God fixes the festivals
like gems in a crown
God places them definitely
and more or less permanently
God puts them in order
like a woman adjusting her hair
fixed like a black and white image
coming out of a chemical bath
fixed like a game whose winner
is always already known
God makes them stable
converts them into useful compounds
these are God's fixed times
which God tells us to proclaim
but we're the umpires
ain't nothing 'til we calls 'em
In this week's Torah portion, Emor, we read, "Adonai spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: These are My fixed times, the fixed times of the Lord, which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions." (Lev. 23:1-2.) The text goes on to list Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot and the counting of the Omer, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.
The idea of the fesivals as "fixed times" intrigues me. Shabbat happens on its own rhythm, week after week; every seventh day is Shabbat, a time for rest and connection with God. This rhythm mirrors what we read about in the beginning of the book of Bereshit (Genesis) -- six days of creation and the seventh day of rest. But the festivals are something different; God asks us to observe them, or to declare them, which suggests to me that on some level, we participate in making them what they are. It's our observance that makes them festivals.
Anyway, the notion of God "fixing" the festivals is what gave rise to this week's Torah poem. The last stanza comes from a joke about three baseball umpires in conversation. The first one says, "I calls 'em as they are." The second says "I calls 'em as I see 'em." And the third one, of course, trumps the first two. Does that resonate for you, as a way to think about the moadim?