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The Jewish Way

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

We often talk about the Judeo-Christian experience as though we have a shared perspective that differs from other cultures. At least that is what was presented to me as I was growing up back “in the old days.” And yet I am constantly reminded how very different our approach to life (and death and everything inbetween) is in comparison to our Christian neighbours.

As an example, what does 17 July and 18 Tevet have in common?

Truly not much at first glance. The 18th of Tevet has never and will never occur during the summer months. What it does mark is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who died on December 23, 1972. And July 17? It is the secular date of Dr. Heschel’s birthday.

I didn’t know that. I’ve never known his birthday but I do know that his yahrtzeit falls around December/January each year — often close to the birthday of his dear colleague, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I learned of the significance of the day when I was on the Spirituality & Practice website.

What strikes me is the difference between Jews and non-Jews. There is nothing not Jewish about the lovely write-up. It’s simply that they’ve got the date wrong.

The beginning of one’s life, though important, is not the same as the end for it is only at the end that we can truly take stock of one’s accomplishments.

It’s just the Jewish way.

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