The Luach – Jewish calendar (Hebrew: הלוח העברי‎ ha’luach ha’ivri)

Luach - Jewish Calendar

The first thing you might notice is that the Jewish calendar sometimes has an extra month. The years with an extra month are the Jewish calendar’s leap years. Regular years have anywhere from 353 to 355 days, while leap years have 383 to 385 days.

Gregorian years have 365 days normally, and 366 days in a leap year. The reason leap years exist is because the standardized days given to the months do not perfectly match up with a solar year—the time it takes for the earth to rotate around the sun. Because the western calendar is based on the solar year, this can be dealt with by adding an extra day to February approximately once every four years.

The year according to the Jewish calendar is based on the number of years since creation. Creation was calculated, according to various biblical passages, to be about 3760 BC or BCE. So, for example, sundown on 22 September 2006 was the beginning of the Jewish year 5767 AM. AM stands for anno mundi and means in the year of the world. The days according to the Jewish calendar start at sundown, rather than at midnight as in the Gregorian system.

The Hebrew calendar (Hebrew: הלוח העברי‎ ha’luach ha’ivri) or Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar used by Jews. Today, the calendar is predominantly used for religious observances and by all official institutions in the State of Israel, as well as by Jewish farmers in Israel as an agricultural framework.

The calendar is used to reckon the Jewish New Year and dates for Jewish holidays, and also to determine appropriate public reading of Torah portions, Yahrzeits (dates to commemorate the death of a relative), and daily Psalm reading, among many ceremonial uses. Originally the Hebrew calendar was used by Jews for all daily purposes. Following the conquest of Jerusalem by Pompey in 63 BCE (see also Iudaea province), Jews began additionally following the imperial civil calendar (which was decreed in 45 BCE) for civic matters such as the payment of taxes and dealings with government officials.

The principles of the Hebrew calendar are found in the Torah, which contains several calendar-related commandments, including God’s commandment during the Exodus from Egypt to fix the month of Nisan as the first month of the year.

The Babylonian exile in the 6th century BCE influenced the calendar, including the adoption of Babylonian names for the months. The Torah contains several commandments related to the keeping of the calendar and the lunar cycle.

שַׁבָּת
Shabbat It is celebrated every Saturday both at home and in the synagogue, beginning at sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Shabbat (Hebrew: שַׁבָּת, shabbāt, "rest" or "cessation"; Ashkenazi pronunciation shabbos) is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from sundown Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact time, therefore, differs from week to week and from place to place, depending on the time of sunset at each location.

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ראש חודש
Rosh Chodesh New moon celebration, As the year of the Hebrews was lunar, not solar, it consisted of only 354 days 8 hours 48′ 38″. This, distributed among twelve months. Rosh Chodesh, (Hebrew: ראש חודש‎; trans. Beginning of the Month; lit. Head of the Month), is the name for the first day of every month in the Hebrew calendar, marked by the appearance of the New Moon. It is considered a minor holiday, akin to the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot

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נִיסָן Hebrew Month of Nisan According to the bible in Exodus, Nisan is the first month of the year in the Jewish Calendar. To keep Nisan as the first month in the year was actually the first commandment that was given to the Children of Israel before they left Egypt. Nisan is the start of the Spring and contains the Jewish festival of Passover (or Pesach). Therefore it is a month where many Jewish homes are doing a Spring-Clean in order to get ready for the Jewish holiday. Nissan is also known as the month of redemption because it is the time when the Jewish people was redeemed from Egypt and taken towards Israel. All in all, Nissan is an extremely important month in the Jewish calendar.

Within this Hebrew Month

1st – Tabernacle was completed in the wilderness
14th – Paschal sacrafice was offered in biblical times.
14th – Beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt (1943)
15th-21st – (in the Diaspora (exile) 15-22) – Passover
27th – Memorial Day to the Victimes of the Holocaust

History behind this Month

The Bible calls it "the month of Abib (Spring) (Ex. 13:4, 23:15, 34:18; Deut. 16:1).

