Hebrew calendar


Hebrew calendar

The Hebrew calendar (הלוח העברי ha'luach ha'ivri), or Jewish calendar, is a lunisolar calendar used today predominantly for Jewish religious observances. It determines the dates for Jewish holidays and the appropriate public reading of Torah portions, yahrzeits (dates to commemorate the death of a relative), and daily Psalm reading, among many ceremonial uses. In Israel, it is an official calendar for civil purposes and provides a time frame for agriculture.

Originally the Hebrew calendar was used by Jews for all daily purposes, but following the conquest of Jerusalem by Pompey in 63 BCE (see also Iudaea province), Jews began additionally following the imperial civil calendar, which was decreed in 45 BCE, for civic matters such as the payment of taxes and dealings with government officials.

The Hebrew calendar has evolved over time. For example, until the Tannaitic period, the months were set by observation of a new crescent moon, with an additional month added every two or three years to keep Passover in the spring, again based on observation of natural events, namely the ripening of the barley crop, the age of the kids lambs and doves, the ripeness of the fruit trees, and the relation to the Tekufah.[1] Through the Amoraic period and into the Geonic period, this system was displaced by mathematical rules. The principles and rules appear to have been settled by the time Maimonides compiled the Mishneh Torah in the 12th century.

Because of the roughly eleven-day difference between twelve lunar months and one solar year, the length of the Hebrew calendar year varies in the repeating 19-year Metonic cycle of 235 lunar months, with the intercalary month added according to defined rules every two or three years, for a total of 7 times per 19 years. Seasonal references in the Hebrew calendar reflect its development in the region east of the Mediterranean and the times and climate of the Northern Hemisphere. The Hebrew calendar year is longer by about 6 minutes and 25+25/57 seconds than the present-day mean solar year, so that every 224 years, the Hebrew calendar will fall a full day behind the modern solar year, and about every 231 years it will fall a full day behind the Gregorian calendar year.

The present counting method for years use the Anno Mundi epoch (Latin for "in the year of the world", לבריאת העולם), abbreviated AM or A.M. and also referred to as the Hebrew era. Hebrew year 5771 (a leap year) began on 9 September 2010 and ended on 28 September 2011. Hebrew year 5772 began at sunset on 28 September 2011 and will end on 16 September 2012.

Contents

Structure

The Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar, or fixed lunar year, based on twelve lunar months of twenty-nine or thirty days, with an intercalary lunar month added seven times every nineteen years (once every two to three years) to synchronize the twelve lunar cycles with the slightly longer solar year. Each Jewish lunar month starts with the new moon. Although originally the new lunar crescent had to be observed and certified by witnesses, the moment of the new moon is now approximated arithmetically.

Concurrently there is a weekly cycle of seven days, mirroring the seven-day period of the Book of Genesis in which the world is created. The names for the days of the week, like those in the Creation story, are simply the day number within the week, with Shabbat being the seventh day. The Jewish day always runs from sunset to the next sunset; the formal adjustments used to specify a standard time and time zones are not relevant to the Jewish calendar.

The twelve regular months are: Nisan (30 days), Iyar (29 days), Sivan (30 days), Tammuz (29 days), Av (30 days), Elul (29 days), Tishrei (30 days), Marcheshvan (29 or 30 days), Kislev (29 or 30 days), Tevet (29 days), Shevat (30 days), and Adar (29 days). In the leap years (such as 5771) an additional month, Adar I (30 days) is added after Shevat, and the regular Adar is referred to as "Adar II".

The first month of the festival year is Nisan. 15 Nisan is the start of the festival of Pesach, corresponding to the full moon of Nisan. Pesach is a spring festival associated with the barley harvest,[2] so the leap-month mentioned above is intercalated periodically to keep this festival in the northern hemisphere's spring season. Since the adoption of a fixed calendar, intercalations in the Hebrew calendar have been at fixed points in a 19-year cycle. Prior to this, the intercalation was determined empirically:

The year may be intercalated on three grounds: 'aviv [i.e.the ripeness of barley], fruits of trees, and the equinox. On two of these grounds it should be intercalated, but not on one of them alone.[3]

The Bible designates Nisan, which it calls Aviv (Exodus 13:4), as the first month of the year (Exodus 12:2). At the same time, the season of the fall Festival of Booths (Sukkoth), is called "the end of the year" (Exodus 23:16). The Sabbatical year in which the land was to lie fallow, necessarily began at the time the winter barley and winter wheat would have been sown, in the fall.[citation needed] The Gezer calendar, an Israelite or Canaanite inscription c. 900 BCE, also begins in the fall.[4]

Modern practice follows the scheme described in the Mishnah: Nisan is the new year for the reigns of kings and the festivals. Rosh Hashanah, which means "the head of the year", and is celebrated in the month of Tishrei, is "the new year for the counting of years."[5] This is when the numbered year changes, which is most significant for determining the Shemittah and Yovel years.

Sources and history

The Tanakh contains several commandments related to the keeping of the calendar and the lunar cycle, and records changes that have taken place to the Hebrew calendar.

Day

For smaller units of time, see Measurement of hours below.

The Jewish day is of no fixed length. The Jewish day is modeled on the reference to "...there was evening and there was morning..."[6] in the Creation story in the first chapter of Genesis. Accordingly, it runs from sunset (start of "the evening") to the next sunset. However, some apply special rules at very high latitudes when the sun remains above or below the horizon for longer than a civil day.[7]

There is no clock in the Jewish scheme, so that a civil clock is used. Though the civil clock incorporates local adoptions of various conventions such as time zones, standard times and daylight saving, these have no place in the Jewish scheme. The civil clock is used only as a reference point - in expressions such as: "Shabbat starts at ...". The steady progression of sunset around the world and seasonal changes results in gradual civil time changes from one day to the next based on observable astronomical phenomena (the sunset) and not on man-made laws and conventions.

Instead of the international date line convention, there are varying opinions as to where the day changes. One opinion uses the antimeridian of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem is 35°13’ east of the prime meridian, so the antimeridian is at 144°47' W, passing through eastern Alaska.) Other opinions exist as well.[8][9]

Weeks

A bronze Shabbat candlestick holder made in Israel in the 1940s.

The Hebrew calendar follows a seven-day weekly cycle, which runs concurrently but independently of the monthly and annual cycles. The names for the days of the week are simply the day number within the week. In Hebrew, these names may be abbreviated using the numerical value of the Hebrew letters, for example יום א׳ (Day 1, or Yom Rishon (יום ראשון)):

  1. Yom Rishon - יום ראשון (abbreviated יום א׳) = "first day" = Sunday (starting at preceding sunset)
  2. Yom Sheni - יום שני (abbr. יום ב׳) = "second day" = Monday
  3. Yom Shlishi - יום שלישי (abbr. יום ג׳) = "third day" = Tuesday
  4. Yom Reviʻi - יום רבעי (abbr. יום ד׳) = "fourth day" = Wednesday
  5. Yom Chamishi - יום חמישי (abbr. יום ה׳) = "fifth day" = Thursday
  6. Yom Shishi - יום ששי (abbr. יום ו׳) = "sixth day" = Friday
  7. Yom Shabbat - יום שבת (abbr. יום ש׳) or more usually שבת - Shabbat = "Sabbath day (Rest day)" = Saturday

The names of the days of the week are modeled on the seven days mentioned in the Creation story. For example, Genesis 1:5 "... And there was evening and there was morning, one day". One day also translates to first day or day one. Similarly, see Genesis 1:8, 1:13, 1:19, 1:23, 1:31 and 2.2.

The Jewish Shabbat has a special role in the Jewish weekly cycle. There are many special rules which relate to the Shabbat, discussed more fully in the Talmudic tractate Shabbat.

In Hebrew, the word Shabbat (שַׁבָּת) can also mean "(Talmudic) week",[10] so that in ritual liturgy a phrase like "Yom Reviʻi bəShabbat" means "the fourth day in the week".[11]

Importance of lunar months

From very early times, the Mesopotamian lunisolar calendar was in wide use by the countries of the western Asia region. The structure, which was also used by the Israelites, was based on lunar months with the intercalation of an additional month to bring the cycle closer to the solar cycle.[12]

Num 10:10 stresses the importance in Israelite religious observance of the new month (Hebrew: ראש חודש, Rosh Chodesh, "beginning of the month"): "... in your new moons, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt-offerings..." Similarly in Num 28:11. "The beginning of the month" meant the appearance of a new moon. In prophet Amos, the new moon seem to be described simply as Kadosh.

