This week’s parasha includes an enumeration of holidays: “These are My fixed times, the fixed times of the Lord, which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions” (Leviticus 23:2). But because Jewish holidays are lunar, they actually move around the Roman calendar. If we adhered strictly to the lunar system, the holidays would eventually become disconnected from what they celebrate. Succoth, a harvest holiday, might end up in the winter; Passover, with its symbols of rebirth, might migrate to September. To correct this problem, once every four years, the Jewish calendar adds a leap month.
Every leap year, we lasso the wandering feasts—
Succoth, which strays too far into the rain,
the palm fronds dripping on the challah, returns
to harvest time. Shavuoth replants its roots
in June. Pesach, wrenched from Easter Sunday
at its birth, returns to nodding acquaintance
with its old twin. The Days of Awe blast us,
once more, with heat, our dresses stained with sweat,
as if to remind us that for a people wandering
in the desert, G-d required fixed times.
We do not come from temperate lands or Lords.