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The Jewish Calendar

Did you know that the calendar we use today is called the Gregorian calendar and is based on how the sun is positioned relative to the stars? In some cultures and religions, such as Islam, people use the moon to set up their calendar and celebrate religious holidays. Ancient people had no clocks or printed calendars, which is why the Israelites and many of their neighbors had to watch for the new crescent moon to see when the new month started. The Jews have a calendar that has 12 or 13 months. Each day starts and ends with sunset, and the week lasts seven days, ending in a day of rest and celebration — the Sabbath.

Free, Anya, Alexandra Martinez, and Shennan Hutton
2019
Infographic

Created by Anya Free and Shennan Hutton using information from Douglas Charing, Judaism (London: DK Publishing, 2016), 67.

 

Did you know that the calendar we use today is called the Gregorian calendar and is based on how the sun is positioned relative to the stars? In some cultures and religions, such as Islam, people use the moon to set up their calendar and celebrate religious holidays. Ancient people had no clocks or printed calendars, which is why the Israelites and many of their neighbors had to watch for the new crescent moon to see when the new month started. The Jews have a calendar that has 12 or 13 months. Each day starts and ends with sunset, and the week lasts seven days, ending in a day of rest and celebration the Sabbath. Because most ancient people were farmers, their whole lives depended on the weather and the harvest. Israelites celebrated many holidays to give thanks to God for their successful harvests. The earliest holidays were connected to the farming cycle. Over time, more and more holidays were added to the calendar to remember various historical events, both good and bad. The Jewish calendar is ancient, but Jews still follow it today.

 As related in Genesis, the Jewish calendar is lunisolar, which means it uses both the sun (year) and the moon along with the stars (days and months) to determine the date. Originally the new lunar crescent had to be observed and certified by witnesses in order to announce the beginning of a new month, but now it is done using mathematical methods. The year can have 12 or 13 months (a second month of Adar is added 7 times in every 19 years), and between 353 and 385 days, depending on the year and complex mathematical determination. The week in Judaism is defined by the six days of creation, and the seventh day is the Sabbath, on which God rested. This calendar can be used as a reference during discussions of the holidays featured in the sources. It might be helpful to bring up a discussion of other types of calendars or compare the Western (Gregorian) calendar to the Jewish one. One of the interesting features of the Hebrew calendar is that the day has no fixed length, starting from sunset (the start of "the evening") and ending at the next sunset, which also defines the beginning and end of Shabbat and other Jewish holidays.