The Hebrew Calendar:  Part 1
Introduction

The Hebrew Calendar (Part 1)

 

The Gregorian calendar is the method of reckoning dates used by most of the world.  It was sponsored by Pope Gregory XIII n 1582 as a corrected version of the Julian calendar.  It is a solar-based calendar in which dates represent the position of the earth in its revolution around the sun. 

The Hebrew/Jewish calendar is quite unlike the Gregorian or the Julian calendar.  It is a modified lunar-based calendar—that is, based on cycles of the moon phase.  It is also adjusted by adding intercalary months (that is, a thirteenth month in certain years)to bring the lunar cycles into synchronization with the solar year.  

Trying to understand the Holy Day dates on the Gregorian calendar can be quite challenging.  For example, the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) falls on the Hebrew calendar date of Tishri 1.  One may wonder why in some years Tishri 1 may fall early in September, while in others it may be as late as October.  Having a basic understanding of the modified lunar calendar used by the Jewish people provides us with the answers.  In this chapter, I will demonstrate how to reconcile the disparities between the numbers of days in the Jewish and Gregorian calendars.  

The calculations used may appear to be a little bit intimidating, with long decimal places and many steps, but they are really very straightforward and simple. Gaining knowledge into the Jewish calendar will greatly assist in understanding why the Holy Days do not occur at the same time on our calendar every year.  In addition, learning a completely different way to reckon months and years can be quite interesting. 

The major points to note are that the lunar calendar has 29.53 days in a month.  Twelve months are equal to approximately 354 days, 11 or 12 days less than twelve months in the Gregorian calendar.  To make up for this difference, the Jewish calendar adds a thirteenth month in seven years out of every nineteen, so that the “modified lunar” (lunisolar) calendar and the Gregorian calendar come into almost exact alignment every nineteen years.  The table below demonstrates the number of months in a year for the two calendars, representing the current nineteen-year cycle. 

 

Hebrew

Gregorian

Year

# of Months

# of Months

Year

5758

12

12

1997

5759

12

12

1998

5760

13

12

1999

5761

12

12

2000

5762

12

12

2001

5763

13

12

2002

5764

12

12

2003

5765

13

12

2004

5766

12

12

2005

5767

12

12

2006

5768

13

12

2007

5769

12

12

2008

5770

12

12

2009

5771

13

12

2010

5772

12

12

2011

5773

12

12

2012

5774

13

12

2013

5775

12

12

2014

5776

13

12

2015

 

In part II in this series we will determine exactly how many days there are, on average, in the Gregorian calendar.  You may be in for a surprise. 

For a description of the Hebrew calendar all in one place take a look at www.feelingoutstanding.con/wm.html.  Chapter 12 of "The Wonder and Majesty of God's Holy Days" is devoted to the Hebrew calendar.

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