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אִיָּר
Hebrew Month of Iyar The second month in the Biblical calendar. It literally means blossom or can sometimes be translated as bloom. The name is believed to have originated in the Babylonian times although in the bible it actaully has a different name. In the Bible, it is referred to as Ziv.

As the secular calendar and the biblical calendar are of different lengths, it does not always coincide with a particular month, although it is usually around April/May time which is ofcourse spring.

Iyar contains 29 days and also contains some Jewish Holidays. Some of them are infact holidays which were instituted in the modern times such as Yom Hazikaron which remembers Israeli soldiers that have died, and Yom Ha’atzmaut which is for Israel’s independence day.

In addition, there is Yom Hashoah which remembers the 6 million Jews who died in the holocaust and Lag Ba’omer which was a post-biblical holiday which remembers various things in Jewish history – mostly good things. On Lag B’omer, it is traditional to have a barbecue and to go into the forest.

Last but not least, Pesach Sheini also falls in Iyar, which is a second Pesach which is a mini version for people who weren’t able to celebrate it the first time.

Within this Hebrew Month

5th – Israel’s Independence Day, 5708 (14 May 1948)
14th – Pesah Sheni (Second Passover) in the Temple period
18th – Lag b-Omery
28th – Jerusalem Day

History behind this Month

The Bible calls it Ziv (radience) (I Kg. 6:1, 6:37)

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סִיוָן
Hebrew Month of Sivan Like all of the other months in the Hebrew calendar, Sivan is the Babylonian name of the month. It roughly means ’season’ or ‘time’ and contains 30 days. Sivan contains the festival of Shavuot which literally means ‘weeks’ and is the time when the Jewish people received the Torah from Moses at Mount Sinai. This occurs on the 6th Sivan. Another interesting event which took place during the month of Sivan was that the floods of Noach stopped and the waters started to recede. Sivan is also used as a girl’s name in Israel.

Within this Hebrew Month

6th – Festival of Shavuot (Pentecost or Feast of Weeks), (in the Diaspora (exile) also on the 7th)

History behind this Month

The name appears in the Bible only in Esther 8:9

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תַּמּוּז
Hebrew Month of Tammuz Tamuz is the fourth month of the Hebrew calendar. It starts off the summer period On the seventeenth of the month is Shiva Assar B’Tamuz which literally means 17th of Tamuz. This is a fast day and also the start of a 3 week mourning period which ends on the 9th of Av. Tamuz has 29 days and is not considered to be a happy month of the Jewish calendar.

Within this Hebrew Month

17th – Fast of Seventeeth Tammuz (Shivah Asar be-Tammuz), a day of national mourning

History behind this Month

It is mentioned once in the Bible in reference to the Babylonian god (Ezek. 8:14)

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אָב
Hebrew Month of Av The Jewish month of Av has 30 days and takes place in the summer, usually around August time. It is actually the only Hebrew month of year that is not mentioned in the bible, but is first spoke about in the Talmud. There are two festivals that are in Av. On the 9th and on the 15th. On the 9th of Av is Tisha B’av which is a sad day when Jews fast. It remembers the destruction of the two temples and also many other sad events which have happened throughout Jewish history. Apart from Yom Kippur, it is the only fast day of the calendar which is a full 25 hours. The other festival which happens in Av is Tu B’av. This is a happy day in the Jewish calendar and is traditionally the time when couples get together in order to arrange their weddings. Tradition tells us that Aharon (Moses’ brother) died on Rosh Chodesh Av which is the first of the month.

Within this Hebrew Month

1st – Aaron dies (Num. 33:38)
9th – Tishah be-Av, day of national mourning
9th – The destruction of the First Temple (586 BCE)
9th – The destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE)
9th – Jerusalem razed by Hadrian (132 CE)
9th – Bethar falls as Bar Kokhba revolt is crushed (135 CE)
9th – England expels the Jews (1290)
9th – Spain expels the Jews (1492)
9th – Jews of Rome enclosed in ghetto (1555)
10th – France expels the Jews (1306)

History behind this Month

The name first appears in Jewish sourses in Megillat Ta’anit of the talmudic period (third to fifth centuries)

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אֱלוּל
Hebrew Month of Elul The month of Ellul is about preparing for the next month Tishrei which contains Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur. During the month of Ellul, the shofar is blown every morning during the prayers to try and awaken Jews to the fact that they must wake up and repent. It is believed that Ellul is a particularly great month if you wish to do Teshuva in time for Tishrei. Jewish tradition believes that Moshe climbed Mount Sinai in order to go and prepare the second tablet of stone after the first was destroyed following the sin of the Golden Calf.

