The Temple Institute: The Hebrew Calendar - a Heavenly Reminder



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The Hebrew Calendar - a Heavenly Reminder

30 December, 2004
© 2002 The Temple Institute, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved

The Hebrew calendar is replete with observances that are intended to keep the concept of the Holy Temple at the forefront of our consciousness. These special days are like "time messages," arranged by heavenly plan, arriving like Divine telegrams to insure that we never to lose our connection with the goal of rebuilding. Like a note in a bottle, washing up against the shore of our complacency, our comfort zone, to remind us that things are not as they should be. " ... My house lies in waste... and every one of you runs to his own house" (Hagai 1:9). It is easy enough to lose our spiritual bearings in this world, yet if we remain sensitive we can be aware of these messages, and fortify our strength and resolve.

Earlier this month we were still celebrating the holiday of Chanukah. Chanukah is the only holiday on the Hebrew calendar which begins in one month (the 25th of Kislev) and is carried over into the next (ending this year on the 3rd of Tevet). It is a holiday totally centered on the Holy Temple; it commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple during the victory of the Hashmonian priests over the Greek-Syrian invaders who defiled the Temple as part of their campaign to wreak spiritual destruction upon Israel.

Yet just one week after Chanukah, we observed the fast of the 10th of Tevet, established in a different period, to express mourning and anguish over the destruction of the Holy Temple. The Torah calls the Tenth of Tevet "the fast of the tenth." In the book of Zechariah we read: "Thus says the L-rd of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall become times of joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts to the house of Judah... " (8:19).

On that day, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar laid siege around the walls of Jerusalem. This siege lasted for three years, until the city was breached in the month of Tammuz, leading up to the Temple's destruction.

The main characteristic of this month of Tevet is the fast day, and thus although the month started out with the joyous celebration of Chanukah, it can be said that it is month distinguished by grief. Doesn't this appear to be a contradiction? How can we switch so smoothly from joyous observance, to a day of fasting?

In reality there is no contradiction. This excruciating dichotomy is exactly what those "Divine telegrams" are designed to impart. Our experience of time is like light refracted through a prism; the rays are all tinted with different aspects of Temple awareness. Sometimes this light reaches us in shades of joy, sometimes in sorrow; but throughout all our human strivings, in all that we do, the message remains the same: the reality of the word of G-d, as demonstrated through Jewish history, means that the Holy Temple will be rebuilt. As we recently read in the haftorah (prophetic reading) from Ezekiel 37, "Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, which I will give them; and I will multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore….then the nations shall know that I the L-rd do sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore."

Blessings from Jerusalem,
Rabbi Chaim Richman

PO Box 31876 Jerusalem, Israel 97500



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