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The Jewish Calendar | Єврейський календар

Irina Klimova

The calendar, according to which the Jewish people live for several thousand years, differs from the calendar, which Europeans have long enjoyed. The Jewish calendar system is considered to be one of the most complicated among all the existing ones and is not similar to other known systems because it is not periodical. At first glance, it’s not easy to understand these calculations, but, nevertheless, it’s possible.

During the first few centuries, the calendar of European peoples who accepted the Christian faith corresponded to the Jewish. Only in 325, at the Nicaea Cathedral, was the conditional date of the chronology from the Nativity of Christ, with which the time of the reformed Christian calendar began. By that time, according to the Jewish calendar, it was already the year 3760.

The Jewish calendar is lunisolar. The ordinary Jewish year has 12 months of 29 and 30 days. The holidays of the Torah (the Pentateuch) are connected with the solar cycle, i.e. with the seasons: Passover (the Jewish Passover) is always celebrated in the spring. The Torah speaks of Pesach as a holiday of spring. But if you leave the lunar calendar unchanged, Pesach will move 11 days each time, and in 5 years this holiday would have to be celebrated in winter, and in a few more years - in the autumn. However, all the months mentioned in the calendar are lunar.

A permanent calendar in the modern form was established by the Jewish Sages in 4119. (approximately 359 AD). To maintain the calendar, it is necessary to observe the appearance of a new moon and determine the beginning of spring. In the days of the Sanhedrin - the Supreme Religious Court - the beginning of the month was determined precisely by observation.

Each calendar month contains 29 days (incomplete month) or 30 days (full month). At sunset, at the end of the 29th day of the month, observers watched whether a new moon would appear. As soon as they saw the new moon, they went to the Sanhedrin, where they were asked questions about the shape of the month they saw and about its position relative to the sun and the horizon. If the testimony of the witnesses converged, the next day was declared the first day of the new month - Rosh Chodesh. Such decision could only be made by the Sanhedrin.

If on the 13th day a new moon did not appear, this meant that the month was full and consisted of 30 days. The 31st day, regardless of observations, was declared the first day of the new month, because on 31 days the new moon certainly would have appeared, even if no one had seen it.

The question of whether the year consists of 12 months or 13 months was vested in several members of the Sanhedrin, who were guided by the growth and maturation of fruits and grains, the position of the sun and other considerations.

The question of an additional month was decided in Adara, the last month of the year, after which Nisan usually goes. If it was admitted that the year consists of 13 months, it was announced before the end of Adar, and the next month after Adar was called not the Nisan, but the second Adar.

By the way, the names of the months the Jews adopted from the Babylonians. Before the Babylonian captivity (VI century BC), the Jews wore months just a serial number. After solving the question of the duration of the month or year, it was necessary to inform all Jews. At the same time, the news had to reach quite quickly, so that it would be possible to find out on what days the holidays point.

While all the Jews lived in the Land of Israel, it was not difficult, but with the beginning of the exile, the distances that had to be overcome were substantially increased. Therefore, fearing that the news may linger, the Sages decided that all holidays outside the Land of Israel should be celebrated for two days. The additional day of holidays has survived to this day, despite the replacement of observations by calculations.

Each month of the Jewish calendar has a zodiac sign, that is, a belt on the celestial sphere, along which the moon, the sun and most planets move. Since ancient times, it’s common to designate the 12 signs of the zodiac with the symbols of their constellations: Libra (Tishrei), Scorpio (Marcheshwan), Sagittarius (Kislev), Capricorn (Tevet), Aquarius (Shvat), Pisces (Adar is the only month that doubles, the name of the sign stands in the plural), Aries (Nisan), Taurus (Iyar), Gemini (Siwan), Cancer (Tammuz), Leo (Av), Virgo (Elul). The twelve zodiacal signs were also the emblems of the 12 tribes of Israel, which according to the Bible were descended from the 12 sons of Jacob.

According to the Jewish tradition of the 25th Elul (usually in September-October), the Almighty began the creation of the World. The sixth day of creation - 1st Tishrei - the day when man was created, was the beginning of the New Year. According to the Jewish calendar, Adam and Eve - the first people created in the image of God - lived about 5,750 years ago.

Perhaps the strangest thing about the Jewish New Year is that it falls on the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, as if the New Year was celebrated on July 1, not January 1, in the Western world. The first month of the year, the Jews consider the spring month Nisan - the month of exodus from Egypt, when the Jews became a people. Tishrei is the month when God completed the creation of the world.

The autumn month of Tishrei, immediately following Elul, is especially rich in holidays. It begins with the Great Feasts, marking the onset of a new Jewish year - Rosh ha-Shanah. Ten days after Rosh ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simhat-Torah follow the completion of the one-year cycle of reading the five books of the Torah and begin reading again from the first chapter.

Most Jewish holidays are associated with the events of Jewish history. Pesach, for example, marks the exodus from Egypt, Shavuot - the gift of the Torah, Purim - liberation from Haman, a villain who plotted to destroy all Jews. Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur are holidays with a great focus on personality. At this time (and in advance), Jews are supposed to analyze their actions and misdeeds for the entire preceding year. The purpose of Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur is an ethical and religious rethinking of life and preparation for the beginning of the year.

But even this is not all. It turns out that the Jews have not one New Year, but four. There are also New Year of Kings, New Year of Animals and New Year of trees - it's called Tu-bishvat. This ancient holiday is very popular to this day both in the land of Israel and in the Diaspora.

Everyone knows the biblical prohibition of Jews working on Saturdays. Saturday – Shabbat is very important, special day for Jews. For many centuries, the Jews count the days from Saturday to Saturday. Even Jews who don’t follow the usual rules of Judaism tend to express their participation in Shabbat.

Traditional Jewish life is closely connected with the calendar. The calendar marked the significant dates, days of Jewish holidays, time of the Sabbath candles lighting. The calendar also relates the rules of kashrut (norms of Jewish life).

It can be said that every day the life of a Jew is reflected on the calendar. However, for decades of Soviet power, the Jews of Ukraine didn’t have access to sources of basic information about the foundations of Judaism, the rules of traditional Jewish life. Print publications, especially those connected with the Jewish tradition, were almost banned.

The archives of the Kiev Center for the Study of History and Culture of Eastern European Jewry hold a unique collection of Jewish calendars created by Jews, who, despite the ban, wanted to live in accordance with national traditions. The collection was transferred to the archive by relatives of the Jewish writer Zabara. It must be said that it was unsafe to create, use and store such products in Soviet Ukraine.

The publication of calendars promotes the revival and further development of the Jewish national life, the integration of the Jews of Ukraine into the world Jewish community.











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