According to the Mishnah and Tosefta, in the Maccabean, Herodian, and Mishnaic periods, new months were determined by the sighting of a new crescent, with two eye witnesses required to testify to the Sanhedrin to having seen the new lunar crescent at sunset.[13] The practice in the time of Gamaliel II (c. 100 CE) was for witnesses to select the appearance of the moon from a collection of drawings that depicted the crescent in a variety of orientations, only a few of which could be valid in any given month.[14] These observations were compared against calculations.[15] When thirty days elapsed since the last new moon, the witnesses were readily believed.[citation needed]

At first the beginning of each Jewish month was signaled to the communities of Israel and beyond by fires lit on mountaintops, but after the Samaritans began to light false fires, messengers were sent.[16] The inability of the messengers to reach communities outside Israel before mid-month High Holy Days (Succot and Passover) led outlying communities to celebrate scriptural festivals for two days rather than one, observing the second feast-day of the Jewish diaspora because of uncertainty of whether the previous month ended after 29 or 30 days.[17]

In his work Mishneh Torah (1178), Maimonides included a chapter "Sanctification of the New Moon", in which he discusses the calendrical rules and their scriptural basis. He notes,

"By how much does the solar year exceed the lunar year? By approximately 11 days. Therefore, whenever this excess accumulates to about 30 days, or a little more or less, one month is added and the particular year is made to consist of 13 months, and this is the so-called embolismic (intercalated) year. For the year could not consist of twelve months plus so-and-so many days, since it is said: throughout the months of the year (Num 28:14), which implies that we should count the year by months and not by days."[18]

Names of months

Biblical references to the pre-Jewish calendar include ten months identified by number rather than by name. In parts of the Torah portion Noach (Noah) (specifically, Gen 7:11, Gen 8:3-4, Gen 8:13-14) it is implied that the months are thirty days long.[19] There is also indication that there were twelve months in the annual cycle (1Kin 4:7, 1Chr 27:1-15).

Many countries in the western Asian region used the Mesopotamian calendar from very early times, though the names of months varied.[12] Prior to the Babylonian exile, the names of only four months are referred to in the Tanakh:

All of these are believed to be Canaanite names, and at least two are Phoenician (Northern Canaanite).[citation needed]

During the Babylonian exile, which started in 586 BCE, Babylonian month names were adopted, which are still in use.[12] The Syrian calendar used in the Levant region shares many of the names for months as the Hebrew calendar, such as Nisan, Iyyar, Tammuz, Ab, Elul, Tishri, and Adar, indicating a common Babylonian origin.

Hebrew names and romanized transliteration may somewhat differ, as they do for חשוון / Marcheshvan or כסלו / Kislev: the Hebrew words shown here are those commonly indicated e.g. in newspapers.

Hebrew names of the months with their Babylonian analogs
# Hebrew Tiberian Academy Common/
Other
Length Babylonian analog Holidays/
Notable days
Notes
1 נִיסָן Nīsān Nisan Nissan 30 days Nisanu Passover Called Abib (Exodus 13:4, 23:15, 34:18, Deut. 16:1)
and Nisan (Esther 3:7) in the Tanakh.
2 אִיָּר / אייר ʼIyyār Iyyar Iyar 29 days Ayaru Pesach Sheni
Lag B'Omer
Called Ziv in 1 Kings 6:1, 6:37.
3 סִיוָן / סיוון Sīwān Siwan Sivan 30 days Simanu Shavuot
4 תַּמּוּז Tammūz Tammuz Tamuz 29 days Dumuzu Seventeenth of Tammuz Named for the Babylonian god Dumuzi
5 אָב ʼĀḇ Av Ab 30 days Abu Tisha B'Av
Tu B'Av
6 אֱלוּל ʼĔlūl Elul Elul 29 days Ululu
7 תִּשׁרִי Tišrī Tishri Tishrei 30 days Tashritu Rosh Hashanah
Yom Kippur
Sukkot
Shmini Atzeret
Simchat Torah
Called Ethanim in 1 Kings 8:2.
First month of civil year.
8 מַרְחֶשְׁוָן / מרחשוון Marḥešwān Marẖeshwan Marcheshvan
Cheshvan
29 or
30 days
Arakhsamna Called Bul in 1 Kings 6:38.
9 כִּסְלֵו Kislēw Kislew Kislev
Chisleu
Chislev
29 or
30 days
Kislimu Hanukkah
10 טֵבֵת Ṭēḇēṯ Tebeth Tevet 29 days Tebetu Tenth of Tevet
11 שְׁבָט Šəḇāṭ Shevat Shvat
Shebat
30 days Shabatu Tu Bishvat
12L* אֲדָר א׳ Adar I* 30 days *Only in Leap years.
12 אֲדָר / אֲדָר ב׳ ʼĂḏār Adar / Adar II* 29 days Adaru Purim

In a regular (kesidran) year, Marcheshvan has 29 days and Kislev has 30 days. However, because of the Rosh Hashanah postponement rules (see below) Kislev may lose a day to have 29 days, and the year is called a short (chaser) year, or Marcheshvan may acquire an additional day to have 30 days, and the year is called a full (maleh) year. The calendar rules have been designed to ensure that Rosh Hashanah does not fall on a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday. This is to ensure that Yom Kippur does not directly precede or follow Shabbat, which would create practical difficulties, and that Hoshana Rabbah is not on a Shabbat, in which case certain ceremonies would be lost for a year.

Leap months

The solar year is about eleven days longer than twelve lunar months. The Bible does not directly mention the addition of "embolismic" or intercalary months. However, without the insertion of embolismic months, Jewish festivals would gradually shift outside of the seasons required by the Torah. This has been ruled as implying a requirement for the insertion of embolismic months to reconcile the lunar cycles to the seasons, which are integral to solar yearly cycles.

When the observational form of the calendar was in use, whether or not an embolismic month was announced after the "last month" (Adar) depended on 'aviv [i.e.the ripeness of barley], fruits of trees, and the equinox. On two of these grounds it should be intercalated, but not on one of them alone.[3] It may be noted that in the Bible the name of the first month, Aviv, literally means "spring". Thus, if Adar was over and Spring had not yet arrived, an additional month was observed. However, according to some traditions, the announcement of the month of Aviv could also be postponed depending on the condition of roads used by families to come to Jerusalem for Passover, adequate numbers of lambs to be sacrificed at the Temple, and on the ripeness of the barley that was needed for the first fruits ceremony.[citation needed]

Under the codified rules, the Jewish calendar is based on the Metonic cycle of 19 years, of which 12 are common years (12 months) and 7 leap years (13 months). The leap years are years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 of the Metonic cycle. Year 19 (there is no year 0) of the Metonic cycle is a year exactly divisible by 19 (when the Jewish year number, when divided by 19, has no remainder). In the same manner, the remainder of the division indicates the year in the Metonic cycle (years 1 to 18) the year is in.

During leap years Adar I (or Adar Aleph — "first Adar") is added before the regular Adar. Adar I is actually considered to be the extra month, and has 30 days. Adar II (or Adar Bet — "second Adar") is the "real" Adar, and has the usual 29 days. For this reason, holidays such as Purim are observed in Adar II, not Adar I.

New year

A shofar made from a ram's horn is traditionally blown in observance of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish civic year.

Exodus 12:2 and Deut 16:1 set Aviv (now Nisan) as "the first of months":

this month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.

Nisan 1 is referred to as the ecclesiastical new year.

In ancient Israel, the start of the ecclesiastical new year for the counting of months and festivals (i.e. Nisan) was determined by reference to Passover. Passover begins on 14 Nisan, (Leviticus 23:4-6) which corresponds to the full moon of Nisan. As Passover is a spring festival, 14 Nisan begins on the night of a full moon after the vernal equinox. According to normative Judaism, the verses in Exodus 12:1–2 require that the months be determined by a proper court with the necessary authority to sanctify the months.[20]

According to some Christians and Karaites, the tradition in ancient Israel was that 1 Nisan would not start until the barley is ripe, being the test for the onset of spring.[21] If the barley was not ripe an intercalary month would be added before Nisan.

The day most commonly referred to as the "New Year" is 1 Tishrei, which actually begins in the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year. On that day the formal New Year for the counting of years (such as Shmita and Yovel), Rosh Hashanah ("head of the year") is observed. (see Ezekiel 40:1, which uses the phrase "beginning of the year".) This is the civil new year, and the date on which the year number advances. Certain agricultural practices are also marked from this date.[22]

Josephus, in the 1st century CE, states that while -

Moses...appointed Nisan...as the first month for the festivals...the commencement of the year for everything relating to divine worship, but for selling and buying and other ordinary affairs he preserved the ancient order [i. e. the year beginning with Tishrei]."[23]

Edwin Thiele has concluded that the ancient northern Kingdom of Israel counted years using the ecclesiastical new year starting on 1 Aviv (Nisan), while the southern Kingdom of Judah counted years using the civil new year starting on 1 Tishrei.[24] The practice of the Kingdom of Israel was also that of Babylon,[25] as well as other countries of the region.[12] The practice of Judah is still followed.

