The Year Rosh Hashanah Was Cancelled
Rosh Hashanah 1752 never happened! That year the British Empire changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar; created to keep the Christian festivals in sync with their original, ironically mostly Jewish, dates. To do this they had to leap frog 11 days; people went to sleep on Saturday 2nd September and woke up on Sunday 14th September. That is some Shabbos Shloff!!
The problem was that Rosh Hashanah was scheduled for Shabbos 9th September! So when they awoke on Sunday 14th, presumably after an inspiring Midnight Selichot that Motzoei Shabbat and checked their calendars, they would have seen Rosh Hashanah was the previous week!
Obviously, this wasn’t an actual problem as Rosh Hashanah is on the 1st and 2nd of Tishrei regardless of what the Julian or Gregorian calendar says, and they would have still celebrated it on its correct date in the Jewish calendar. But it did give me a chuckle and start me thinking.
Our lives are dictated to by the passage of time, and a successful person is one who knows how to utilise their time best. But no matter how powerful, influential, wealthy or important a person may be, they cannot create time. We can carve out minutes here and there, we can block out days in our diaries for personal time or to catch up on work, family or a bit of R & R, but ultimately we can’t ‘create’ that time, we can merely use it for something else. King Solomon tells us that there is a time for everything under the sun, a time to sow and a time to reap, a time to build and a time to tear down, a time to mourn and a time to rejoice. And whilst we might borrow from here and tack on there, at the end of the day, (pun intended) the day is done. In the modern age we can technically fly faster than time and land in London before we took off in Singapore, but those time zones are arbitrary and unlike superman we can’t fly around the world anti-clockwise and make the world spin back on its axis reversing the passage of time.
Time marches on regardless of what the calendar says, but we do still have some control. We are about to head into a month full of Chagim and every time we make Kiddush we say “these are the appointed times of Hashem, which you should call in their appointed times”. Before the Jewish calendar was set (in itself a lengthy process that evolved over a number of centuries) into what we recognise today, each Rosh Chodesh was declared by human witnesses seeing the new moon. The Chagim were celebrated as a result of what we did. We saw the new moon and counted the requisite number of days to Yom Kippur etc. If the moon wasn’t seen then they had to wait another day. Yom Kippur could technically have been celebrated on the wrong day simply because it was too cloudy to see the new moon!
Even Shabbat which happens every 7 days regardless of what happens (and aren’t we lucky that the early Christians were Jews and thus when they declared a new Sabbath, they weren’t going to move it too far from Shabbat. Imagine if it had been on a Tuesday and Saturday would have been a regular working day!) can be interfered with by a human being; for if one is lost in the desert and loses count of the days, they simply start counting 7 days from then and celebrate Shabbat on the 7th day irrespective of what the reality might be. Obviously when they get back to civilisation they would need to revert to the reality.
In essence, whilst time might march on we are not masters of it; but we are masters of how we utilise that time. As King Solomon also tells us “how good is a matter in its correct time”.
Make sure that you don’t wake up one morning next month and realise that Rosh Hashanah has already happened. Now is the time to prepare, as Moshe says time and again in his valedictory speech in the Book of Devarim – Haayom La’asoysom, today is the day to act.