Within this Hebrew Month

As Elul immediately precedes the Days of Awe, it is a month of repentence

History behind this Month

Its name appears only once in the Bible (Neh. 6:15)

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תִּשׁרִי
Hebrew Month of Tishri Tishrei is a month which has 30 days and appears in the season of Autumn. It contains many important Jewish Holidays and is considered a very solemn month for the Jewish people.

Rosh Hashannah is on the first and the second of the month. It literally means Head of the Year, but is mainly translated as New Year. It is a very holy day in the Jewish Calendar where Jews start to pray for forgiveness from God for any sins that they may have done in the previous year.

Tzom Gedaliah is on the 3rd and is a fast day.

Yom Kippur is on the 10th of the month. It is the most solemn day of the Jewish Calendar and is when Jews fast and pray in order to be forgiven by God.

Succot takes place from the 15th to the 21st of the month. It is translated as tabernacles and Jews build booths in their garden to remember when the Jewish people walked through the desert.

Within this Hebrew Month

1st and 2nd – Rosh ha-Shanah
3rd – Feast of Gedaliah
10th – Yom Kippur
10th – Expulsion of the Jews from Paris (1394)
10th – Yom Kippur War begins (1973)
15th – Seven day festival of Succot begins
21st – Hoshana Rabbah
22nd – Shemini Atzeret (also Simhat Torah in Eretz Israel)

History behind this Month

In the Bible it is referred to as "the month of Ethanim", the month of natural forces (I Kg. 8:2). The name "Tishri", from the Akkadian root meaning "to begin", first appears in Jewish sourses in the Talmud.

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מַרְחֶשְׁוָן
Hebrew Month of Cheshivan Cheshvan is also called Mar Cheshvan. Mar means bitter and is used to describe the month because there are no Jewish Festivals in the months. This is a great comparison to Tishrei which was the month before and contains Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur and Succot all in one month. Cheshvan can either be 29 or 30 days and comes out in the secular calendar about October or November time.

Within this Hebrew Month

16th – the destruction of synagogues in Nazi Germany and Austria on Reichskristallnacht (9/10 November 1938)

History behind this Month

The Bible calls it "the month of the Bul" (I Kg. 6:38) in reference to the bountiful harvests associated with the season. The name Heshivan first appears in Jewish sourses in talmudic literature and Josephus (Ant. 1,3,3).

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כִּסְלֵו
Hebrew Month of Kislev The Hebrew calendar has two new years and Kislev is the ninth year of the ecclesiastical year and the third of the civil year. It is equivalent to the period of November to December of the Gregorian calendar. Kislev is also known as the month of dreams.

Unlike the Gregorian calendar that adds one day to the calendar every four years, the Hebrew calendar adds a month with 29 days based on the moon’s revolution around the earth. This explains why the Hebrew calendar has 13 months during the leap years. The Hebrew calendar starts the day when the sun sets not when the sun rises as with the Gregorian calendar. Kislev marks shorter days and longer nights and this has a symbolic meaning for the Hebrews; after the dark, there is light, hence, one must trust and hope. From the context of the Torah or the five books of Moses, several portions of the books mention ten dreams that reveal God’s promises if His will is obeyed. Diseases and the threat of death disappear when the dreamer turns to God and repents. These dreams are read during Kislev to mark a period of spiritual self-evaluation and renewal. The month signals the coming of Hanukah or Festival of Lights which celebrates an event that occurred two hundred years before Christ. Accordingly, King Antiochus wanted to convert all the Jews to the Greek religion but the Jews rebelled and were able to drive away the Greek soldiers. The victors wanted to restore the temple but only had enough oil to light the temple for one day. Miraculously the oil lasted eight days giving the people enough time to make new oil.

