Posts Tagged ‘Jewish’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Days Riding: 141                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 123

Today’s Mileage: 5                                          Total Trip Mileage: 991

As I ride the bike and write today’s blog it’s snowing outside, large white flakes are slowly drifting to the ground.  It paints a beautiful scene, although it is not yet “sticking” it is melting on contact with the ground.

Yesterday I took a walk along a local river, studying the rocks and shoreline clutter.  I shared with you several “poems” I wrote on the walk.  My partner Susan commented on the fact that my words did not meet the classification of poetry as they do not rhyme.  I noted that I sometimes call these pieces my “musings.” It is not in my nature to spend time trying to label or classify my creative efforts.  The important thing to me is the process of being aware, perceptive and receptive to my surroundings.  I attempt to capture these perceptions in words and images as a form of celebration and as a way of leaving “bread crumbs” along the path, perhaps enticing others to follow and explore on their own.

The Spirit Tree!

The snow continues to fall outside my window.  This leads me to ponder the spiritual significance of snow.  I know personally I’ve always found it to have a very calming and tranquil effect on me.  I suspect it’s because the snow covers everything, leaving the landscape smooth and pristine.  In addition, the damping effects of snow seems to not only soften life’s sharp edges, but also it quiets and settles the mind.  Several weeks ago we had a five inch snowfall.  Looking outside, everything had a “Wonderland” appearance.  It covered all the flat surfaces and left faint raised impressions of anything buried beneath it.  Often the identity of the object was a mystery, like looking at a blanket and seeing the “lumps” indicating the present of some mystery object.  Of course, the snow may not produce such a positive and peaceful feeling if you know you are going to have to shovel it!

Water hose under the blanket.

I did an internet search on the “spiritual significance of snow.”  I come up with fewer hits than I had expected.  Many of the references were for people named Snow or the significance of the fairy tale Snow White.  I did find several sites speaking of the meaning of snow from a Jewish perspective. The Rabbi Simon Jacobson noted that water was a symbol of divine knowledge, it’s “falling’ represents the   transmission from the Divine.  He noted that rain represented the “continual flow” from the Divine, which carries the risk of overwhelming the recipients.  Ice, however, as a compact and solid form of water, freezes the “flow” and makes the Divine wisdom easier for humans to comprehend.  Snow, he noted, is in an intermediate transitional state which allows the flow of information to descend so that it will not be overwhelming.  He also noted that snow is special because it contains both water and a “nucleus particle” of Earth that acts as a seed for the ice crystal.  Therefore, snow represents a combination of water and earth; it is half heaven and half earth!

An inviting scene!

 Several internet sites spoke of the Christian perspective on snow.  They noted that the whiteness and freshness of snow symbolizes purity and freedom from sin, and that after repenting for their sins, a person is described as being “white as snow.”  Snow is often associated with heavenly beings who are usually wearing white robes.  It was pointed out that the snowflake with its individual uniqueness is often used as an object lesson for children of the unique nature of each human being who has been created by God.  One author did note that in ancient times being “white as snow” could have dangerous and frightening connotations associated with leprosy.

I reviewed a book entitled: “Everyday Tao,” by Deng Ming-Dao.  His book of Taoist wisdom noted that:  “Water is powerful.  Although it can be soothing, comforting, and cleansing, it can also be enormous, mighty, and overpowering.  Its nature is constant. It is true to itself in any extreme.”  The author also discussed the importance of the color white:  “White is the symbol for purity.  In ceremonies, it is the color of spirituality. Since the ancients taught that we are already pure, they laugh at teachers who advocated penitence and self mortification as spiritual methods.  They said: we are already holy.  Why struggle to become something we already are?”

Buddha wearing winter's finest.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 69                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 70

Today’s Mileage:  10                                         Total Trip Mileage: 609


The red line marks our progress.

Holidays and Holy Days on December 18 :

Hijra – Islamic celebration of the emigration of Muhammad and his followers to Medina from Mecca in 622 c.e.


As I ride the bike I think about the Islamic holy day being celebrated today.  The Hijra marks the escape of the Prophet Muhammad from his enemies in Mecca to the city of Medina.  From there he grew in strength until he returned to take control of Mecca the holiest city for the people of the Arabian Peninsula. The importance of this event is that the Islamic calendar marked the year of this move as the beginning -Year 1 of the calendar.  Today is the year 1430 AH (after Hijra).

We are of course, fast approaching the Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Christ.  The importance of which can be seen on the Gregorian calendar as all time is marked as either before or after the year of this event. Today’s date is 2009 AD.  This led me to wondering about other cultures and religions and their calendars.

 According to the Buddhist calendar, today is the year 2553 BE (Buddha Era).  With a few regional variations their calendar starts with a significant event in Buddha’s life.  This event is defined as Buddha’s parinirvana and represents the entering into the final Nirvana which occurs upon the death of the body of one who has attained complete awakening.  It implies a release from the cycles of rebirth.

According to the Jewish calendar, today would be the year 5769 AM (in the year of the world).  This calendar is numbered from the epoch (starting point or the first day of the zeroth year) that, by Rabbinical reckoning, is the date of the creation of the world by God and reported in Genesis.  

The Hindus have a calendar system that projects itself back millions of years to the beginning of the universe and move forward into shorter and shorter epochs. The epoch of the current era, also called the “dark ages,” of the Hindu calendar began some 5106 years ago.

The Chinese and Japanese calendars number their years to indicate the number of years from the accession of the current emperor, regarding the calendar year during which the accession occurred as the first year.  In both cultures the Emperor was seen as a representative of God on earth.  The Emperor’s actions helped to either gain the favor or disfavor of the Gods.

There are other calendars I have not included. What this short review highlights is that each calendar starts from an epoch, which is often chosen to commemorate an important historical, mythological or religious event. While the Gregorian calendar is now used through much of the world it can be argued that this use does not represent an acceptance of Christ’s birth as the most important historical event, but occurs because of convenience or convention.  Other faiths and cultures might very well argue for the superiority of their system.  Are there other alternatives?

 In an effort to be “scientific” and avoid an association with any historic or mythological event we might use the system embrace by much of the field of astronomy: The Julian Date.  It was originally developed by the Renaissance philologist Joseph Scaliger.  This system is multicultural: it combines a solar and lunar cycle that coincided on January 1, 4713 BCE.  This date is then used at year one of the calendar.  Meaning that today’s date is December 18, 6722 JD.

However you number it and whichever holiday you are celebrating I wish you and your loved one a happy holiday!

Rising or setting there is only one source!

 The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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