Books CCAR Press

Building a Bridge Between Israeli and American Jews: Rabbi Dalia Marx on ‘From Time to Time’

Rabbi Dalia Marx discusses her new book on the Jewish year

Rabbi Dalia Marx, PhD, is the author of From Time to Time: Journeys in the Jewish Calendar from CCAR Press. In this interview, she discusses bringing her Hebrew book to an American audience, the importance of time in Judaism, and shares a playlist of songs featured in the volume.

From Time to Time has now been published in several languages. What does it mean to you to bring this book to English-speaking audiences?

It is a great privilege to open a gate to the largest Jewish community outside the State of Israel. I am very committed to Jewish communities around the world. I’ve spent around twenty-three years teaching North American rabbis-to-be at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. I have had many opportunities to visit North American communities and other English-speaking communities. So this is a great privilege to build bridges between Israel and English-speaking countries—not only to build bridges but to be bridges. I think this is one of the things From Time to Time is trying to do—to build a bridge and be a bridge between Israel and beyond.

This book is divided into month-based chapters. Can you share a bit about what readers will find in each chapter?

The book is divided by each Hebrew month. Every month there is a beautiful “medal” that the graphic designer made. It is a little bit like a riddle because later in the chapter we explore the different graphic images in the medal. Then there is some brief information about the month like the zodiac, the tribe of the month according to Jewish tradition, and the stone of the month. Then we have a kavanah, a meditation for the month. Next comes a song of the month—either a traditional, classical, or modern poem or song. Then we have iyunim. We kept the Hebrew terms because they fit so well. They are short considerations and conversations about what happens in the month. I tried to be concise, comprehensive, and to bring things that are not necessarily known to many people from different fields of Jewish life—different ethnic groups, eras, and different voices—especially marginalized voices. Each chapter ends with a prayer or prayers of the month with modern applications.

Why do you feel understanding the Jewish calendar is essential for fully comprehending Judaism?

I think the way we as Jews and human beings understand our existence, our reality, our relationship with other people, and the world and our communities is through time and by time. I think this is especially true for Jewish time. This is something we all share together—Jews in the four corners of the world—in Israel, North America, other places. The more you feel time, understand time, explore Jewish time, the more you immerse more fully and meaningfully with our Jewish identity and being.

That was my task with this book—to enhance the comprehension and celebration of the Jewish calendar. And to my great satisfaction, I hear more and more about people who are planning a Rosh Chodesh group or plan an adult education course based on the month, or make the book the text for Introduction to Judaism, sisterhood groups, and confirmation classes. I think it is wonderful that they choose this as a resource for exploring and enhancing Jewish life—among other books, of course.

How do you suggest that readers incorporate From Time to Time into their Jewish practices?

I know some people read the book cover to cover, but I think most people read it when the time calls. That is to say, before the holidays and festivals or at the beginning of the month. And different people have different practices, and it is very moving to hear how people use it. Some people leave the book on their bedside table, or they read it as their Rosh Chodesh practice. Some families leave it on their dining room table and read parts of it on Friday night. Some leave it on their coffee table and they open it occasionally. It can be used for different occasions and different times. I hope people will really be inspired by it.

This is not an encyclopedia—it is not aiming to be fully comprehensive. On the contrary, it invites us to continue exploring, considering, and learning from it and enhancing our knowledge. Audrey Honig, an HUC–JIR rabbinical student, created an absolutely fabulous study guide for the book. It follows each month, has questions for consideration and learning, and also includes activities to be done. The study guide makes the book much more than a traditional volume bound between two covers—it’s something to contemplate, explore, and then apply to one’s life. There is even a Spotify playlist with all of the Israeli music referenced in the book!

Rabbi Dalia Marx, PhD, is the Rabbi Aaron D. Panken Professor of Liturgy at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Jerusalem. She is the chief editor of T’filat HaAdam, the Israeli Reform prayer book (MaRaM, 2020). From Time to Time: Journeys in the Jewish Calendar was first published in Israel in 2018 as Bazman and has been translated into German, Spanish, and now English.

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