We are Tied to the Natural World

Jewish rituals, practices, customs and traditions create a perpetual awareness of where we are in time and space and what is present in the natural environment: on earth and in the heavens.

I.  Jewish Calendar
Our calendar reflects both the solar and lunar cycles.  Unlike the (solar) Western Gregorian calendar, each Jewish month begins and ends with a new moon.  Unlike the (lunar) Moslem calendar, our months are adjusted so that each month (and the holidays that fall within it) remains tied to a particular season.  Holidays may seem "early" or "late" but Chanukah is always the festival of lights during the darkest part of Winter and Pesach is always our celebration of Spring.

II  Natural light
The days of the Jewish calendar begin at nightfall.  Therefore, our holidays, including Shabbat, begin at nightfall.  Shabbat will begin early in the winter and late in the summer.  Time is not simply the arbitrary and unchanging divisions of hours on the clock:  our holy time ebbs and flows over the course of the year and helps bring us awareness of what is going on outside (even if artificial lighting brings 24-hour daytime into our lives).

III.  B'rachot for many experiences, sights and smells of the natural world
Whether it be witnessing a shooting star, smelling a fragrant spice or eating the first fruit of a season, there is a special Jewish b'rachah to recite.  Our tradition requires us not only to stop and smell the roses but to pause to say a special Jewish thank you while we do it.