold societies together when they might not otherwise do so.

    While true, they do more than that. By providing not only practical but also spiritual focus (the two are actually one and always bound together in life), they provide the foundation upon which societies are typically built and from which they can prosper.

    Incidentally, most historians agree that the “Dark Ages” didn’t actually exist. They are something of an “Enlightenment” fairy tale told to make modernity appear better than the rest of history. “Late Antiquity”, I believe, is now the term for that time period. “Dark Ages,” was a title invented by moderns in order to create a narrative of history, most of which is false, in which all things were wondrously evolving towards modernity. No one in the Dark Ages ever thought to himself, “I live in the Dark Ages.” Indeed, they never thought much at all about “time in history.” That’s a particularly modern habit (and it is an abstraction).

    1. Thank you for pointing this out. There has long been ideological wars in western history, and this was a big one, but there were many advances during the “dark ages” and there were many social benefits of that time as well — to go along with all the negative stuff. Balance, Grasshopper. Freedom is Great — so is social cohesion and community.

  7. It is very good that you often find yourself asking why rituals are structured the way there are. Hopefully you also come to see how man has it weak spot and loves to hold on to traditions. In the bible there is often spoken about the man hardening his mind, not willing to come in line with god’s Ways. We can find many examples where man proved to be disloyal to the Most High god, the Divine Creator, by giving more attention to those pagan gods and their festivals. Easter and Christmas are also such pagan festivals lots of Christians can not get rid off. Many of those calling themselves Christian love those pagan festivals and do not mind participating in the many heathen rituals. In many warm countries on the southern half of Europe and the world we also see many participating in processions and having graven images of their gods and saints who they worship, which is an abomination in the eyes of God.

    Lots of traditions may be there to help people remember certain things. Christians if they really love God should only worship one God (the Elohim Hashem Jehovah) and should not take Jesus as their god, plus should keep to the by God given holy days to which Jesus also kept and all religious Jews still should keep.

    1. So you’re saying Christians should just convert to Judaism. You need to read the Epistle to the Hebrews as to why we shouldn’t convert to Judaism (or Islam, for that matter)

      1. I did never said Christians should convert to Judaism. They can keep to their religion as long as they do not have graven images of any god or God and do not participate in heathen festivals and pagan rituals. Christians, Jews and Muslims, like all people should keep to the Laws of God and to the days of God.

  8. Very thoughtful piece. Without cynicism I agree with your “meta” conclusion that religion and religious observance perform a valuable civic/community bonding function.

    What is bringing people together today, in a nation where less than half of the people observe or follow any religious tradition? Facebook? The Kardashians? Real Housewives? (I’ve read enough here to know that your answer is building an intentional community around yourself.)

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