February 2024 has no Jewish holidays. And on both the secular calendar and Jewish calendar, February 2024 brings "leap time" – a leap day on February 29, and a whole leap month (Adar I) in Jewish time.
It's as if this no-holidays month operates to re-set time, to recalibrate so that not only calendars re-align but also so that we do. Because it does – for our community as well.
Happy February, Shir Ami! Finally we have a month together with no Big Things – no holidays, no collective calendrical time pressures. Time, and we ourselves, get to catch up.
Meanwhile, on both our secular and spiritual calendars, celestial forces combine to require some adjustments.
On the Gregorian solar calendar that governs our secular year, one "year" – one planetary rotation around the sun – takes 365.2422 days. Lest our clocks and calendars become unwieldy, we "save up" each year's almost 0.25 day and add a "leap day" every four years. (This year I've been scheduling lots of things for February 29 just because I can.) The math isn't exact, however, which is why we skip leap years in century years (e.g. 1700, 1800, 1900) and then un-skip them in years divisible by 400 (e.g. 2000).
On the lunar calendar that governs Judaism's spiritual year, one "year" – one complete set of 12 lunar rotations around the earth – takes 354 days. That means the Jewish calendar "loses" 11 days each year relative to the Gregorian solar calendar. (Remember how Rosh Hashanah felt so "early" last year?) Losing 11 days each year is theoretically fine, spiritually speaking, so long as the spring holiday of Passover falls during the spring. But given how early last year's holidays were, Passover would fall during winter this year without a fix. As a correction, lest our lunar and solar calendars detach from each other, Judaism adds a leap month seven times out of every 19 years.
This February brings a double leap year: we'll add a leap day on February 29, and we'll add an extra month of Adar to re-set Passover and the rest of the Jewish calendar. By re-setting time now, Passover will fall at the height of spring, next year's Rosh Hashanah will begin at a far more "normal" October 2, and Sukkot will coincide with near peak leaves in our area.
This extra Jewish month (Adar I) has no holidays, which operates as an inner re-boot. There's an "extra month" to lay fallow before the big spring holidays of Purim, Passover and Shavuot. Inherently, there's less to "do." We get to catch up with ourselves.
it's been seven months since I began officially at Shir Ami. Because the High Holy Days were so early, there wasn't time to "ease" in: immediately there was an unavoidable whirlwind of preparations and adjustments, without the benefit of a longer runway or time to cultivate deep relationships. Then, on the very day that the High Holy Days / Sukkot / Simhat Torah were to make a graceful landing, the events of October 7 rocked us. Israel suddenly was at war, antisemitism surged, and there was much to do and feel in Jewish community.
Gentle it has not been. There've been beautiful moments both in broader community and one-on-one, but the pace and tone have been quick.
I can't say that I expected a Mideast war, but I did anticipate much of the rest: the Jewish calendar and the prevalent Jewish clergy hiring calendar all but pre-ordained them. So when our Board and I first set the Shir Ami calendar for 5784 (2023-2024), I laughed and winced all at once. I knew that our first six months would feel like a sudden takeoff from an aircraft carrier, instantly launching us faster and at a sharper angle than we might choose.
By the sake token, I anticipated mid-winter as a time to take stock and re-set, because we'd have time. And now we do. It's why, from the start, the Board and I planned for a six-month review, once this more spacious time began to open. And now it's here.
This month, expect efforts to address our recent 6-month benchmarking. A big thank you to the 32 member households who spoke to our officers. Expect to recalibrate visual and sound experiences at services (both onsite and online): now that we have space and time, we're going to try. Deep thanks to Rick Mason and Jenny Lake for honcho-ing this painstaking effort. And other deep thanks to deep thanks to Events and Ritual Committee Chair Fran Pribish for making sure our Shabbat Onegs and other events are meaningful, engaging and fun, and to officers Jackie Marschall, Marie Orsini Rosen, Abby Ross and Dahni Nisinzweig to reaching out to and keep together our sacred community these past weeks and always.
Expect more pastoral outreach from me to check in and continue building relationships. Some folks are accepting invitations to zoom, coffee or lunch. I hope you will, too.
Expect one final registration push on our May 2024 Social Justice journey to Georgia and Alabama. We need just a few more registrations to make the trip fly, so please register by February 7 and spread the word to friends: they're welcome to join us! Deep thanks to Programs Chair Joan Green for helping make this trip a success
Expect the tone of Shabbat services to follow the feel of our spiritual calendar. It always does (maybe you noticed), which means that Kabbalat Shabbat on February 2 will feature both subtle and bold energies befitting the Ten Commandments. Similarly, the Shabbat of February 18 will shift deeply inward, befitting Torah's first foray into a holiness that dwells within (hint: see Exodus 25:18). Special thanks to Events/Ritual Committee Chair Fran Pribish for ensuring that each Shabbat oneg is yummy and engaging.
Expect our spring course on Pirkei Avot: The Jewish Ethical and Wisdom Tradition. It starts February 7 ("Wisdom Wednesdays") and will carry us through May. Do please register and join the Shir Ami community on our journey of seeking and finding ethical wisdom within.
We're on a journey together. Now we get to reboot time as preparation to welcome spring with flying colors. Happy February!