The basis of the months of the Jewish year is the lunar calendar. also known as the lunisolar cycle. This means that the Jewish calendar is synchronise with the cycles of the Sun and the Moon. The months of the Jewish year follow intricate principles, and mathematical rules. Furthermore, it is compliant with the Jewish bible’s requirements.
I find it interesting that the Hebrew calendar is not as accurate as the Gregorian Calendar. It is inaccurate because it follows the solar year. This means it is the time it takes the Earth takes to complete its’ orbit around the Sun. The structure of the Hebrew calendar is so that festivals will not fall on certain days. These festivals include Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and other Jewish festivals.
Who follows the months of the Jewish year?
The months of the Jewish year guide people who observe and celebrate the Jewish holidays. Including Jewish people in Israel and the rest of the world. The State of Israel uses the Jewish calendar for two purposes. It helps them navigate the Jewish festivals, as well as their day-to-day calendar. Indeed, they follow both the Lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar.
Growing up, I often asked my father when a specific festival was (for example, Purim). But, instead of giving me the Gregorian calendar’s date, he would give me the Hebrew month and date! For example, instead of saying it will be on 23 March, he would say it is on 14 Adar! It was so frustrating! Although it was his way of teaching me, eventually, he told me.
I have a friend in Israel who only celebrates his birthday on the Hebrew date of his birth. Although he was born on 7 April 1969, he does not celebrate it on 7 April, but rather on 19 Nisan. The public service also uses both the Hebrew and Gregorian dates.
What is the Gregorian calendar?
I have mentioned of the Gregorian calendar a few times. But what are the origins of the Gregorian calendar? The initiation of this calendar was in 1582. Pope Gregory XIII made a decree for this to occur and is now used in most countries. The reason was to make sure that the leap years were spaced out. The timing of the leap years need to mirror the time taken for the Earth’s revolution of the Sun.
The people in Israel use both the Gregorian and Lunar calendars for day-to-day life. But the Jewish people in the diaspora use the Gregorian calendar for day-to-day life. The Lunar calendar is only used to guide their Jewish life. Observant Jewish life focusses on the festivals and the celebration of the new moon. Jewish people refer to the new moon in the Hebrew as Rosh Chodesh.
The importance of Rosh Chodesh
Celebrating the new moon in Judaism has been happening for thousands of years. The celebration of the new moon dates to the Jewish Bible and is present in several texts. One example is Psalm 81:4 (a translation from biblical Hebrew): Blow the horn on the new moon, on the full moon for our feast day.
Jewish people believe the new moon is a time of renewal and sanctification. It originates back to biblical times. In ancient Israel people were not allowed to work or fast. In modern day times, this is not observed so much, but it prayers for the new moon are in the liturgy. Furthermore, Judaism links the appearance of the new moon and its’ monthly cycle is linked to the women’s menstrual cycle. The English word’ menstruation; originates from the Latin word for a month, ‘menses’. Another way to link the two is from a legend from the Torah. Legend has it that the Israelite women refused to give up their gold jewelry to build the Golden Calf.
Book of Exodus tells us that the Israelites lost faith in God before receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. When they lost faith they built and worshipped a Golden Calf. But, the Israelite women did not contribute jewellery to build the Golden Calf. Thus, God rewareded the Israelite women and told them they did not have to work on Rosh Chodesh. Another indication that Rosh Chodesh is significant to women comes from Penina Adelman.
Adelman, wrote The Young Jewish Woman’s Handbook for Coming of Age. She makes an interesting point that about the words Roshei CHodshiM. These words means ‘heads of the months’ and have the same letters that form the Hebrew word for womb: ReCHeM.
Rosh Chodesh groups and the months of the Jewish year
In the mid-twentieth Century, Jewish women started forming ‘Rosh Chodesh’ groups. These groups connects the importance of Rosh Chodesh to women. The groups are known as Rosh Chodesh groups and meet monthly. They give women a chance to connect with Jewish tradition, culture and spirituality. It is also an opportunity to teach, learn and support each other.
If you want to know when Rosh Chodesh falls, it is easy to download a calendar template. Once it has been downloaded you can write the month names and the dates yourself. Another option, and an easier one, would be to find a printable calendar, print it out, and use it to guide you. If you want to challenge yourself, you can also write it in Hebrew letters.
Having your own Hebrew calendar
Having a calendar with the months of the Jewish year can be very helpful in tracking the new moon. It will also help you track when the other Jewish festivals occur. It is helpful if you include the corresponding months of the Gregorian calendar. It will make it easier as this is what most of us use in our day-to-day lives.
It is helpful to know that Rosh Hashanah falls on the 1st of Tishrei and Yom Kippur is on the 10th of Tishrei. But not everyone knows when this month occurs. Indeed, if you do not to know when Tishrei occurs it can be a challenge! Thus, it is useful to have a calendar to show you when the Hebrew month occurs. This will help you to observe these two important festivals (plus all the other ones). If you do not want to do this, it is easy enough to contact your local synagogue for one. If this is not successful, contact a Jewish community centre and ask them to give you one.
Some people want to know when specific festivals occurred during the COVID-19 Pandemic. If this is the case, ask for a calendar time, and hopefully, they can help you. You can ask for: calendar 2021 or calendar 2020 which will give you the information that you need.