In fact the Jewish calendar has a multiplicity of new years for different purposes. The use of these dates has been in use for a long time. The use of multiple starting dates for a year is comparable to different starting dates for civil "calendar years", "tax or fiscal years", "academic years", "religious cycles", etc. By the time of the redaction of the Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 1:1 (c. 200 CE), jurists had identified four new-year dates:

The 1st of Nisan is the new year for kings and feasts; the 1st of Elul is the new year for the tithe of cattle... the 1st of Tishri is the new year for years, of the years of release and jubilee years, for the planting and for vegetables; and the 1st of Shevat is the new year for trees-so the school of Shammai; and the school of Hillel say: On the 15th thereof.[26]

The month of Elul is the new year for counting animal tithes (ma'aser). Tu Bishvat ("the 15th of Shevat") marks the new year for trees (and agricultural tithes).

Epoch

The Jewish calendar's reference point is traditionally held to be about one year before the Creation of the world.

Since about the 3rd century CE, the Jewish calendar has used the Anno Mundi epoch (Latin for “in the year of the world,” abbreviated AM or A.M.; Hebrew לבריאת העולם), sometimes referred to as the “Hebrew era.” According to Rabbinic reckoning, the beginning of "year 1" is not Creation, but about one year before Creation, with the new moon of its first month (Tishrei) to be called molad tohu (the mean new moon of chaos or nothing).

The Jewish calendar's epoch (reference date), 1 Tishrei 1 AM, is equivalent to Monday, 7 October 3761 BCE in the proleptic Julian calendar, the equivalent tabular date (same daylight period) and is about one year before the traditional Jewish date of Creation on 25 Elul AM 1, based upon the Seder Olam Rabbah of Rabbi Yossi ben Halafta, a 2nd century CE sage.[27] Thus, adding 3760 before Rosh Hashanah or 3761 after to a Julian or Gregorian year number after 1 CE will yield the Hebrew year. For earlier years there may be a discrepancy (see: Missing years (Jewish calendar)).

The Jewish year 5771 AM began on 9 September 2010 (1 Tishrei or Rosh Hashanah) and, since it is a 13-month year, ended on 28 September 2011 (29 Elul).

In Hebrew there are 2 common ways of writing the year number: 1. with the thousands, called לפרט גדול ("major era"). 2. without the thousands, called לפרט קטן ("minor era").

Other systems

The Seder Olam Rabbah also recognized the importance of the Jubilee and Sabbatical cycles as a long-term calendrical system, and attempted at various places to fit the Sabbatical and Jubilee years into its chronological scheme.

Before the adoption of the current year numbering system, other systems were in use. In early times, the years were counted from some significant historic event. (e.g. 1 Kings 6:1) During the period of the monarchy, it was the widespread practice in western Asia to use era year numbers according to the accession year of the monarch of the country involved. This practice was also followed by the united kingdom of Israel (e.g. 1 Kings 14:25), kingdom of Judah (e.g. 2 Kings 18:13), kingdom of Israel (e.g. 2 Kings 17:6), Persia (e.g. Nehemiah 2:1) and others. Besides, the author of Kings coordinated dates in the two kingdoms by giving the accession year of a monarch in terms of the year of the monarch of the other kingdom, (e.g. 2 Kings 8:16) though some commentators note that these dates do not synchronise.[24] Other era dating systems have been used at other times. For example, during the Babylonian captivity, Ezekiel counted the years from the first deportation, that of Jehoiachin, (e.g. Ezekiel 1:1-2). The era year was then called "year of the captivity of Jehoiachin". (e.g. 2 Kings 25:27) During the Greek period, Seleucid era counting was used. (e.g. 1 Maccabees 1:54)

Karaite calendar

For several centuries, many Karaite Jews, especially those outside Israel, followed the calculated Rabbinic calendar, because it was not possible during the exile to retrieve accurate new moon sightings, and aviv barley data from the land of Israel, which had to be relayed to the entire Karaite Jewish community. However, since the establishment of the State of Israel, and especially since the Six Day War, most Karaite Jews have made aliyah, and can now again use the observational calendar.

Karaites use the lunar month and the solar year, but the Karaite calendar differs from the Rabbinic calendar in a number of ways.

For Karaites, the beginning of each month, the Rosh Chodesh, can be calculated, but is confirmed by the observation in Israel of the first sightings of the new moon.[28] This may result in an occasional variation of a maximum of one day, depending on the inability to observe the new moon. The day is usually "picked up" in the next month.

The addition of the leap month (Adar II) is determined by observing in Israel the ripening of barley at a specific stage (defined by Karaite tradition) (called aviv),[29] rather than using the calculated and fixed calendar of Rabbinic Judaism. Occasionally this results in Karaites being one month ahead of other Jews using the calculated Rabbinic calendar. The "lost" month would be "picked up" in the next cycle when Karaites would observe a leap month while other Jews would not.

Furthermore, the seasonal drift of the Rabbinic calendar is avoided, resulting in the years affected by the drift starting one month earlier in the Karaite calendar.

Also, the four rules of postponement of the Rabbinic calendar are not applied, as they are not mentioned in the Tanakh. This can affect the dates observed for all the Jewish holidays in a particular year by one day.

Change to a calculated calendar

Observational principles

A stone (2.43x1 m) with Hebrew inscription "To the Trumpeting Place" is believed to be a part of the Second Temple.

Evaluation of the Mishnaic evidence

It has been noted[30] that the procedures described in the Mishnah and Tosefta are all plausible procedures for regulating an empirical lunar calendar. Fire-signals, for example, or smoke-signals, are known from the pre-exilic Lachish ostraca.[31] Furthermore, the Mishnah contains laws that reflect the uncertainties of an empirical calendar. Mishnah Sanhedrin, for example, holds that when one witness holds that an event took place on a certain day of the month, and another that the same event took place on the following day, their testimony can be held to agree, since the length of the preceding month was uncertain.[32] Another Mishnah takes it for granted that it cannot be known in advance whether a year's lease is for twelve or thirteen months.[33] Hence it is a reasonable conclusion that the Mishnaic calendar was actually used in the Mishnaic period.

The accuracy of the Mishnah's claim that the Mishnaic calendar was also used in the late Second Temple period is less certain. One scholar has noted[34] that there are no laws from Second Temple period sources that indicate any doubts about the length of a month or of a year. This led him to propose that the priests must have had some form of computed calendar or calendrical rules that allowed them to know in advance whether a month would have 30 or 29 days, and whether a year would have 12 or 13 months.

Modern calendar

The Arch of Titus depicting the objects from the Temple being carried through Rome.

Between 70 CE and 1178 CE, the observation-based calendar was gradually replaced by a mathematically calculated one.[35] Except for the epoch year number, the calendar rules reached their current form by the beginning of the 9th century, as described by the Muslim astronomer al-Khwarizmi (c. 780–850 CE) in 823.[36][37]

One notable difference between the calendar of that era and the modern form was the date of the epoch (the fixed reference point at the beginning of year 1), which at that time was one year later than the epoch of the modern calendar.

Most of the present rules of the calendar were in place by 823, according to a treatise by al-Khwarizmi. Al-Khwarizmi's study of the Jewish calendar, Risāla fi istikhrāj taʾrīkh al-yahūd "Extraction of the Jewish Era" describes the 19-year intercalation cycle, the rules for determining on what day of the week the first day of the month Tishrī shall fall, the interval between the Jewish era (creation of Adam) and the Seleucid era, and the rules for determining the mean longitude of the sun and the moon using the Jewish calendar.[36][37]

In 921, Aaron ben Meïr proposed changes to the calendar. Though the proposals were rejected, they indicate that all of the rules of the modern calendar (except for the epoch) were in place before that date. In 1000, the Muslim chronologist al-Biruni described all of the modern rules of the Hebrew calendar, except that he specified three different epochs used by various Jewish communities being one, two, or three years later than the modern epoch.[38]

There is a tradition, first mentioned by Hai Gaon (d. 1038 CE), that Hillel b. R. Yehuda "in the year 670 of the Seleucid era" (i.e., 358–359 CE) was responsible for the new calculated calendar with a fixed intercalation cycle. Later writers, such as Nachmanides, explained Hai Gaon's words to mean that the entire computed calendar was due to Hillel b. Yehuda in response to persecution of Jews. Maimonides, in the 12th century, stated that the Mishnaic calendar was used "until the days of Abaye and Rava", who flourished c. 320–350 CE, and that the change came when "the land of Israel was destroyed, and no permanent court was left." Taken together, these two traditions suggest that Hillel b. Yehuda (whom they identify with the mid-4th century Jewish patriarch Ioulos, attested in a letter of the Emperor Julian,[39] and the Jewish patriarch Ellel, mentioned by Epiphanius[40]) instituted the computed Hebrew Calendar because of persecution. H. Graetz [41] linked the introduction of the computed calendar to a sharp repression following a failed Jewish insurrection that occurred during the rule of the Christian emperor Constantius and Gallus. A later writer, S. Lieberman, argued[42] instead that the introduction of the fixed calendar was due to measures taken by Christian Roman authorities to prevent the Jewish patriarch from sending calendrical messengers.

