The Character of Time



The Character of Time

Those realities of the world of physics are also true in the worlds of poetry, symbolism, and the spirit

Time is a major factor in our lives, and yet we mostly take it for granted without contemplating its meaning or making a concerted effort to manage it to our advantage. The Jewish calendar assigns deep meaning and impact to time and offers a pathway for humankind to impart an influence on time. I aim to share some of this depth with you in order to help you optimize your use of time and derive meaning and satisfaction from the passage of time.

Before we delve into the specific mood of any particular time period, let’s establish the basics of understanding the character of time according to ancient Jewish wisdom.


Einsteinian Physics: Time is Relative


I was taught that Time Marches On inevitably, but actually, Einstein proved that time is not an absolute constant, but rather relative and affected by such things as gravity and motion. Hence, it does not always maintain the same pace and it comes to a complete standstill in a black hole. 

Those realities of the world of physics are also true in the worlds of poetry, symbolism, and the spirit.

Einsteinian Physics: Time is Relative

Einsteinian Physics: Time is Relative



Controlling Time

In fact, the relativity and subjective nature of time was revealed already to Adam in the Garden of Eden, when mankind was granted the power to manipulate the nature of time.  

This process is known as the Secret of Impregnation, and it refers to mankind’s empowerment of intercalation of the solar and lunar calendars.  In essence, it means that time is not controlled by the sun or sun god representing masculine power. Nor is time controlled by the moon or its goddess representing feminine passion or capriciousness.  

Rather, time was given over to mankind to unify conflicting forces of power and limitation and to celebrate every moment of existence in a unification of creation in an eternal state of the present.

How does it work?  



Lunar Versus Solar Calendars

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The Islamic or Hijri Calendar is a lunar one of 354 days, so that Moslem holidays occur about 11 days earlier each year on the solar calendar.  The Hijri calendar starts from the Julian date of July 16th, 622 c.e., counting from Mohammed’s night time journey from Mecca to heaven and back on Al-Buraq, the winged horse with a woman’s face and tail of a peacock.

The implicit meaning of a lunar calendar based on a fantastic nocturnal voyage to heaven is the primacy of passion, imagination, and freedom from all boundaries.  

The Gregorian calendar which has been adopted in western civilization replacing the Julian, is based on the solar year, without any reference to lunar phenomena.  It is as consistent as sunrise and sunset, symbolizing stability, predictability, and the rule of reason. Indeed, western civilization has achieved impressive heights of enlightened mastery of the natural world, and yet the world of dry science lacks heart and soul.

Balancing Time - Giving it Meaning

“He made the moon for special times, the sun knows its way,” (Psalms 104:19). This verse teaches us the means to balance between the special times for which the moon, symbolizing spontaneity and moodiness, was created. It also teaches us the constancy of the sun, which can be relied upon to rise every day in the east and to set in the west.

The Jewish calendar is lunisolar. This means that it takes into account both the capricious moon as well as the constant sun.  A leap month is added every few years to maintain balance between the lunar months and the solar year, expressing the unity of all elements in our solar system.

This is what is referred to as the Secret of Impregnation, the fusing of masculine and feminine aspects of creation to generate a unified reality.

Time is not an absolute, it is subject to human impact, we impart upon it meaning and character.

The Sanhedrin , the high court, in ancient Israel had the power to intercalate the calendar at their discretion, based on a tradition received from Moses in Egypt. This power was more than merely the legal right to dictate the Jewish calendar, it meant that this group of scholarly leaders could impose meaning upon time.  

Feeling the Character of Time

Each Jewish month, which is based on the movement of the moon around the earth, has its own distinct character. By determining when months begin and end and by periodically adding an extra month to the year, the sages of the Sanhedrin were able to assign specific meaning to time.

Although the Jewish calendar has today been fixed for centuries, and is no longer subject to current judicial discretion, still its effects on the character of life are an expression of the power of mankind to determine the nature of time. In fact, even Jewish biorhythms follow the Jewish calendar, but that is a discussion for another day.

Time is not an absolute, it is subject to human impact, we impart upon it meaning and character. Though we are not all able to bend time to our will, and we must respect and appreciate the time we have, we may manage our time and be present and celebrate each moment of life. When we focus, we can accomplish a great deal in a short time, as if we brought about a warp in time.

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By understanding and appreciating the character of various days, weeks, months, seasons and years, we can gain new insight and inspiration to enjoy the passage of time.

I look forward to continuing to share our journey through time, finding meaning and satisfaction along the way.



Jonathan Ratner


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Jonathan Ratner
Jonathan Ratner is a Rosh Kollel who has been living in Jerusalem, Israel with his family for over thirty years.

He has extensive experience managing both hedge funds and start-ups, is a competitive triathlete, serves as Wisdom Tribe’s CFO, and loves to share the hidden depths of Jewish wisdom.