Recent blogsurfing has led me to some interesting posts about the season of Advent, observance of which I was never really aware, except for noticing some really creative calendars. Counting down the days in anticipation of a spiritually significant event seems to be a shared concept for many different religions. I found mention online of parallels between the marking of daily fasts during the month of Ramadan and the Sefirat haOmer, the counting of days between Passover and Shavuot. And there seems to be more than a slight relationship (to me, at least; I've not yet discovered websites to corroborate this) between Advent and Elul, the month preceding the High Holy Days. This from the very first hit in my Google search:
"Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing... Advent’s prayers are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting and anticipating a great light (Isa 9)!"
The specific subjects of Advent and Elul are certainly different for Christians and Jews. And I understand that Advent is a joyous time, unlike the somber weeks of preparation for Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. But every day in Elul we read selichot, special prayers for deliverance and mercy. And at the end of that month, Jews encounter their own "great light"--within ourselves, in the form of the hope and joy that a clean slate, and the year's new Torah, will bring.
This connection has been on my mind because I've started practicing my Torah portion for the week of Hanukkah. When I learned it last year, I immediately dubbed it (with apologies offered in advance to any and all for my irreverence) "The Twelve Day of Christmas, Jewish Version":
The one to bring his offering on the first day was Nachshon son of Aminadav of the tribe of Judah.
His offering was as follows:
One silver bowl weighing 130 shekels, and one silver sacrificial basin weighing 70 shekels by the sanctuary standard, both filled with the best grade wheat meal kneaded with olive oil for a meal offering.
One gold incense bowl weighing 10 [shekels] filled with incense.
One young bull, one ram and one yearling sheep for a burnt offering;
one goat for a sin offering;
and for the peace sacrifice, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five yearling sheep.
This was the offering of Nachshon son of Aminadav.
And so forth. There are twelve days of these bulls of pleasant odor, etc. (Only eight days to Hanukkah, so we don't read them all. I don't mind.) Like the Christmas song, it has lots of words, although they're decidedly less upbeat. And there the similarity ends.