Both the tradition that Hillel b. Yehuda instituted the complete computed calendar, and the theory that the computed calendar was introduced due to repression or persecution, have been questioned.[43][44][45] Furthermore, two Jewish dates during post-Talmudic times (specifically in 506 and 776) are impossible under the rules of the modern calendar, indicating that its arithmetic rules were developed in Babylonia during the times of the Geonim (7th to 8th centuries).[46] The Babylonian rules required the delay of the first day of Tishrei when the new moon occurred after noon.[citation needed]

The Talmuds do, however, indicate at least the beginnings of a transition from a purely empirical to a computed calendar. According to a statement attributed to Yose, an Amora who lived during the second half of the 3rd century, the feast of Purim, 14 Adar, could not fall on a Sabbath nor a Monday, lest 10 Tishrei (Yom Kippur) fall on a Friday or a Sunday.[47] This indicates that, by the time of the redaction of the Jerusalem Talmud (c. 400 CE), there were a fixed number of days in all months from Adar to Elul, also implying that the extra month was already a second Adar added before the regular Adar. In another passage, a sage is reported to have counseled "those who make the computations" not to set the first day of Tishrei or the Day of the Willow on the sabbath.[48] This indicates that there was a group who "made computations" and were in a position to control, to some extent, the day of the week on which Rosh Hashanah would fall.

Other practices

Outside of Rabbinic circles, evidence shows a diversity of Jewish practice.

The Essenes' calendar

Many of the Dead Sea (Qumran) Scrolls have references to a unique calendar, used by the people there, who are often assumed to be Essenes.

The year of this calendar used the ideal Mesopotamian calendar of twelve 30-day months, to which were added 4 days at the equinoxes and solstices (cardinal points), making a total of 364 days.

There was some ambiguity as to whether the cardinal days were at the beginning of the months or at the end, but the clearest calendar attestations give a year of four seasons, each having three months of 30, 30, and 31 days with the cardinal day the extra day at the end, for a total of 91 days, or exactly 13 weeks. Each season started on the 4th day of the week (Wednesday), every year. (Ben-Dov, Head of All Years, p. 16-17)

With only 364 days, it is clear that the calendar would after a few years be very noticeably different from the actual seasons, but there is nothing to indicate what was done about this problem. Various suggestions have been made by scholars. One is that nothing was done and the calendar was allowed to change with respect to the seasons. Another suggestion is that changes were made irregularly, only when the seasonal anomaly was too great to be ignored any longer. (Ben-Dov, Head of All Years, p. 19-20)

The writings often discuss the moon, but the calendar was not based on the movement of the moon any more than indications of the phases of the moon on a modern western calendar indicate that that is a lunar calendar.

Persian civil calendar

Calendrical evidence for the postexilic Persian period is found in papyri from the Jewish colony at Elephantine, in Egypt. These documents show that the Jewish community of Elephantine used the Egyptian and Babylonian calendars.[49][50]

The Sardica paschal table shows that the Jewish community of some eastern city, possibly Antioch, used a calendrical scheme that kept Nisan 14 within the limits of the Julian month of March.[51] Some of the dates in the document are clearly corrupt, but they can be emended to make the sixteen years in the table consistent with a regular intercalation scheme. Peter, the bishop of Alexandria (early 4th century CE), mentions that the Jews of his city "hold their Passover according to the course of the moon in the month of Phamenoth, or according to the intercalary month every third year in the month of Pharmuthi",[52] suggesting a fairly consistent intercalation scheme that kept Nisan 14 approximately between the Phamenoth 10 (March 6 in the 4th century CE) and Pharmuthi 10 (April 5). Jewish funerary inscriptions from Zoar, south of the Dead Sea, dated from the 3rd to the 5th century CE, indicate that when years were intercalated, the intercalary month was at least sometimes a repeated month of Adar. But the inscriptions reveal no clear pattern of regular intercalations, nor do they indicate any consistent rule for determining the start of the lunar month.[53]

In 1178, Maimonides included all the rules for the calculated calendar and their scriptural basis, including the modern epochal year in his work, Mishneh Torah. Today, the rules detailed in Maimonides' code are those generally used by Jewish communities throughout the world.

Usage in contemporary Israel

Early Zionist pioneers were impressed by the fact that the calendar preserved by Jews over many centuries in far-flung diasporas, as a matter of religious ritual, was geared to the climate of their original country: the Jewish New Year marks the moment of transition from the dry season to the rainy one, and major Jewish holidays such as Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot correspond to major points of the country's agricultural year such as planting and harvest.

Accordingly, in the early 20th century the Hebrew calendar was re-interpreted as an agricultural rather than religious calendar. The Kibbutz movement was especially inventive in creating new rituals fitting this interpretation.

After the creation of the State of Israel, the Hebrew calendar became one of the official calendars of Israel, along with the Gregorian calendar. Holidays and commemorations not derived from previous Jewish tradition were to be fixed according to the Hebrew calendar date. For example, the Israeli Independence Day falls on 5 Iyar, Jerusalem Reunification Day on 28 Iyar, and the Holocaust Commemoration Day on 27 Nisan.

Nevertheless, since the 1950s usage of the Hebrew calendar has steadily declined, in favor of the Gregorian calendar. At present, Israelis — except for a minority of the religiously observant — conduct their private and public life according to the Gregorian calendar, although the Hebrew calendar is still widely acknowledged, appearing in public venues such as banks (where it is legal for use on cheques and other documents, though only rarely do people make use of this option) and on the mastheads of newspapers.

The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) is a two-day public holiday in Israel. However, since the 1980s an increasing number of secular Israelis celebrate the Gregorian New Year (usually known as "Silvester Night" — "ליל סילבסטר") on the night between 31 December and 1 January. Prominent Rabbis have on several occasions sharply denounced this practice, but with no noticeable effect on the secularist celebrants. [citation needed]

The disparity between the two calendars is especially noticeable with regard to commemoration of the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. The official Day of Commemoration, instituted by a special Knesset law, is marked according to the Hebrew calendar - on 12 Marcheshvan. However, left-leaning Israelis, who revere Rabin as a martyr for the cause of peace and who are predominantly secular, hold their commemoration on 4 November. In some years the two competing Rabin Memorial Days are separated by as much as two weeks.

Wall calendars commonly used in Israel are hybrids. Most are organised according to Gregorian rather than Jewish months, but begin in September, when the Jewish New Year usually falls, and provide the Jewish date in small characters.

Principles

There are three qualities that distinguish one year from another: whether it is a leap year or a common year, on which of four permissible days of the week the year begins, and whether it is a deficient, regular, or complete year. Mathematically, there are 24 (2x4x3) possible combinations, but only 14 of them are valid. Each of these patterns is called a keviyah (Hebrew קביעה for "a setting" or "an established thing"), and is encoded as a series of three Hebrew letters.

Leap years

The Jewish calendar is based on the Metonic cycle of 19 years, of which 12 are common (non-leap) years of 12 months and 7 are leap years of 13 months. To determine whether a Jewish year is a leap year, one must find its position in the 19-year Metonic cycle. This position is calculated by dividing the Jewish year number by 19 and finding the remainder. For example, Jewish year 5771 divided by 19 results in a remainder of 14, indicating that it is year 14 of the Metonic cycle. Since there is no year 0, a remainder of 0 indicates that the year is year 19 of the cycle. (See also Golden number (time).)

Years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 of the Metonic cycle are leap years. To assist in remembering this sequence, some people use the mnemonic Hebrew word GUCHADZaT "גוחאדז"ט", where the Hebrew letters gimel-vav-het aleph-dalet-zayin-tet are used as Hebrew numerals equivalent to 3, 6, 8, 1, 4, 7, 9. The keviyah merely records whether the year is leap or common; פ for p'shutah, meaning simple and indicating a common year, and מ indicating a leap year.[54]

Another memory aid notes that intervals of the major scale follow the same pattern as do Jewish leap years, with do corresponding to year 19 (or 0): a whole step in the scale corresponds to two common years between consecutive leap years, and a half step to one common year between two leap years. This connection with the major scale is more remarkable in the context of 19 equal temperament.

