The Hebrew Calendar Part 3

Understandig the Hebrew Calendar

In Part 1 of our series we discussed how the Hebrew calendar has a different number of days in a year than the Gregorian calendar. The twelve month Hebrew year has 354 days. In seven years out of a nineteen year cycle, a thirteenth month is added to make up for the lost days. In part 2 we provided a reconciliation in the number of days between the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars over a nineteen year span of time. We showed that the two calendars come to very close synchronization over nineteen years. Our next order of business is to discuss just how accurate the Hebrew calendar is when compared with the Gregorian calendar.

  Rabbi Hillel II developed the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar in the Jewish year of 4119, or AD 359 on the Gregorian calendar. Using his calendar methods (as described in Part 2) and assuming that the Gregorian calendar we use today was in effect at that time, the dates of Rosh Hashanah would have ranged from August 29 to September 28, between the Hebrew years 4100 and 4200. In the present Jewish calendar, the 58th century, the dates of Rosh Hashanah range from September 5 to October 5, a gain of six or seven days. This slight difference of approximately one hundred minutes over nineteen years has accumulated to almost a week over a 1,650 year period. It takes almost 9,300 years for this discrepancy to accumulate to a full month in time.

 

Here is viewpoint on the Hebrew calendar as it corresponds to the agricultural season in Israel:

1st month on sacred calendar/7th month on civil calendar–Nisan   Barley Harvest 
2nd month on sacred calendar/8th month on civil calendar–Iyar  Barley Harvest 
3rd month on sacred calendar/9th month on civil calendar–Sivan  Wheat Harvest
4th month on sacred calendar/10th month on civil calendar–Tamuz  Grape Harvest 
5th month on sacred calendar/11th month on civil calendar–Av  Olive Harvest 
6th month on sacred calendar/12th month on civil calendar–Elul     Dates/Figs Harvest 
7th month on sacred calendar/1st month on civil calendar–Tishri    Early Rains 
8th month on sacred calendar/2nd month on civil calendar–Heshvan  Plowing 
9th month on sacred calendar/3rd month on civil calendar–Kislev   Wheat/Barley Sowing 
10th month on sacred calendar/4th month on civil calendar–Tevet   Winter Rains 
11th month on sacred calendar/5th month on civil calendar–Shevat  Almond Bloom 
12th month on sacred calendar/6th month on civil calendar–Adar  Citrus Harvest 
13th month on sacred calendar–Intercalary Month 

                                                                                        

The celebrations of Passover, the Feast of Firstfruits and the Days of Unleavened Bread all occur in Nisan – during the barley harvest.

Pentecost occurs in Sivan, the time of the wheat harvest.

The last three grand Jewish celebrations: the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles all occur in Tishri, at the end of the major harvest.

A Couple of Last Points

There are two last peculiarities to the Hebrew calendar. Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is the most holy day on the Hebrew calendar. This day should not fall adjacent to the seventh-day Sabbath because Atonement is a day when fasting, doing without food or water, occurs. This would cause difficulties in coordination of the weekly Sabbath.

The seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles should not fall on a Saturday because that would interfere with the holiday's observances. A day is added to the month of Heshvan or subtracted from the month of Kislev of the previous year to prevent these events from happening. This process is sometimes referred to as "fixing" Rosh Hashanah.

There we have it. If you have read this three part series on the Hebrew calendar I'm more than confident that you now understand it very well. Now when you visit Israel you will have a much better idea of coordinating dates.

For more information about The Hebrew Calendar check out Thomas Thorne's book The Wonder and Majesty of God's Festivals and Holy Days: The Master Plan Revealed.

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