Thursday, 2 January 2014

Bo: This time it counts!

As I mentioned last week, the Torah portions relating to Pesach and the Exodus from Egypt, contain a storyline that my children know well. Parashat Bo has the last three plagues, the Angel of Death going over the houses of the Jews, and the actual Exodus from slavery. All big deals! But other than seder nights, they don't have a huge impact on our daily lives. However time, effects every moment. :)

Time? What are you talking about, Sharona? Well, first regarding the slaying of the first born it is written:

4. Moses said, "So said the Lord, At about midnight, I will go out into the midst of Egypt,ד. וַיֹּאמֶר משֶׁה כֹּה אָמַר יְיְ כַּחֲצֹת הַלַּיְלָה אֲנִי יוֹצֵא בְּתוֹךְ מִצְרָיִם:
About midnight?!? Was everyone sitting their with their sundial checking his accuracy? How often were exact times given in the Torah up until now? 
According to my assessment (If there are more I missed please put them in the comments sections) we have: 

  • the seven days of creation, making a week, counted out by Hashem
  • Noah's time in the ark is counted in days, weeks, and months by Hashem
  • years are recounted regularly, but those numbers are unusual by today's standards.
No one is clocking minutes, or hours. Weeks and months are counted by G-d. People count years, but their timing might be 'wrong'.

This is the time counted in Torah for the Jewish people. What about in the rest of the ancient world? We know Pharoh's sorcerers were watching the stars to keep time, but the earliest sundials  archeologists have found are from the same time period as the Jews leaving Egypt. (For more about time in antiquity check out this book or this site.) The idea of measuring time is a groundbreaking concept at this point in history and for this region of the world, it began in Egypt. 

Seven verses after Moshe's 'approximately midnight' announcement, the Torah;s narrative suddenly changes. 

א  וַיֹּאמֶר יְיְ אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן, בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לֵאמֹר.1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying:
ב  הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם, רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים:  רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם, לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה.2 'This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.

This is huge! These verses might seem minor in comparison to big events like the plagues, but really this is more dramatic. This is the first commandment given to the Jewish people as a nation!!!

You might be thinking, "The first month? Rosh Chodesh, ok, its important: renewal, ebb-flow, but what is the big deal? Why is this the first mitzvah for the nation?" 

Try to picture not knowing time. Not just removing your watch and turning off your phone. You don't know the hour or minute. Although night/day is obvious, you don't know what day of the week it is. And certainly not what week, or month it is.  At this point in history, Egyptians have introduced a ten day week. I doubt that had much significance to a slave. For a slave, every day is the same unending torture. 

And now G-d commands, "You will keep time!" Although in modernity we are slaves to time, this is actually an enormous freedom. The Jewish people are now in control of time! Days, weeks, months, have meaning. Time is not only significant for each individual, in is crucial for community. They are experiencing time together. 

In case the importance of experiencing time together is difficult to understand, the entire world made it very clear this week. New Years! Why is New Years Eve such a night of celebrating? Because sharing the counting of time together is important. 

But don't worry if you didn't do anything on December 31st. As I am writing this, it is Rosh Chodesh! I am doing the first mitzvah Hashem gave to the Jewish community right now. How neat!

I am not a punctual person, but I deeply value time, and I am awed by it as Hashem's first present to the Jewish people. Moshe introduces it with the idea of an approximate hour that is between him, G-d, and the Egyptians. Then he clarifies time, as something for the nation to savor together. It binds us to each other and to Him. Each second/minute/hour/day/ MONTH is a gift from Hashem and we are commanded to know it, own it, and value it.

I am not sure if my girls understood the message. But they enjoyed making a project about keeping time.

Initially I planned to make sundials with them. But as I looked out at the skyline, I realized that sun is probably a prerequisite for the project.
I started by asking the girls about the different ways to know what time it is. First we spoke about clocks and then discussed other methods.
"If the sun is out," Cohava suggested. 
"Or if you are hungry, it might be mealtime," Gabi added.
I reminded them about sand timers as a lead-in to the activity but they surprised me with some new information.
"You could check the time like a fairy does," Gabi noted.
"Right! Fairies take a dandelion and blow on it and however many thingies stay on, that is the time," Cohava explained.
"Our parsha project is going to be telling fairy time! Let's find some dandelions!" Gabi cheered. Needlesstosay they were pretty disappointed when I explained water clocks.
I showed them how our water pitcher is shaped a bit like a sand timer and asked it it would work. They tested it and concluded that it wouldn't. 

Then I gave them the only empty bottles I could find in the recycling bin. 

I cut the bottles in half and asked how they could put them back together. 
 Next, I drilled holes in the lids of the bottles, with the smallest drill bit we had. I thought the whole would be too big, but I was proved wrong. 

The girls situated the bottle halves properly with the lids on. I asked how long they thought it would take for all of the water to go from the top, through the hole, and fill the bottom. They were to mark on the bottle, ten minutes, one hour, whatever for the time they thought it would take to reach that line.

We quickly discovered that a milk jug is not ideal for this experiment. A soda bottle should work fine, but the shape and flimsiness of the jug, made it very difficult.

I hypothesized that all the water would drain through in under ten minutes. Thankfully, I had not put a wager on it, as it took almost 3 hours!

Later that evening when I discovered our bathtub drain is clogged, I was reintroduced to the slow speed with which water can move through a hole.

Value your time and make it matter! 

Shabbat Shalom!

Chodesh tov! 

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