Within this Hebrew Month

17th – U.N. General Assembly decides on partition of Palestine (29 November 1947)
22nd – State of Israel declares Jerusalem its capital (1949)
24th – Building of the Second Temple (Haggai 2:18)
24th – Brutish capture of Jerusalem (8 December 1917)
25th – Festival of Hanukkah begins

History behind this Month

It is mentioned in the Bible (Zech. 7:1; Neh. 1:1).

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טֵבֵת
Hebrew Month of Tevet The month of Tevet in the Hebrew calendar follows the Kevlar and the tenth day of Tevet is a fast day to remember Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem siege which led to the ultimate destruction of the Holy Temple.

Jerusalem was always a target of invading kings and one such invasion was the Jerusalem siege orchestrated by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The eighteen-month siege led to the destruction of the Holy Temple after the Babylonian forced themselves into the city with catapults. Thousands died and thousands more were made captive and slaves in Babylonia. This was the darkest hour for the Judeans. Jeremiah the prophet gives a horrible account of Jerusalem’s downfall in the Bible, 52:12-14. According to Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar’s captain came to Babylon and burned the house of the Lord and all the houses he could torch. While the burning was going on, the Chaldean army was breaking down the walls of Jerusalem. The four-days fasting in the month of Tevet memorialize the Temple’s destruction. In the Hebrew year the fasting is observed on the fourth month Tamuz, fifth month of AV and seventh month of Tishrei. The fasting is dedicated to the House o Judah, for its joy and happiness and a preparation for the holidays.

Tevet is the time pause and fast and to remember the Sin of the Golden Calf, the deaths of the priestly scribe Ezra who led the exiled Israelites back to their land and Nechemia, who is believed to author the Book of Nehemiah and who is responsible for the restoration of the study of the Torah and the practice of its teachings in one’s everyday life. In the present time, the Tevet is a time to remember those who perished in the Holocaust. The remembrance is called the Yom Kaddish K’Lai when all Jews say the Kaddish, an important prayer glorifying the Divine and in memory of their lost loved ones and for all Israel.

Within this Hebrew Month

10th – Asarah be-Tevet. A day of fasting and mourning, marking the start of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar (588 BCE)
10th – General Kaddish day. Memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust whose day of death is unknown (1949)
19th- Keren Kayemet le-Israel (Jewish National Fund) established, 5662 (1901)
20th – Maimonides dies (1204)
23rd – Portugal expels its Jewish population (1496

History behind this Month

Although it is mentioned in the Bible its meaning is obscure (Esth. 2:16).

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שְׁבָט
Hebrew Month of Shevat Trees are given a special day in the month of Shvat. This goes back to the biblical times of Leviticus. According to Leviticus, the fruit of the trees may not be eaten and the fourth year’s fruit harvest belongs to God. But there is more to this; Shvat is a time to reflect deeply on man’s knowledge and wisdom and their uses in one’s life.

At this time of the year, the trees are inspected; budding fruits are already recorded as next year’s cycle, on the next Shevat. All produce from the bounty of the Holy Land are separated from the various tithes and these tithes vary yearly in the seven-year cycle of the Shemittah. The Shvat also honors the greatness of Abraham. Abraham, upon the instructions of God left his birthplace taking along his wife and nephew and all his possessions and the people he taught about the one true God. Abraham was a perfect role model for his followers for he taught what he preached. His life was an ideal example to be followed by all Jews.

Within this Hebrew Month

15th – Tub-Shevat, the New Year for Trees
15th – First Knesset convenes, 5709 (1949)
18th – Knesset elects Chaim Weizmann as first president of the State of Israel.

History behind this Month

The name appears once in the Bible (Zech. 1:7).

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אֲדָר א׳
Hebrew Month of Adar The month of Adar is the sixth month of the Hebrew civil year. It is also the twelfth month of the ecclesiastical or religious year. On regular years, it is a 29 day month as it occurs during the February to March period in the Georgian calendar. On a leap year, the month is preceded by a 30 day month the Adar 1. It can be confusing because of the added month but the Jewish people always commemorate important event on the same dates.

