Excuse Me, Do You Know What Time It Is?

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There is an old joke about the Israeli fellow who would always ask people for the time. People would get irritated, but would tell him the time. Finally at one point somebody asked/told him: “Why not get a watch?”  

The fellow responded: “Why should I pay for a watch, I have you to tell me the time. ”

“But what do you do at night when you need to know the time?”

The fellow responded: “At night I blow my shofar”

“Your shofar, how does that help?”

“Easy”, the fellow responded, ” I open my window and blow the shofar. Before you know it people are shouting out to me: why are you blowing your shofar? Don’t you know it is two in the morning!”

As a side point today the fellow would probably now own a phone as who owns a watch anymore? But can you imagine an Israeli not owning a cell phone?

Be that as it may, we all know the power of time marching on and the need to know the time as it determines our schedule and where we have to be or what we have to do.  The ability to determine your own schedule is a great luxury. The opposite extreme borders on slavery.

The first commandment to the Jewish people in the Torah is understood to be the command of a calendar whose first month will be Nisan, the month of the Exodus from Egypt. “This month shall be to you the head of the months; to you it shall be the first of the months of the year.” Exodus 12:2. The first sign of freedom is determining the flow of time on your terms, and not the terms of the oppressor.  Over the past years, numbers of for profit companies and non-profits have moved to allowing flex time for people to set up their schedules. This enables employees to better adjust their schedules and balance their work and family responsibilities and employers have discovered the benefits this can provide to the company itself.

For Jewish tradition, Nisan becoming the first month means Passover and the Exodus are foundational, orienting events. History is meaningful, memory is crucial and one day all will be free. In addition, the Biblical scholar William Propp in his Anchor Bible work on Exodus, makes an acute observation. In Genesis 1:14-18  “no calendar is instituted. God establishes the day, the week and the year-but not the month….The implication may be that the birth of the Israelite nation and the concomitant establishment of the calendar are themselves acts of cosmogony completing the unfinished creation”

Posted on January 17, 2013
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