A mathematical way to determine leap year is to calculate the remainder using the following calculation: (7 x the Jewish year number + 1) / 19; if the remainder is less than 7, the year is a leap year. Also, rounding the result of (7 x the Jewish year number + 1) / 13 to the nearest whole number calculates a 0 for leap years and 1 for common years. Therefore the following Excel formulas calculate a "Binary" representation of leap year (the first pair generate a 0 for Leap Year and 1 for Common Year, and the later pair generate TRUE for Leap Year and FALSE for Common Year):

=MIN(1, INT(MOD((7 * yyyy + 1), 19) / 7))

=ROUND(MOD(7 * yyyy + 1, 19) / 13, 0)

=MIN(1, INT(MOD((7 * yyyy + 1), 19) / 7))=0

=ROUND(MOD(7 * yyyy + 1, 19) / 13, 0)=0

Rosh Hashanah postponement

Day of week Number of days
Monday 353 355 383 385
Tuesday 354 384
Thursday 354 355 383 385
Saturday 353 355 383 385

To calculate the day on which Rosh Hashanah falls, it is necessary to first calculate the molad (lunar conjunction or new moon) of Tishrei, and then determine whether the start of the year must be postponed. The molad can be calculated by multiplying the mean length of a lunar month (29 days, 12 hours, and 793 parts) by the elapsed time since another molad whose weekday is known. (There are 1080 "parts" in an hour, making one part equal to 31/3 seconds.) The molad tohu began 2 days, 5 hours, and 204 parts after the beginning of the week.

The rules are complicated by the fact that the months subject to adjustment, Marcheshvan and Kislev, are the eighth and ninth months of the ecclesiastical year while Tishrei is the seventh month. This means that adjustments must be made in one year in anticipation of the day of the week on which Rosh Hashanah will fall in the next year, which may itself be affected by the day on which it will fall in the third year, and so on. The process is further complicated by the need to insert leap months in accordance with their own cycle.

Nevertheless, only four possible adjustments are needed. These are called the Rosh Hashanah postponement rules, or deḥiyyot:[55]

  • If the molad occurs at or later than 18 hours, Rosh Hashanah is postponed a day. This is called deḥiyyah molad zaken, meaning an "old conjunction."
  • If the molad occurs on a Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday, Rosh Hashanah is postponed a day. If deḥiyyah molad zaken places Rosh Hashanah on one of these days, it is postponed a second day. This is called deḥiyyah lo ADU, an acronym meaning "not one, four, or six."

The first of these (deḥiyyah molad zaken) is thought to be a relic of when the calendar was established empirically (although there is some doubt); the second (deḥiyyah lo ADU) is applied for religious reasons.[56]

The last two rules are applied much less frequently and exist to prevent illegal year lengths. Because they apply to the molad, they are never used if another postponement is made. Their names are Hebrew acronyms for the way they are calculated:

  • If the molad in a common year falls on a Tuesday after 9 hours and 204 parts, Rosh Hashanah is postponed to Thursday. This is deḥiyyah GaTaRaD, an acronym meaning "3 (Tuesday), 9, 204."
  • If the molad following a leap year falls on a Monday after 15 hours and 589 parts, Rosh Hashanah is postponed to Tuesday. This is deḥiyyah BeTUTeKaPoT, and acronym for "2 (Monday), 15, 589."

At the innovation of the rabbis, the mathematical calendar has been arranged to ensure that Yom Kippur does not fall on a Friday or Sunday, and Hoshana Rabbah does not fall on Shabbat.[57] These rules have been instituted because Shabbat restrictions also apply to Yom Kippur, so that if Yom Kippur were to fall on Friday, it would not be possible to make necessary preparations for Shabbat (such as candle lighting). Similarly, if Yom Kippur fell on a Sunday, it would not be possible to make preparations for Yom Kippur because the preceding day is Shabbat.[58] Additionally, the laws of Shabbat override those of Hoshana Rabbah, so that if Hoshana Rabbah were to fall on Shabbat certain rituals that are a part of the Hoshana Rabbah service (such as carrying willows, which is a form of work) could not be performed.[59]

To prevent Yom Kippur (10 Tishrei) from falling on a Friday or Sunday, Rosh Hashanah (1 Tishrei) cannot be a Wednesday or Friday. Likewise, to prevent Hoshana Rabbah (21 Tishrei) from falling on a Saturday, Rosh Hashanah cannot be a Sunday. This leaves only four days on which Rosh Hashanah can fall: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, which are referred as the "four gates." Each day is associated with a number (its order in the week, starting with Sunday as 1), and these numbers are associated with Hebrew letters. Therefore the keviyah uses the letters ה,ג,ב and ז (representing 2, 3, 5, and 7, for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) to denote the starting day of the year.

Deficient, regular, and complete years

The postponement of the year is compensated for by adding a day to the second month or removing one from the third month. A Jewish common year can only have 353, 354, or 355 days. A leap year is always 30 days longer, and so can have 383, 384, or 385 days.

  • A chaserah year (Hebrew for "deficient" or "incomplete") is 353 or 383 days long. Both Marcheshvan and Kislev have 29 days. The Hebrew letter ח "het" is used in the keviyah.
  • A kesidrah year ("regular" or "in-order") is 354 or 384 days long. Marcheshvan has 29 days while Kislev has 30 days. The Hebrew letter כ "kaf" is used in the keviyah.
  • A shlemah year ("complete" or "perfect") is 355 or 385 days long. Both Marcheshvan and Kislev have 30 days. The Hebrew letter ש "shin" is used in the keviyah.

Whether a year is deficient, regular, or complete is determined by the time between two adjacent Rosh Hashanah observances and the leap year. While the keviyah is sufficient to describe a year, a variant specifies the day of the week for the first day of Pesach (Passover) in lieu of the year length.

A Metonic cycle equates to 235 lunar months in each 19-year cycle. This gives an average of 6939 days, 16 hours, and 595 parts for each cycle. But due to the Rosh Hashanah postponement rules (preceding section) a cycle of 19 Jewish years can be either 6939, 6940, 6941, or 6942 days in duration. Since none of these values is evenly divisible by seven, the Jewish calendar repeats exactly only following 36,288 Metonic cycles, or 689,472 Jewish years. There is a near-repetition every 247 years, except for an excess of 50 minutes (905 parts).

Days of week of holidays

The period from 1 Adar (or Adar II, in leap years) to 29 Heshvan contains all of the festivals specified in the Bible - Purim (14 Adar), Pesach (15 Nisan), Shavuot (6 Sivan), Rosh Hashanah (1 Tishrei), Yom Kippur (10 Tishrei), Sukkot (15 Tishrei), and Shemini Atzeret (22 Tishrei). This period is fixed, during which no adjustments are made.

Purim Passover
(first day)
Shavuot
(first day)
17 Tammuz/
Tisha B'Av
Rosh Hashanah/
Sukkot/
Shmini Atzeret/
(first day)
Yom Kippur Chanukah
(first day)
10 Tevet Tu Bishvat
Thu Sat Sun Sun* Mon Wed Sun or Mon Sun or Tue Sat or Mon
Fri Sun Mon Sun Tue Thu Mon Tue Mon
Sun Tue Wed Tue Thu Sat Wed or Thu Wed, Thu, or Fri Tue, Wed, or Thu
Tue Thu Fri Thu Sat Mon Fri or Sat Fri or Sun Thu or Sat
*Postponed from Shabbat

Measurement of hours

Every hour is divided into 1080 halakim or parts. A part is 3⅓ seconds or 1/18 minute. The ultimate ancestor of the helek was a small Babylonian time period called a barleycorn, itself equal to 1/72 of a Babylonian time degree (1° of celestial rotation).[60] Actually, the barleycorn or she was the name applied to the smallest units of all Babylonian measurements, whether of length, area, volume, weight, angle, or time.

The weekdays start with Sunday (day 1) and proceed to Saturday (day 7). Since some calculations use division, a remainder of 0 signifies Saturday.

