Beginnings Ripe And Ripening

Rabbi Eliezer asks:  From where do we learn that the world was created in Tishrei? From the verse: God said, let the earth sprout grasses, seed bearing plants, fruit trees of every kind on earth bearing fruit with the seed in it—and it was so. (Genesis 1:11) In what month is the earth bringing forth grasses while the trees are filled with fruit? You must say that it is the fall month of Tishrei.

Rabbi Joshua asks:  From what source that the world was created in Nisan? From the verse that says: God said, let the earth bring forth grasses that carry seed of their own kind and trees that produce fruit each containing its own kind of seed—and God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:12). In what month is the earth filled with grasses while the trees are bringing forth fruit? You must say that it is the spring month of Nisan.

(Click here for Talmudic story in Hebrew and English)

For the 2nd century teacher, Rabbi Eliezer, creation’s pattern and plan appeared in the ripe evidence of Tishrei—the month of Rosh Hashanah. Said Rabbi Eliezer, the world was created with fruit trees already bearing fruit and containing their seeds. In the beginning, fruit carried the seed.

For his rival, Rabbi Joshua, the world’s first movement was not from fullness to promise but from promise to fullness. Said Rabbi Joshua, Nisan—the season of Pesah—annually recalls the beginning of the beginning—the time of year when Israel would burst into blossom. In the beginning, seed carried the fruit.

For the poet, Rivka Miriam, Nisann (Pesah) and Tishrei (Rosh HaShanah) tell separate stories. But once around the cycle, beginnings join and endings vanish. 

Seder night, or New Year’s day.
I ask the questions and have my say.
To be both young girl and elder is my nature’s way.
One is the time that at first blush changes; “one!” does time’s image cry.
My father commanded me never to die.

(Click here for poem in Hebrew and English)

One is the time that at first blush changes. Pesah and Rosh Hashanah are distinct beginnings of a single timeless story that joins seed and fruit, question and answer. That story and its teller contain and produce one another. They are ever new, ever old—and ever living.

This entry was posted in Days of Awe, Holidays, Passover, Poetry, Talmud. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Beginnings Ripe And Ripening

  1. Dan Alexander says:

    It amazes me how rich both the short passage from the Talmud and the Rivka Miriam poem become once you have exploded them for us and placed them in dialogue. Thank you for launching this fruitful interplay for transporting into a New Year

  2. irwin weiss says:

    Interesting to juxtopose Pesach and Rosh Hashanah. The minhag is not to eat Matzah for a month before Pesach. That way, when Pesach arrives and you say the bracha at the Seder and eat that first morsel of Matzah, it is fresh and clear that you are observing Pesach. One bite, one crunch, is all it takes.
    On the other hand, we have the minhag of blowing shofar every weekday morning for one month (Elul) right before R”H, which is called “Yom Teruah” in Torah, meaning “THE DAY of the blowing of the shofar”. We do refrain from blowing shofar on the day before R”Hashana. So, why, in the one case, do we refrain for a month from matzah, but in the other, we blow shofar for a whole month? The fact is that observing Pesach is physical and not so hard. Yes, it’s not so easy to clean the house of chametz. But, to clean the soul? To do teshuva? These non-physical acts are much harder. So, to stir us to teshuva, it really is necessary to blow shofar for a month.
    G’mar Chatima Tova
    Irwin Weiss, Baltimore

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