The ‘Holidays’ and Making Sense of Time

The ‘Holidays’ and Making Sense of Time


“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures; a fear of time running out.” ― Mitch Albom, “The Time Keeper”

Eden Farber
Eden Farber

Our lives revolve around a sense of schedule. Where we go, how we dress, who we communicate with – they’re all time-bound.

I wear sweatpants when it’s night, because that’s the time to be casual. I make phone calls in the day, lest I bother someone at an inappropriate hour.

This keen awareness of what time it is maximizes our efficiency and creates the social norms and boundaries that we live by. The question “What time is it?” isn’t just about the hands on a watch, it also asks “What should I be doing right now?” and “What’s my next responsibility?”

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We count time on an even broader scale, as well.

The “sixties” is not just a decade, but it has strong social implications. When I write, “This is the 21st century!” I don’t just mean to tell you how long we humans have been counting our days on the Earth; my query also has a grander purpose.

This is modern life; this is a time where we’ve accepted that “x” is moral, and “y” is not.

So when someone says, “Shana Tova, have a sweet new year,” it’s not just a casual greeting. It’s a landmark.

We have successfully completed 5773, and it’s time to think about next year. It’s time to count what we’ve done and make goals for what we will do in this next allotted block of time.

In the spirit of thie being a new-year season, I was looking back on things I’d done around last Rosh Hashanah. It just so happens that it was last New Year that I wrote my first column for the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Fifteen years old, in school, and wildly excited about a new journalism opportunity! I wrote about not getting caught up in the labels and check-points of the new year or the day of atonement, Yom Kippur, and making every moment special.

When we get wrapped up in ticks of the clock, flips of the calendar pages, and blasts of the Shofar, time can turn back on us as Mitch Albom points out in the quote above.

We have to breathe with every tick of the clock, not for it. That was my point last year.

And while I believe it is very important not to let dates and times control us, I was also thinking how much a sense of time influences my identity. I’m a watch-wearer. It’s a marker of who I am and how I think.

I have a color-coded monthly schedule that hangs in my room above my dresser. So a holiday that marks time on that calendar is a very comfortable concept.

It’s very difficult to balance the two feelings around this time of year.

On the one hand, we understand that a year passes whether we blow the Shofar or not, and it’s not about the calendar so much as being self-reflective.

On the other hand, it’s very special that we as humans count our time, and a crucial part of the month of Elul is the idea of starting over, opening a fresh page, having a blank slate.

I believe there’s no easy way to reconcile the idea brought up in Albom’s quote. But we can turn to each other and ourselves, take a deep breath, and hope for a sweet new year – no matter what came before or comes after.

Just because 5773 is coming to an end doesn’t mean we’re running out of time; and just because we are starting 5774 doesn’t mean we can forget all that we did and learned last year.

What it does mean is that we as Jews are ready and excited for another year of communal and personal growth. Shana Tova, a meaningful holiday to all.

About the writer

Atlanta’s Eden Farber, 16, was recognized in the Jewish Heritage National Poetry Contest of 2010 and has published op-eds and poetry in Modern Hippie Magazine and the NY Jewish Week’s Fresh Ink for Teens section.


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