Editor’s Note
Tue, 04/05/2011
JDC Matzah distribution, Vienna, 1921. Courtesy of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee .
JDC Matzah distribution, Vienna, 1921. Courtesy of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee .

We’ve just begun the Hebrew month of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year. Not to be confused with Tishrei, the seventh month on the Jewish calendar and the time of Rosh HaShanah, when the year rolls over into the next. Tracking time in different ways, synchronizing stories and seasons, keeps us ever mindful of its passing.

This month, our writers look at days, months and years; the movements of sun and moon; how the celestial cycles manifest in the rhythms of our days and in the calendars we tuck into our pockets, whose full pages connote full lives.

We’re very pleased to present an interview with Elisheva Carlebach, Salo W. Baron Professor of Jewish History, Culture and Society at Columbia University, about her new book, “Palaces of Time,” which underlines how the calendar mirrors experience. Joan Nathan shows how seasonality influences what we eat; Rabbi Anne Ebersman revisits Rosh Hodesh, the holiday associated with the moon; David Sarna explores the complex calculations behind the calendar; Shelly R. Fredman turns to the spiritual cycle of the Jewish year and Angela Himsel explores Jewish tradition and the zodiac; Jerome Chanes turns over the calendar’s beginnings, while Lynn Harris tackles birthdays. Benjamin Balint visits Israel’s Samaritans, whose priests are known as keepers of the calendar, an art they call “truth calculation.” And we feature an excerpt from Deborah A. Lipstadt’s new book “The Eichmann Trial,” published on the 50th anniversary of the trial.

Over the centuries, artists have creatively responded to the seasons. Sculptor Alejandro Dron, who came to the U.S. from Argentina as a Fulbright scholar in 1996, introduces his cartoon strip “Zohar” here. Like his sculpture, the drawings are concrete and ambiguous, grounded in ideas about nomadic life. For our cover illustration, he was inspired by a Chabad teaching about how the sun and moon represent a spiritual struggle between constancy and change, the cycle of nature and the cycle of man. In a leap year like this one, when we add a month, the two calendars are reconciled. The sun and moon, and all they represent, align and move ahead complementarily (zoharme.com).

Tanya Fredman’s painting “Midbar” (Desert) on page 3, with its layers of paint and fabric, reflects on the ancient journey of the Jewish people, commemorated at Passover, and its continuation. Fredman, an art educator at Manhattan’s Abraham Joshua Heschel High School, has also worked with young people in Israel and Rwanda (tanyafredman.com). David Friedman, an artist who heads the art program at SAR High School in Riverdale, explains that he uses a lot of language, patterns and sequences in his work, and is particularly interested in the theme of man imposing himself on nature. His painting, “Numbers,” on page 9, is a reaction to a dream (fryfryfry.com).

Enjoy the first signs of spring and have a sweet Pesach. Please make a note on your calendar to stay in touch, editor.textcontext@gmail.com.