While calculations of days, months and years are based on fixed hours equal to 1/24 of a day, the beginning of each halachic day is based on the local time of sunset. The end of the Shabbat and other Jewish holidays is based on nightfall (Tzeth haKochabim) which occurs some amount of time, typically 42 to 72 minutes, after sunset. According to Maimonides, nightfall occurs when three medium-sized stars become visible after sunset. By the 17th century this had become three second-magnitude stars. The modern definition is when the center of the sun is 7° below the geometric (airless) horizon, somewhat later than civil twilight at 6°. The beginning of the daytime portion of each day is determined both by dawn and sunrise. Most halachic times are based on some combination of these four times and vary from day to day throughout the year and also vary significantly depending on location. The daytime hours are often divided into Sha`oth Zemaniyoth or "Halachic hours" by taking the time between sunrise and sunset or between dawn and nightfall and dividing it into 12 equal hours. The nighttime hours are similarly divided into 12 equal portions, albeit a different amount of time than the "hours" of the daytime. The earliest and latest times for Jewish services, the latest time to eat Chametz on the day before Passover and many other rules are based on Sha`oth Zemaniyoth. For convenience, the modern day using Sha`oth Zemaniyoth is often discussed as if sunset were at 6:00pm, sunrise at 6:00am and each hour were equal to a fixed hour. For example, halachic noon may be after 1:00pm in some areas during daylight saving time. Within the Mishnah, however, the numbering of the hours starts with the "first" hour after the start of the day.[61]

Worked example

Given the length of the year, the length of each month is fixed as described above, so the real problem in determining the calendar for a year is determining the number of days in the year. In the modern calendar this is determined in the following manner.[62]

The day of Rosh Hashanah and the length of the year are determined by the time and the day of the week of the Tishrei molad, that is, the moment of the average conjunction. Given the Tishrei molad of a certain year, the length of the year is determined as follows:

First, one must determined whether each year is an ordinary or leap year by its position in the 19-year Metonic cycle. Years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 are leap years.

Secondly, one must determine the number of days between the starting Tishrei molad (TM1) and the Tishrei molad of the next year (TM2). For calendar descriptions in general the day begins at 6 pm, but for the purpose of determining Rosh Hashanah, a molad occurring on or after noon is treated as belonging to the next day (the second deḥiyyah).[63] All months are calculated as 29d, 12h, 44m, 3 1/3s long (MonLen). Therefore, in an ordinary year TM2 occurs 12 x MonLen days after TM1. This is usually 354 calendar days after TM1, but if TM1 is on or after 3:11:20 a.m. and before noon, it will be 355 days. Similarly, in a leap year, TM2 occurs 13 x MonLen days after TM1. This is usually 384 days after TM1, but if TM1 is on or after noon and before 2:27:16 2/3 pm., TM2 will be only 383 days after TM1. In the same way, from TM2 we calculate TM3. Thus the four natural year lengths are 354, 355, 383, and 384 days.

However, because of the holiday rules Rosh Hashanah cannot fall on a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday, so if TM2 is one of those days, Rosh Hashanah in year 2 is postponed by adding one day to year 1 (the first deḥiyyah). To compensate, one day is subtracted from year 2. It is to allow these adjustments that the system allows 385-day years (long leap) and 353-day years(short ordinary) besides the four natural year lengths.

But how can we lengthen year 1 if it is already a long ordinary year of 355 days or shorten year 2 if it is a short leap year of 383 days? That is why we need the third and fourth deḥiyyahs.

If year 1 is already a long ordinary year of 355 days, there will be a problem if TM1 is on a Tuesday,[64] as that means TM2 falls on a Sunday and will have to be postponed, creating a 356-day year. In this case, Rosh Hashanah in year 1 is postponed from Tuesday (the third deḥiyyah). As it cannot be postponed to Wednesday, it is postponed to Thursday, and year 1 ends up with 354 days.

On the other hand, if year 2 is already a short year of 383 days there will be a problem if TM2 is on a Wednesday.[65] because Rosh Hashanah in year 2 will have to be postponed from Wednesday to Thursday and this will cause year 2 to be only 382 days long. In this case, year 2 is extended by one day by postponing Rosh Hashanah in year 3 from Monday to Tuesday (the fourth deḥiyyah ), and year 2 will have 383 days.

Astronomic calculations

Synodic month - the molad interval

A "new moon" (astronomically called a lunar conjunction and in Hebrew called a molad) is the moment at which the sun and moon are aligned horizontally with respect to a north-south line (technically, they have the same ecliptical longitude). The period between two new moons is a synodic month. The actual length of a synodic month varies from about 29 days 6 hours and 30 minutes (29.27 days) to about 29 days and 20 hours (29.83 days), a variation range of about 13 hours and 30 minutes. Accordingly, for convenience, a long-term average length called the mean synodic month (also called the molad interval) is used. The mean synodic month is \tfrac{765433}{25920} days, or 29 days, 12 hours, and 793 parts (44+1/18 minutes) (i.e. 29.530594 days), and is the same value determined by the Babylonians in the System B in about 300 BCE[60] and was adopted by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus in the 2nd century BC and by the Alexandrian astronomer Ptolemy in Almagest in the 2nd century CE (who cited Hipparchus as his source). Its remarkable accuracy (less than one second from the true value) is thought to have been achieved using records of lunar eclipses from the 8th to 5th centuries BCE.[66]

This value is as close to the correct value of 29.530589 days as it is possible for a value to come that is rounded off to whole parts (1/18 minute). The discrepancy makes the molad interval about 0.6 seconds too long. Put another way, if the molad is taken as the time of mean conjunction at some reference meridian, then this reference meridian is drifting slowly eastward. If this drift of the reference meridian is traced back to the mid-4th century CE, the traditional date of the introduction of the fixed calendar, then it is found to correspond to a longitude midway between the Nile and the end of the Euphrates. The modern molad moments match the mean solar times of the lunar conjunction moments near the meridian of Kandahar, Afghanistan, more than 30° east of Jerusalem. Furthermore, due to the eccentricity of Earth's orbit, series of shorter lunations alternate with series of longer lunations. Consequently the actual lunar conjunction moments can range from 12 hours earlier than to 16 hours later than the molad moment, in terms of Jerusalem mean solar time.

Furthermore, the discrepancy between the molad interval and the mean synodic month is accumulating at an accelerating rate, since the mean synodic month is progressively shortening due to gravitational tidal effects. Measured on a strictly uniform time scale, such as that provided by an atomic clock, the mean synodic month is becoming gradually longer, but since the tides slow Earth's rotation rate even more, the mean synodic month is becoming gradually shorter in terms of mean solar time.

Seasonal drift

The mean Hebrew calendar year is 365 days 5 hours 55 minutes and 25+25/57 seconds long (365.2468 days) - computed as the molad/monthly interval of 29.530594 days × 235 months in a 19-year metonic cycle ÷ 19 years per cycle. As the present-era mean northward equinoctal year is 365 days 5 hours 49 minutes 1 second long (365.2424 days), the Hebrew calendar has a "seasonal drift" in relation to the tropical year of about a day every 224 years.

In relation to the Gregorian calendar, the mean Gregorian calendar year is 365 days 5 hours 49 minutes and 12 seconds long (365.2425 days), and the drift of the Hebrew calendar in relation to it is about a day every 231 years.

The impact of the drift is reflected in the drift of the date of Passover from the vernal full moon:

Comparison of vernal full moon to
actual dates of Passover: 2001–2020[67]
In Gregorian dates
Year Astronomical vernal full moon Passover*
2001 8 April 8 April
2002 28 March 28 March
2003 16 April 17 April
2004 5 April 6 April
2005 25 March 24 April
2006 13 April 13 April
2007 2 April 3 April
2008 21 March 20 April
2009 9 April 9 April
2010 30 March 30 March
2011 18 April 19 April
2012 6 April 7 April
2013 27 March 26 March
2014 15 April 15 April
2015 4 April 4 April
2016 23 March 23 April
2017 11 April 11 April
2018 31 March 31 March
2019 21 March 20 April
2020 8 April 9 April
*Passover commences at sunset preceding the date indicated.

Implications for Jewish ritual

This figure, in a detail of a medieval Hebrew calendar, reminded Jews of the palm branch (Lulav), the myrtle twigs, the willow branches, and the citron (Etrog) to be held in the hand and to be brought to the synagogue during the holiday of sukkot, near the end of the autumn holiday season.

Although the molad of Tishrei is the only molad moment that is not ritually announced, it is actually the only one that is relevant to the Hebrew calendar, for it determines the provisional date of Rosh Hashanah, subject to the Rosh Hashanah postponement rules. The other monthly molad moments are announced for mystical reasons. With the moladot on average almost 100 minutes late, this means that the molad of Tishrei lands one day later than it ought to in (100 minutes) ÷ (1440 minutes per day) = 5 of 72 years or nearly 7% of years!

Therefore the seemingly small drift of the moladot is already significant enough to affect the date of Rosh Hashanah, which then cascades to many other dates in the calendar year and sometimes, due to the Rosh Hashanah postponement rules, also interacts with the dates of the prior or next year. The molad drift could be corrected by using a progressively shorter molad interval that corresponds to the actual mean lunar conjunction interval at the original molad reference meridian. Furthermore, the molad interval determines the calendar mean year, so using a progressively shorter molad interval would help correct the excessive length of the Hebrew calendar mean year, as well as helping it to "hold onto" the northward equinox for the maximum duration.

