The day liturgy began

I’m using the term liturgy loosely today, defined as the way Jews divide up time through ritual. That includes everything from how the service is structured to the the times at which Shabat arrives and departs to the way the Jewish year is constructed.

And so, the beginning of liturgy, of Jewish time, is contained in this week’s Torah portion, Bo. In it, God gives the first ever mitzvah regarding a fixed ritual that is to be repeated on a regular basis: Pesach. God also defines the current (unnamed) month as the first month of the year, one of four new years that will eventually come into practice (the others being the one in Elul for coronations, the politcal new year; Shvat, the beginning of the year with regards to tree taxes, though it’s been turned into Jewish Arbor Day; and of course the most familiar new year to us, Rosh Hashanah.)

Ah, you might say, but Shabat is established in Breishit. Shabat is made note of in Breishit 2, but it is not commanded until after the exodus. Shabat begins as universal time, the seven-day week, but does not become ritualized Jewish time until later. Rashi himself, in his commentary on Breishit 1:1, wonders why God begins the Torah with creation, rather than with this verse regarding the Pesach and the first of the firsts of the year, which he accurately calls out as the first commandment.

Anyway, for me, a liturgy-obsessed Yid, this is a moment in our narrative to be celebrated.

It’s been said that I can connect and will connect just about anything to liturgy. That’s probably true.

Shavua tov.


5 responses to “The day liturgy began

  1. So if that is the first commandment, is laying Tefillin the second?

  2. I dunno. Does it come right after? I would imagine one of all the minutiae of pesach would be number two.

  3. I would think of the minutiae of Pesach as 1a, 1b . . .

    And given that framework, pidyon haben actually is second, followed by tefillin.

  4. “This month shall be to you…” is the first commandment given to the whole nation of Israel (as opposed to individuals), but many counts include three earlier mitzvot in the book of Bereishit:
    1) be fruitful and multiply
    2) circumcision
    3) don’t eat the gid hanasheh (Genesis 32:33)

  5. The new year for kings is also 1 Nisan. 1 Elul is for the cattle tithe.

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