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The Jewish Book of Days

a companion for all seasons

Authored by Rabbi Jill Hammer Ph.D.

Publication Year: 2006

Throughout the ages, Jews have connected legends to particular days of the Hebrew calendar. Abraham's birth, the death of Rachel, and the creation of light are all tales that are linked to a specific day and season. The Jewish Book of Days invites readers to experience the connection between sacred story and nature's rhythms, through readings designed for each and every day of the year. These daily readings offer an opportunity to live in tune with the wisdom of the past while learning new truths about the times we live in today. Using the tree as its central metaphor, The Jewish Book of Days is divided into eight chapters of approximately forty-five days each. These sections represent the tree's stages of growth--seed, root, shoot, sap, bud, leaf, flower, and fruit--and also echo the natural cadences of each season. Each entry has three components: a biblical quote for the day; a midrash on the biblical quote or a Jewish tradition related to that day; and commentary relating the text to the cycles of the year. The author includes an introduction that analyzes the different months and seasons of the Hebrew calendar and explains the textual sources used throughout. Appendixes provide additional material for leap years, equinoxes, and solstices. A section on seasonal meditations offers a new way to approach the divine every day.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society


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The Limbs of the Year

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pp. 2-8

In a midrash in Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, based on the story of Adam and Eve, the first sacred book is called the Sefer Toldot Adam, the book of the generations of Adam. In this book are the secrets of the months and the days and the summers and the winters, secrets even the Holy One had to learn to enter Creation. This book of days, like that vanished one, seeks to uncover the secrets of days and ...

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Understanding the Larger Picture

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pp. 10-21

Genesis tells us that the year has different, interlocking parts: summer and winter, day and night. We learn in Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer that there are many layers to the year: seasons and times and cycles and passages. The wheel of the year is complex, wealthy with distinctions and characteristics added over time by a variety of interpreters. Understanding the cycle’s different elements requires an overview of ...

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Wheel of the Year

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pp. 22-23

Note that the four quarters of the year begin and end with the minor holidays of Rachel’s yahrzeit (mid-Heshvan; see p. 77), Tu b’Shevat (mid-Shevat; see p. 175), Lag b’Omer (mid-Iyar; see p. 276), and Tu b’Av (mid-Av; see p. 371). ...

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A Note on the Legends

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pp. 24

The legends and stories that appear in The Jewish Book of Days are drawn from a variety of sources spanning more than two thousand years. All of these sources are part of the literary project known as midrash: creative interpretation of sacred text. And many of these works have a particular perspective on the flow of Jewish time. ...

The Days of the Year

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The Seed: 1 Tishrei to 14 Heshvan

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pp. 26-73

The first motion of the year is stillness: the stillness of a seed preparing to grow. The beginning of autumn is both the gathering in of harvest and the gathering of the seeds we will soon plant. Within the silence of this pause, we encounter gratitude for what is, regret for what has been, hope and anxiety about what will be. If we do not ...

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The Root: 15 Heshvan to 30 Kislev

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pp. 74-123

The second motion of the year is descent: the descent of the roots into darkness.Within the earth, the seed spins a thread. This thread, the root, will take sustenance from the soil and hold the seed secure. The tail end of autumn is rainy in many parts of the world and may be fiery with bright leaves. As the earth takes in the ...

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The Branch: 1 Tevet to 14 Shevat

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pp. 124-170

The third movement of the year is waiting. Bare branches wait for sun to touch them, and trees wait for sap to begin to rise. Animals and humans dream, waiting for the sun’s power to increase. The seedling waits in the earth for the nourishment of light. In time the shoot will develop branches and buds; birds ...

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The Sap: 15 Shevat to 29 Adar

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pp. 172-221

The fourth movement of the year is flowing. The sap in the trees begins to rise, and life runs through all the veins of the trees. The blood of living creatures also begins to move faster as they awaken to seek food. Ice cracks and melts; water disperses ...

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The Bud: 1 Nisan to 14 Iyar

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pp. 222-269

The fifth motion of the year is emerging. In some regions of the world, leaves lean out of branches, buds unfurl from their casings, and red seeps into the landscape. The word “Nisan” itself means “bud.” In the Middle East and similar climates, spring is already in full bloom, and the first harvest is about to come in. ...

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The Leaf: 15 Iyar to 30 Sivan

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pp. 270-318

The sixth movement of the year is increase. Leaves multiply on the trees, grapes multiply on the vine, plants and animals bear offspring and multiply over the earth. Late spring and early summer may bring us days of green plenty. Or they may bring us scorching heat, when trees and all living things must use their ...

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The Flower: 1 Tammuz to 14 Av

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pp. 320-367

The seventh movement of the year is falling. In midsummer in the northeast United States, the blossoms on the fruit trees drop in white showers to the ground, and the roses come to their overabundant bloom. The sun’s heat wilts leaves and dries up streams. In the Southwest, the heat blooms into almost unbearable ...

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The Fruit: 15 Av to 29 Elul

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pp. 368-416

Born from a seed, the tree bears seed. The land spends itself to create what will thrive next spring. Fruit swells to bursting. Humans, animals, and birds harvest the grains, nuts, and berries of the land. Plants begin to fade, their life concentrated on a single point: the new kernel, pulsing with stored-up life. We too ...


Solstices and Equinoxes

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pp. 418-428


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pp. 430-431


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pp. 432-434


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pp. 435-440

E-ISBN-13: 9780827610132
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827608313

Publication Year: 2006