If the intention of the calendar is that Passover should fall near the first full moon after the northward equinox, or that the northward equinox should land within one lunation before 16 days after the molad of Nisan, then this is still the case in about 80% of years, but in about 20% of years Passover is a month late by these criteria (as it was in Hebrew years 5765 and 5768, the 8th and 11th years of the 19-year cycle = Gregorian 2005 and 2008 CE). Presently this occurs after the "premature" insertion of a leap month in years 8, 11, and 19 of each 19-year cycle, which causes the northward equinox to land on exceptionally early Hebrew dates in such years. This problem will get worse over time, and so beginning in Hebrew year 5817 (2057 CE), year 3 of each 19-year cycle will also be a month late. Furthermore, the drift will accelerate in the future as perihelion approaches and then passes the northward equinox, and if the calendar is not amended then Passover will start to land on or after the summer solstice around Hebrew year 16652 (12892 CE). (The exact year when this will begin to occur depends on uncertainties in the future tidal slowing of the Earth rotation rate, and on the accuracy of predictions of precession and Earth axial tilt.)

The seriousness of the spring equinox drift is widely discounted on the grounds that Passover will remain in the spring season for many millennia, and the text of the Torah is generally not interpreted as having specified tight calendrical limits. On the other hand, the mean southward equinoctial year length is considerably shorter, so the Hebrew calendar has been drifting faster with respect to the autumn equinox, and at least part of the harvest festival of Sukkot is already more than a month after the equinox in years 1, 9, and 12 of each 19-year cycle; beginning in Hebrew year 5818 (2057 CE), this will also be the case in year 4. (These are the same year numbers as were mentioned for the spring season in the previous paragraph, except that they get incremented at Rosh Hashanah.) This progressively increases the probability that Sukkot will be cold and wet, making it uncomfortable or impractical to dwell in the traditional succah during Sukkot. The first winter seasonal prayer for rain is not recited until Shemini Atzeret, after the end of Sukkot, yet it is becoming increasingly likely that the rainy season in Israel will start before the end of Sukkot.

No equinox or solstice will ever be more than a day or so away from its mean date according to the solar calendar, while nineteen Jewish years average 6939d 16h 33m 03 1/3s compared to the 6939d 14h 26m 15s of nineteen mean tropical years.[68] This discrepancy has mounted up to six days, which is why the earliest Passover (in year 16 of the cycle) currently falls around 27 March.

"Rectifying" the Hebrew calendar

It has been argued by some[who?] that, as the fixed arithmetic Hebrew calendar was established on the authority of Hillel II, President of the Sanhedrin in Hebrew year 4119 (358 CE), only an equal authority (the modern Sanhedrin) can either amend it or reinstate the observational Hebrew calendar.[citation needed] The attribution of the fixed arithmetic Hebrew calendar solely to Hillel II has, however, been questioned by a few authors, such as Sasha Stern, who claim that the calendar rules developed gradually over several centuries.[30]

Given the importance in Jewish ritual of establishing the accurate timing of monthly and annual times, some futurist writers and researchers have considered whether a "corrected" system of establishing the Hebrew date is required. The Hebrew calendar mean year is more than 6 minutes and 25 seconds in excess of the northern hemisphere spring equinox year, and has "drifted" an average of 7–8 days late relative to the equinox relationship that it originally had. It is not possible, however, for any individual Hebrew date to be a week or more "late", because Hebrew months always begin within a day or two of the molad moment. What happens instead is that the traditional Hebrew calendar "prematurely" inserts a leap month one year before it "should have been" inserted, where "prematurely" means that the insertion causes the spring equinox to land more than 30 days before the latest acceptable moment, thus causing the calendar to run "one month late" until the time when the leap month "should have been" inserted prior to the following spring. This presently happens in 4 years out of every 19-year cycle (years 3, 8, 11, and 19), implying that the Hebrew calendar currently runs "one month late" more than 21% of the time. To a minor degree the tardiness of the calendar is also due to not correcting for the progressively shorter mean astronomical lunation interval — although presently this only accounts for a little over six seconds of the yearly equinox drift, it more importantly accounts for nearly two hours of molad drift relative to actual mean lunar conjunctions, which is enough to cause Rosh HaShanah to start on the "wrong" date in an appreciable number of years.

Dr. Irv Bromberg has proposed a 353-year cycle of 4366 months, which would include 130 leap months, along with use of a progressively shorter molad interval, which would keep an amended fixed arithmetic Hebrew calendar from drifting for more than seven millennia.[69] It takes about 312 centuries for the spring equinox to drift an average of 119th of a molad interval earlier in the Hebrew calendar. That is a very important time unit, because it can be cancelled by simply truncating a 19-year cycle to 11 years, omitting 8 years including three leap years from the sequence. That is the essential feature of the 353-year leap cycle ((9 × 19) + 11 + (9 × 19) = 353 years).

