It’s summertime, and my senses are alive. Feeling the heat on my skin, seeing the lush growth all around, tasting the fresh fruits and vegetables from farm and garden, hearing birds and other animals and smelling fresh flowers.
Yet while I enjoy the summer and the change in routines and the increased time outdoors, I open up this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, and read this:
In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations. You shall observe it as a day when the horn is sounded. You shall present a burnt offering of pleasing odor to God: one bull of the herd, one ram, and seven yearling lambs, without blemish. The meal offering with them—choice flour with oil mixed in—shall be: three-tenths of a measure for a bull, two-tenths for a ram, and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs. And there shall be one goat for a sin offering, to make expiation in your behalf— in addition to the burnt offering of the new moon with its meal offering and the regular burnt offering with its meal offering, each with its libation as prescribed, offerings by fire of pleasing odor to God.
And with that, my mind is taken forward to the fall to two months from now, when we will celebrate the High Holidays. And while I know I should live in the moment and enjoy summer for all that it offers, I will admit that my mind is turning already to our holiday season. I know it may seem far off, but my planning for the holidays–these deeply spiritual holidays, the most important time of our year–is already well underway.
This passage from Numbers chapter 29 is clearly a reference to Rosh Hashana, the new year festival. The date is correct–the first day of the seventh month–and we can recognize the reference to the shofar. And even though there is no reference to the new year, it is not named as Rosh Hashana, and the ritual is foreign, full of animals, oil and fire, this is one of the biblical references to the new year festival.
So while you are maybe out picking berries, or dipping your toes in the Sound, I will invite you to think forward a few weeks and join me in getting ready for the High Holidays.
The ritual mentioned in this passage is weird and interesting. It is, of course, something that we do not practice or even connect with. But we can not easily dismiss it, there is wisdom within. While we are igniting all of our senses this summer, we are reminded that the ancient new year ritual also ignited all of our senses. We can imagine what it must have been like to hear the sounds of the animals, or feel the grain mixed with oil, or see the flames. There is a direct connection between the physical and the spiritual. So thinking forward to the holidays reminds us of something we need to remember now–that all of what we enjoy is both a physical pleasure and a spiritual pleasure, and we should offer gratitude for all that we experience and can experience.
Additionally, one could imagine all the preparation that must have gone into that ancient ritual. And while it was the priests of the Temple who did the dirty work, everyone contributed by bringing animals and offerings. One could imagine that our ancestors prepared for weeks and months to be ready, indeed, all that was offered in the fall–choice grains and animals–were products of the summer. The preparation involved selecting, counting, identifying, dedicating. So it is not too early for us, as we are enjoying and offering gratitude for the joys of summer, to begin to think forward two months. What might we wish to offer this year at the High Holidays?
So, yes, let’s continue to enjoy summer.I still have lots I want to do. But I also invite you to join me in thinking forward and preparing for the High Holidays. It is that way our holidays will be “pleasing to God.”