Important May observances for area faith communities

It’s spring! Time to get out there, enjoy the sunshine and the gentle rain…time to kayak in swollen streams, plant flowers, make vacation plans… Wait! Not so fast! Before we take off for vacation destinations, we need to write in some important dates on our worship calendars…

The historical connections between Judaism and Christianity are strong and intertwined. A lot of our joint history is difficult, as one group or the other was persecuted. But in the present time, more and more we are recognizing our common roots. No matter how much hate and distrust there was in the past, we can make a difference in the Name of the One for all humanity when we work together by building bridges across the gap. This is not to say that there are not significant differences, and that we are all the same. What I mean is that despite religious differences, we can respect the Judeo-Christian core values that should unite us in an effort to make a better world for everyone.

The Jewish calendar and the secular/Christian calendar are different. The Jewish calendar is lunar; the everyday calendar is solar. That is why lunar-connected observances are “moveable.” If you have ever wondered why Hanukah was on Thanksgiving a few years ago (what a great time we had, celebrating “Thanksgivukah!”) but in 2016 started on December 24th, you now have your answer. It is the same answer when you have to check the date of Easter every year, because the date of Easter is yoked to that of Pesach (Passover). So Easter was on April 16th this year (Passover started at sundown on April 10th), but next year, your Easter finery should be ready to wear on April 1st (Passover starts at sundown on March 30th).

Now it is May and another holiday pair is coming up: Pentecost and Shavuot. This year, Pentecost is on June 4th, while Shavuot starts at sundown on May 30th. Pentecost (“the fiftieth day”) is a Christian holiday commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is, in essence, the birthday of Christianity. It is every bit as awe-inspiring for Christians as Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, is for Jews. And what are Jews remembering on Shavuot? The Torah, our guidebook, was given to us on Mount Sinai more than 3300 years ago. Our tradition teaches that all of the Jewish souls that were or that would be were present in one form or another at that event so long ago. On Shavuot we remember this monumental event. In essence, it was the birth of the Jewish people bound by covenant to God, and we are reaffirming our commitment.

And so as Jews and Christians attend worship services in their respective houses of worship in May, let us pledge to learn about each other’s faith traditions for the future benefit of all of us here on God’s earth.

Suzanne Schermerhorn, Sh’lichat Tzibbur/Spiritual Leader at KIS Synagogue.

By Patricia Older

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