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Jewish time

An introduction to the Jewish calendar

Time in the Jewish tradition is extremely important. By marking time and by taking note of various cycles, we learn to appreciate the world around us. Judaism is a religion with many cycles--we have a cycle of the holidays, a cycle of the moon, a cycle of days, and a cycle of life. In Ecclesiastes, we read, “A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven.” By becoming more aware of these cycles, especially the holiday cycle, we allow ourselves and our families, to connect to the Jewish people, the earth, and the universe. Observing Jewish holidays affords us the opportunity to thank God for our many blessings and to spend time with our family and friends.

Unlike the secular calendar which is based upon the sun, the Jewish calendar is based upon the moon. The secular solar calendar has 365 1/2 days and the Jewish lunar calendar has 354 1/3 days. In order to balance out the difference between the two calendars, the month of Adar II, Adar the Second (Adar Shaynee) is added six times over a 19 year period. Every 3rd, th, 8th, 11th, 14th, and 17th year there is a Jewish leap year. The addition of Adar II can be equated to having 29 days in February every 4 years.

While the Bible considers the Jewish month of Nisan to be the first month of the Hebrew calendar, Tishrei became the first month with Rosh Hashannah marking the religious new year. Listed below are the months of the Jewish calendar, their approximate secular calendar equivalents, and the major Jewish holidays that fall in each month. Note that each Jewish month either has 29 or 30 days.

 

Hebrew
month

 

English month
(approximate)
Holidays
Nisan April

Pesach, Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day)

Iyar May Lag B’Omer, Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day
Sivan June Shavuot
Tammuz July  
Av August Tisha B’Av
Elul September  
Tishrei October Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah
Cheshvan November  
Kislev December Hanukkah
Tevet January  
Shevat February Tu B’Shevat (Holiday of the Trees)

Adar March Purim

 

 

 

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