In Those Days, at This Time: Holiness and History in the Jewish Calendar

In Those Days, at This Time: Holiness and History in the Jewish Calendar

In Those Days, at This Time: Holiness and History in the Jewish Calendar

In Those Days, at This Time: Holiness and History in the Jewish Calendar

Synopsis

Eliezer Segal's approach to Jewish history and tradition is light-hearted and humorous. In Those Days, At This Time is a collection of entertaining short essays that explores the intricate framework of sacred days and times that make up the Jewish festival calendar. Each piece is devoted to an occasion in the cycle of sacred seasons. With such intriguing titles as "Getting a Handel on Hanukkah" and "The Eggs and the Exodus," these essays bring a touch of whimsy to a complex and deep-rooted religious tradition. Segal investigates the ways festival observances have been shaped over the generations, looking at different interpretations of their rituals, their symbolism, and their adaptation to changing historical circumstances.

Excerpt

The many restrictions that define the traditional Jewish Sabbath are not necessarily to everyone’s taste. I have found, however, that there is one feature that rarely fails to impress people who have had no previous experience of Sabbath observance in the modern world.

I am referring to the ability to ignore the ringing of a telephone.

In watching an Orthodox Jew sit nonchalantly as the nudnik appliance keeps crying out for attention, we can appreciate how enslaved we were to it during the other days of the week. Ironically, the aspects of Shabbat observance that involve non-use of electricity are, of course, modern innovations that have no clear precedents in ancient or medieval Judaism. While a virtual consensus has developed regarding the fact of the prohibition, the rabbis are not all that clear when it comes to explaining its reason. Nevertheless, being unplugged is probably the single most conspicuous identifier of the Biblical Day of Rest for observant Jews today.

* The Jewish Free Press, Calgary, September 14, 2000, p. 14.

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