Religious questions abound about how such a system might be implemented and administered throughout the diverse aspects of the world Jewish community.[70]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Talmud, Sanhedrin 11b
  2. ^ Josephus, Antiquities 3.248-251, Loeb Classical Library, 1930, pp. 437-438.
  3. ^ a b Tosefta Sanhedrin 2.2, Herbert Danby, Trans., Tractate Sanhedrin Mishnah and Tosefta, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London and New York, 1919, p. 31. Also quoted in Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community: A History of the Jewish Calendar Second Century BCE-Tenth Century CE, Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 70.
  4. ^ "Calendars",Anchor Bible Dictionary, Doubleday,1992, I:817
  5. ^ Mishna, Rosh Hashana 1:1
  6. ^ Gen 1:5, Gen 1:8, Gen 1:13, Gen 1:19, Gen 1:23, Gen 1:31 and Gen 2.2.
  7. ^ See the section "High Latitudes" on the Discussion Page for what these rules might be.
  8. ^ See Willie Roth's essay The International Date Line and Halacha.
  9. ^ "Appendix II: Baal HaMaor's Interpretation of 20b and its Relevance to the Dateline" in Talmud Bavli, Schottenstein Edition, Tractate Rosh HaShanah, Mesorah Publications Ltd. ("ArtScroll") 1999, where "20b" refers to the 20th page 2nd folio of the tractate.
  10. ^ For example, according to Morfix מילון מורפיקס, Morfix Dictionary, which is based upon Prof. Yaakov Choeka's Rav Milim dictionary. But the word meaning a non-Talmudic week is שָׁבוּע (shavuʻa), according to the same "מילון מורפיקס".
  11. ^ For example, when referring to the daily psalm recited in the morning prayer (Shacharit).
  12. ^ a b c d Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (1961) by Roland De Vaux, John McHugh, Publisher: McGraw-Hill, ISBN 978-0802842787, p.179
  13. ^ M. Rosh Hashanah 1.7
  14. ^ M. Rosh Hashanah 2.6-8
  15. ^ b. Rosh Hashanah 20b: "This is what Abba the father of R. Simlai meant: 'We calculate the new moon's birth. If it is born before midday, then certainly it will have been seen shortly before sunset. If it was not born before midday, certainly it will not have been seen shortly before sunset.' What is the practical value of this remark? R. Ashi said: Confuting the witnesses." I. Epstein, Ed., The Babylonian Talmud Seder Mo'ed, Soncino Press, London, 1938, p. 85.
  16. ^ M. Rosh Hashanah 2.2
  17. ^ b. Betzah 4b
  18. ^ Sanctification of the New Moon. Translated from the Hebrew by Solomon Gandz; supplemented, introduced, and edited by Julian Obermann; with an astronomical commentary by Otto Neugebauer. Yale Judaica Series, Volume 11, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956
  19. ^ Gen 7:11 says "... on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth..." and Gen 8:3-4 say "...At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, (4) and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat..." There is an interval of 5 months and 150 days, making each month 30 days long.
  20. ^ Scherman, Nosson (2005). Artscroll Chumash. 
  21. ^ The barley had to be "eared out" (ripe) in order to have a wave-sheaf offering of the first fruits according to the Law. Jones, Stephen (1996). Secrets of Time. 
  22. ^ See Maaser Rishon, Maaser Sheni, Maaser Ani.
  23. ^ Josephus, Antiquities 1.81, Loeb Classical Library, 1930.
  24. ^ a b Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, 9780825438257
  25. ^ The Chronology of the Old Testament, 16th ed., Floyd Nolan Jones, ISBN 978-0-89051-416-0, p. 118-123
  26. ^ M. Rosh Hashanah 1, in Herbert Danby, trans., The Mishnah, Oxford University Press, 1933, p. 188.
  27. ^ A minority opinion places Creation on 25 Adar 1 AM, six months earlier, or six months after the modern epoch.
  28. ^ The Karaite Korner: The New Moon in the Hebrew Bible
  29. ^ The Karaite Korner: Aviv (Barley)
  30. ^ a b Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community, Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 162ff.
  31. ^ James B. Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, Vol. 1, Princeton University Press, p. 213.
  32. ^ M. Sanhedrin 5.3: "If one testifies, 'on the second of the month, and the other, 'on the third of the month:' their evidence is valid, for one may have been aware of the intercalation of the month and the other may not have been aware of it. But if one says, 'on the third', and the other 'on the fifth', their evidence is invalid."
  33. ^ M. Baba Metzia 8.8.
  34. ^ Solomon Gandz, "The origin of the Two New Moon Days", Jewish Quarterly Review (New Series), v. 40, 1949-50. Reprinted in Shlomo Sternberg, ed., Studies in Hebrew Astronomy and Mathematics by Solomon Gandz, KTAV, New York, 1970, pp. 72-73.
  35. ^ Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community.
  36. ^ a b E.S. Kennedy, "Al-Khwarizmi on the Jewish calendar", Scripta Mathematica 27 (1964) 55–59.
  37. ^ a b "al-Khwarizmi", Dictionary of Scientific Biography, VII: 362, 365.
  38. ^ See The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries.
  39. ^ Julian, Letter 25, in John Duncombe, Select Works of the Emperor Julian and some Pieces of the Sophist Libanius, Vol. 2, Cadell, London, 1784, pp. 57-62.
  40. ^ Epiphanius, Adversus Haereses 30.4.1, in Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis Book I (Sects 1-46), Leiden, E. J.Brill, 1987, p. 122.
  41. ^ H. Graetz, Popular History of the Jews, (A. B. Rhine, trans.,) Hebrew Publishing Company, New York, 1919, Vol. II, pp. 410-411. Quoted in Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community, p. 216.
  42. ^ S Lieberman, "Palestine in the 3rd and 4th Centuries", Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series 36, pp. 329-370(1946). Quoted in Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community, pp. 216-217.
  43. ^ Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community: A History of the Jewish Calendar Second Century BCE-Tenth Century CE, Oxford University Press, 2001. In particular section 5.1.1, discussion of the "Persecution theory."
  44. ^ Samuel Poznanski, "Ben Meir and the Origin of the Jewish Calendar", Jewish Quarterly Review, Original Series, Vol. 10, pp. 152-161(1898).
  45. ^ "While it is not unreasonable to attribute to Hillel II the fixing of the regular order of intercalations, his full share in the present fixed calendar is doubtful." Entry "Calendar", Encyclopedia Judaica, Keter, Jerusalem, 1971.
  46. ^ Samuel Poznanski, "Calendar (Jewish)", Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 3.
  47. ^ Yerushalmi Megillah 70b.
  48. ^ Yerushalmi Sukkah 54b.
  49. ^ Sacha Stern, "The Babylonian Calendar at Elephantine", Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 130, 159–171(2000).
  50. ^ Lester L. Grabbe, A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period, Volume 1: Yehud: A History of the Persian Province of Judah, T&T Clark, London, 2004, p. 186.
  51. ^ Eduard Schwartz, Christliche und jüdische Ostertafeln, (Abhandlungen der königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Philologisch-Historische Klasse. Neue Folge, Band viii, Berlin, 1905.
  52. ^ Peter of Alexandria, quoted in the Chronicon Paschale. Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae, Chronicon Paschale Vol. 1, Weber, Bonn, 1832, p. 7
  53. ^ Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community, pp. 87-97, 146-153.
  54. ^ "The Jewish Calendar: A Closer Look". Judaism 101. http://www.jewfaq.org/calendr2.htm. Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  55. ^ "Chelm.org's explaination of the Jewish calendar". 1 August 1999. http://www.chelm.org/jewish/calendar/explain.html. Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  56. ^ Landau, Remy. "Hebrew Calendar Science and Myths". http://hebrewcalendar.tripod.com/. Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  57. ^ This is the reason given by most halachic authorities, based on the Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 20b and Sukkah 43b. Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Kiddush Hachodesh 7:7), however, writes that the arrangement was made (possible days alternating with impossible ones) in order to average out the difference between the mean and true lunar conjunctions.
  58. ^ The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 20b) puts it differently: over two consecutive days of full Shabbat restrictions, vegetables would wilt (since they can't be cooked), and unburied corpses would putrefy.
  59. ^ Yerushalmi, Sukkah 54b.
  60. ^ a b Otto Neugebauer, "The astronomy of Maimonides and its sources", Hebrew Union College Annual 23 (1949) 322–363.
  61. ^ See, for example, Berachot chapter 1, Mishnah 2.
  62. ^ The following description is based on the article "Calendar" in Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Ketter, 1972). It is an explanatory description, not a procedural one, in particular explaining what is going on with the third and fourth deḥiyyot
  63. ^ So for example if the Tishrei molad is calculated as occurring from noon on Wednesday (the 18th hour of the fourth day) up until noon on Thursday, Rosh Hashanah falls on a Thursday, which of course starts Wednesday at sunset wherever one happens to be.
  64. ^ This will happen if TM1 is on or after 3:11:20 am and before noon on a Tuesday. If TM1 is Monday, Thursday or Saturday, Rosh Hashanah in year 2 does not need to be postponed. If TM1 is Sunday, Wednesday or Friday, Rosh Hashanah in year 1 is postponed, so year 1 is not the maximum length.
  65. ^ TM2 will be between noon and 2:27:16 2/3 pm on Tuesday, and TM3 will be between 9:32:43 1/3 and noon on Monday.
  66. ^ G. J. Toomer, Hipparcus' Empirical Basis for his Lunar Mean Motions, Centaurus, Vol 24, 1980, pp. 97-109
  67. ^ Towards a common date of Easter World Council of Churches, 1997.
  68. ^ Weinberg, I., Astronomical Aspects of the Jewish Calendar, Monthly Notes of the Astronomical Society of South Africa, Vol. 15, p. 86; available at [1]
  69. ^ Bromberg, Irv. "The Rectified Hebrew Calendar.". http://individual.utoronto.ca/kalendis/hebrew/rect.htm. Retrieved 2011-05-13. 
  70. ^ Committee concerning the fixing of the Calendar at TheSanhedrin.org

References

  • al-Biruni. The Chronology of Ancient Nations, Chapter VII. tr. C. Edward Sachau. London, 1879.
  • Ari Belenkiy. "A Unique Feature of the Jewish Calendar — Dehiyot". Culture and Cosmos 6 (2002) 3-22.
  • Jonathan Ben-Dov. Head of All Years: Astronomy and Calendars at Qumran in their Ancient Context. Leiden: Brill, 2008.
  • Bonnie Blackburn and Leofranc Holford-Strevens. The Oxford Companion to the Year: An Exploration of Calendar Customs and Time-reckoning. Oxford University Press; USA, 2000.
  • Sherrard Beaumont Burnaby. Elements of the Jewish and Muhammadan Calendars. George Bell and Sons, London, 1901.
  • Nathan Bushwick. Understanding the Jewish Calendar. Moznaim, New York/Jerusalem, 1989. ISBN 0-940118-17-3
  • William Moses Feldman. Rabbinical Mathematics and Astronomy,3rd edition, Sepher-Hermon Press, New York, 1978.
  • Eduard Mahler, Handbuch der jüdischen Chronologie. Buchhandlung Gustav Fock, Leipzig, 1916.
  • Otto Neugebauer. Ethiopic astronomy and computus. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, philosophisch-historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte 347. Vienna, 1979.
  • The Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah), Book Three, Treatise Eight: Sanctification of the New Moon. Translated by Solomon Gandz. Yale Judaica Series Volume XI, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1956.
  • Samuel Poznanski. "Calendar (Jewish)". Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics. T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1910, vol. 3, pp. 117–124.
  • Edward M. Reingold and Nachum Dershowitz. Calendrical Calculations: The Millennium Edition. Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (2001). ISBN 0-521-77752-6

723-730.

  • Louis A. Resnikoff. "Jewish Calendar Calculations", Scripta Mathematica 9 (1943) 191-195, 274-277.
  • Eduard Schwartz, Christliche und jüdische Ostertafeln (Abhandlungen der königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Philologisch-Historische Klasse. Neue Folge, Band viii), Berlin, 1905.
  • Arthur Spier. The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar: Twentieth to the Twenty-Second Century 5660-5860/1900-2100. Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem/New York, 1986.
  • Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community: A History of the Jewish Calendar Second Century BCE-Tenth Century CE. Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Ernest Wiesenberg. "Appendix: Addenda and Corrigenda to Treatise VIII". The Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah), Book Three: The Book of Seasons. Yale Judaica Series Volume XIV, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1961. pp. 557–602.
  • Francis Henry Woods. "Calendar (Hebrew)", Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics. T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1910, vol. 3, pp. 108–109.

This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.

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