A few days ago, I posted a blog post about the fact that we have too much built-in sadness to the Jewish calendar. I discussed how, if it were in my power, I would eradicate most of the fast days and also restructure the calendar to reflect reality.
But, while eradicating fast days and sad time-periods (such as the period of Sefirat HaOmer) is, I believe, a good step, there is one step that would then take our calendar to the next level.
That step? ADD MORE JOYOUS OCCASIONS TO THE CALENDAR!
If we take a look at our history, yes, we see it is replete with “bad” things that happened to our people. However, at the same time, there is so much to look back at that give us reasons to rejoice! Below are suggestions of some things we could add to the yearly Jewish cycle that could bring more joy into our lives.
- Celebrate the Completion of the 1st Bet HaMikdah–Here is the PERFECT place to start for two reasons: First of all, there is no date on our current calendar that commemorates this massive life-changing event in the history of the Jewish people. As we see in Kings I, the entire early days of the reign of King Shlomo were incredible and culminated with the building of the first Bet HaMikdash. But, there is yet another reason. For those of you already familiar with the Jewish calendar, you already know that the month of MarCheshvan has no holidays/fast days etc in it. It is a month devoid of any special days. What better day to affect a month of “silence” than with a holiday commemorating the completion of the first Bet HaMikdash! I propose it be on the 15th of the month, given it the imprimatur of other holy days on the 15th of their months. It would be a day of celebration and commemoration with special additions to tefilla and public display of what the Bet HaMikdash means/meant to us. (NO, it would not be a day like a chag or shabbat 🙂 )
- The Beginning of the Davidic Dynasty–With the ascension of King David to the throne, our history as a people was altered to such an extent that we pray daily for the reinstating of the throne of David. We also know that the Mashiach is to come from the house of David. I suggest that we replace the day of Tzom Gedaliah (see my last post referred to above) with a day celebrating the life of David HaMelech. The reason for that date (3 Tishri)? The two days prior to that are Rosh Hashana. Our “job” on Rosh Hashana is to accept Hashem as our King. He is our Heavenly King and it is He who gave us the Davidic Dynasty that began with King David. What better day than the day AFTER accepting HIM as King that we proclaim our anticipation of His Mashiach, a descendant of King David. The day would be filled with public readings of Tehillim (which David authored a majority of its chapters). David was a man of music…music would be an integral part of the celebrations. In addition, learning the appropriate chapters in Sefer Shmuel; shiurim on the topic of Mashiach and a special addition to the Selichot prayers that day using the words of David.
- Celebrating the Talmud–In June of 1242 (or 1244, there is a dispute as to the exact year) 24 cartloads of handwritten copies of the Talmud were burned in the streets of Paris. This was a public derision of both the Talmud and the Jewish people. For all of the cartloads burned, there have been THOUSANDS of “cartloads” of copies of the Talmud printed and learned, for centuries. Rather than be somber and morose over that tragedy, we should celebrate our resilience and tenacity! Tens of thousands learn Daf Yomi around the world every day. The date upon which to celebrate would be sometime the week in which Shabbat Parashat Chukat would occur (generally, late June to early July). According to historians (and as can be found in the commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch), the burning took place on Friday of the week of Parashat Chukat. The celebration could take the form of a Siyum HaShas (completion of the entire Talmud) by a city or country. The 2,711 pages of the Talmud would be divided up and all of the pages would be learned on that specific day. Massive amounts of siyumim would celebrate this date. There would also be classes and other forms of education to understand what the Talmud is all about. Perhaps, it would be the first day a student would be introduced to and begin to learn the Talmud!
- Shivat Tzion (Returning to Zion)–After the Babylonian exile, the Jews returned (after 70 years) with permission to rebuild the Temple. This occurred in the time of Ezra the Scribe. According to tradition, he died on 10 of Tevet. Yes, the very same 10 of Tevet that is a fast day. The same 10 of Tevet that I wrote about (see above referenced blog post) that should be (if it were halachikally possible) removed from the calendar. This day could celebrate the Jewish spirit of surviving exile; returning HOME and rebuilding from scratch. Quite possibly this date could become the annual Yom Olim (day for Olim) and co-sponsored in Israel by Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Ministry of Absorption. The Ministry could hold events around the world encouraging Aliyah. The possibilities of celebrating the spirit of the original Shivat Tzion are endless.
These are merely some general ideas of ways to add JOYOUS occasions to our calendar. If we could add these kinds of joyous occasions, and if we could eradicate the sad days, our calendar could feel much invigorated by our annual/calendrical cycle.
I am sure, if you put your mind to it, you could come up with a few other happy historical events to celebrate. In the meantime, let’s focus on joy instead of sadness; on happiness instead of melancholy and on rebuilding instead of mourning.