The Tabernacle Times
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December 2013                                  Kislev - Tevet 5774                              Volume 8 Issue 12

"Since Hanukkah and Thanksgiving collided this year I thought it would be a good time
to get a refresher course on the Jewish Calendar. 
This article is from Judaism 10."  Brenda

The Jewish Calendar

Rabbi & Brenda
by Rabbi Jeremy
& Brenda Storch
 

A few years ago, I was in a synagogue, and I overheard one man ask another, "When is Hanukkah this year?" The other man smiled slyly and replied, "Same as always: the 25th of Kislev." This humorous comment makes an important point: the date of Jewish holidays does not change from year to year. Holidays are celebrated on the same day of the Jewish calendar every year, but the Jewish year is not the same length as a solar year on the civil calendar used by most of the western world, so the date shifts on the civil calendar.

Background and History
The Jewish calendar is based on three astronomical phenomena: the rotation of the Earth about its axis






















Mikvah
(a day); the revolution of the moon about the Earth (a month); and the revolution of the Earth about the sun (a year). These three phenomena are independent of each other, so there is no direct correlation between them. On average, the moon revolves around the Earth in about 29½ days. The Earth revolves around the sun in about 365¼ days, that is, about 12.4 lunar months.
The civil calendar used by most of the world has abandoned any correlation between the moon cycles and the month, arbitrarily setting the length of months to 28, 30 or 31 days.

The Jewish calendar, however, coordinates all three of these astronomical phenomena. Months are either 29 or 30 days, corresponding to the 29½-day lunar cycle. Years are either 12 or 13 months, corresponding to the 12.4 month solar cycle.

The lunar month on the Jewish calendar begins when the first sliver of moon becomes visible after the dark of the moon. In ancient times, the new months used to be determined by observation. When people observed the new moon, they would notify the Sanhedrin. When the Sanhedrin heard testimony from two independent, reliable eyewitnesses that the new moon occurred on a certain date, they would declare the rosh chodesh (first of the month) and send out messengers to tell people when the month began.

The problem with strictly lunar calendars is that there are approximately 12.4 lunar months in every solar year, so a 12-month lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than a solar year and a 13-month lunar is about 19 longer than a solar year. The months drift around the seasons on such a calendar: on a 12-month lunar calendar, the month of Nissan, which is supposed to occur in the Spring, would occur 11 days earlier in the season each year, eventually occurring in the Winter, the Fall, the Summer, and then the Spring again. On a 13-month lunar calendar, the same thing would happen in the other direction, and faster.

To compensate for this drift, the Jewish calendar uses a 12-month lunar calendar with an extra month occasionally added. The month of Nissan occurs 11 days earlier each year for two or three years, and then jumps forward 30 days, balancing out the drift. In ancient times, this month was added by observation: the Sanhedrin observed the conditions of the weather, the crops and the livestock, and if these were not sufficiently advanced to be considered "spring," then the Sanhedrin inserted an additional month into the calendar to make sure that Pesach (Passover) would occur in the spring (it is, after all, referred to in the Torah as Chag he-Aviv, the Festival of Spring!).

A year with 13 months is referred to in Hebrew as Shanah Me'uberet (pronounced shah-NAH meh-oo-BEH-reht), literally: a pregnant year. In English, we commonly call it a leap year. The additional month is known as Adar I, Adar Rishon (first Adar) or Adar Alef (the Hebrew letter Alef being the numeral "1" in Hebrew). The extra month is inserted before the regular month of Adar (known in such years as Adar II, Adar Sheini or Adar Beit). Note that Adar II is the "real" Adar, the one in which Purim is celebrated, the one in which yahreits for Adar are observed, the one in which a 13-year-old born in Adar becomes a Bar Mitzvah. Adar I is the "extra" Adar.

                (Continued Top Next Column)
 

In the fourth century, Hillel II established a fixed calendar based on mathematical and astronomical calculations. This calendar, still in use, standardized the length of months and the addition of months over the course of a 19 year cycle, so that the lunar calendar realigns with the solar years. Adar I is added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle. The current cycle began in Jewish year 5758 (the year that began October 2, 1997).

In addition, Yom Kippur should not fall adjacent to Shabbat, because this would cause difficulties in coordinating the fast with Shabbat, and Hoshannah Rabbah should not fall on Saturday because it would interfere with the holiday's observances. A day is added to the month of Cheshvan or subtracted from the month of Kislev of the previous year to prevent these things from happening. This process is sometimes referred to as "fixing" Rosh Hashanah.

Numbering of Jewish Years
The year number on the Jewish calendar represents the number of years since creation, calculated by adding up the ages of people in the Bible back to the time of creation. However, this does not necessarily mean that the universe has existed for only 5700 years as we understand years. Many Orthodox Jews will readily acknowledge that the first six "days" of creation are not necessarily 24-hour days (indeed, a 24-hour day would be meaningless until the creation of the sun on the fourth "day").

Jews do not generally use the words "A.D." and "B.C." to refer to the years on the civil calendar. "A.D." means "the year of our L-rd. Instead, we use the abbreviations C.E. (Common or Christian Era) and B.C.E. (Before the Common Era), which are commonly used by scholars today.

Months of the Jewish Year
The "first month" of the Jewish calendar is the month of Nissan, in the spring, when Passover occurs. However, the Jewish New Year is in Tishri, the seventh month, and that is when the year number is increased. This concept of different starting points for a year is not as strange as it might seem at first glance. The American "new year" starts in January, but the new "school year" starts in September, and many businesses have "fiscal years" that start at various times of the year. Similarly, the Jewish calendar has different starting points for different purposes.

The names of the months of the Jewish calendar were adopted during the time of Ezra, after the return from the Babylonian exile. The names are actually Babylonian month names, brought back to Israel by the returning exiles. Note that most of the Bible refers to months by number, not by name.

Note that the number of days between Nissan and Tishri is always the same. Because of this, the time from the first major festival (Passover in Nissan) to the last major festival (Sukkot in Tishri) is always the same.

The Jewish calendar has the following months:
Hebrew   English Number Length Civil Equivalent
Nissan
  Nissan 1 30 days March-April
Iyar
  Iyar 2 29 days April-May
Sivan
  Sivan 3 30 days May-June
Tammuz
  Tammuz 4 29 days June-July
Av
  Av 5 30 days July-August
Elul
  Elul 6 29 days August-September
Tishri
  Tishri 7 30 days September-October
Cheshvan
  Cheshvan 8 29 or 30 days October-November
Kislev
  Kislev 9 30 or 29 days November-December
Tevet
  Tevet 10 29 days December-January
Shevat
  Shevat 11 30 days January-February
Adar1
  Adar 1
  (leap years only)
12 30 days February-March
Adar
AdarBeit
  Adar
  (called Adar Beit
  in leap years)
12
(13 in leap years)
29 days February-March


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The Tabernacle in Branson The Tabernacle is an outreach of Tabernacle of Praise Ministries, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The Tabernacle is led by Messianic Rabbi Jeremy Storch and is located in Branson, Missouri. If you have questions or comments, please email us at: info@TheTabernacleInBranson.com. Visit The Tabernacle Website at www.TheTabernacleInBranson.com