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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  (rabbi@adathisraelsf.org) has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


5774 or 2014?

I want to share with you some thoughts that were inspired by Rabbi Benjamin Blech.

Together with most of the Western world, we started dating our checks and our schedules with the indication that we have moved on from 2013 to 2014. As part of a much larger society’s way of noting the passage of time, I too simply have no choice, even though it doesn’t agree with my reckoning. For me it is now 5774 on the Hebrew calendar. And this discrepancy points to a profound difference of perspective about God and about the meaning of history.

Jews and Judaism introduced monotheism to the world. One God created the entire world and all those who inhabit it. The first human being was created in His image and all those who came after carry within them this mark of divinity.

Why did God begin the story of mankind by creating only one person? The Talmud answers so that no man should be able ever to say to his fellow man, “my father is greater than your father” (Sanhedrin 37a). We are all related. One father for all people on earth makes everyone brothers and sisters in the truest sense of the word. Adam was not just one man – he was every man. Christian and Jew, black and white, European and Asian – we are all created by God “in his image.” 

The concept of universalism is intrinsic to the biblical story of creation. And that is why Judaism maintains that the record of history must mark the beginning of time from the creation of Adam. It is humanity that gives meaning to creation.

Our calendar does not start counting years from the birth of Abraham, no matter how significant his life might be as our first patriarch. Nor do we claim that the past only becomes worthy of recognition from the time we became a people or even from the moment we received the Torah at Sinai. The year is now 5774, the number of years that mark the existence of the human family.

Nonetheless, as of yesterday, most of the world, will be using the date 2014 in official correspondence, giving tacit acknowledgment that the birth of Jesus is somehow more important or noteworthy than the 3,760 years that came before. Yet Jews, Christians, Muslims, and atheists all know there was history before. So how do we live in 2014 without drawing such an arbitrary and, let’s face it, Christian distinction? Let me know what you think.