During the month, the Purim is celebrated every 14th of the month. The month cities protected by the ancient walls celebrate Purim on the 15th. The observance of Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from the Persian Empire. The day is celebrated with a public recitation of the Bible’s Book of Esther, exchanging gifts of specially prepared food and drink in gaily wrapped baskets. There is much awaited celebratory meal, drinking wine, mask and costumes wearing and colorful public celebrations. The Book of Esther is read twice and aloud during the celebration – one in the evening and repeated in the following morning. The story details the how Esther became the queen, the intrigues in the palace, and the plot to kill all Jews in the kingdom. The wise queen confessed that she was Jewish and she interceded for her people. The villain Haman is hanged and the Jews are spared from the plot of Haman to annihilate them. The month of Adar celebrates the good fortune o the Jews who were spared from certain death. Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai played the pivotal roles in this riveting historical account. The celebration gives honor to Queen Esther’s bravery and to God’s deliverance of his people, hence, the joyful celebration.

Within this Hebrew Month

1st – Shekel campaign begun in Temple period
7th – Birth and Death of Moses; marked as yahzeit of all persons whose burial place is unknown, and, in Israel, of the "Unknown Soldiers." 13th – Fast of Esther
14th – Purim
15th – Shushan Purim

History behind this Month

The name appears in the Bible in Ezra 6:15 and seven times in Esther. In a leap year, the intercalcated month is called Adar Sheni (Second Adar or Adar II) and the regular month Adar Rishom (First Adar or Adar I).

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אֲדָר ב׳
Hebrew Month of Adar Sheini The Hebrew calendar adds an extra month when it is a leap year, contrary to the practice of adding one day in the Georgian calendar. This extra month with 29 days added once every three years after the month of Adar, is called the second month of Adar or Adar Sheini.

Understanding the Jewish Leap Year The lunisolar calendar of the Hebrews requires the insertion or intercalation of another month lest the seasons would not synchronize with the solar year. Hence, the thirteenth month in the Hebrew calendar every three or two years. With this added month, there are changes in the observation of death anniversaries, and the Festival of Purim. The months in the Jewish calendar are numbered one to twelve; during leap years, an extra month is added after the Shvat month, the Adar Sheini. Because the Festival of Purim falls on the Adar month, the celebration is moved to Adar Sheini on the 14th and 15th of the Adar 1 and is observed as Minor Purim or Purim Katan.

The Celebration of Purim When it is a leap year, the observances during Adar are moved to the Adar Sheini month. The Passover Festival, for example is moved to spring; but death anniversaries are always held in the first month of Adar. The intercalation or insertion of Adar Sheini occurs seven times during the 19 year lunar cycle to align the Hebrew calendar and keep synchronize it with the solar calendar. Whatever the year, be it leap year or not, the Jewish communities will always celebrate their religion, life, and health with the same fervor. The traditions will endure and so will the Jewish year and Adar Sheini.

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שמיטה
Sabbatical Year (Lev.25) every “seven years”, it is like a Sabbath, “rest” without work, and adore God with thanksgiving… but for one full year! The year of Shmita (Hebrew שמיטה, literally, "release"), also called the Sabbatical Year, is the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah for the Land of Israel. During Shmita, the land is to be left to lie fallow and all agricultural activity—including plowing, planting, pruning, and harvesting—is forbidden by Torah law. In traditional interpretation, other cultivation techniques—such as watering, fertilizing, weeding, spraying, trimming, and mowing—may be performed as preventative measures only, not to improve the growth of trees or plants; additionally, any fruits which grow of their own accord are deemed ownerless and may be picked by anyone, and a variety of laws apply to the sale, consumption, and disposal of Shmita produce. A second aspect of Shmita concerns debts and loans: when the year ends, personal debts are considered nullified and forgiven. In similar fashion, the Torah required a slave who had worked for six years to go free in the seventh year.

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יובל
Year of Jubilee (Lev.25) every 49 years, 7×7; it is like a “Sabbatical Year”, but now all land was returned to the original owner. The Jubilee (Hebrew Yovel יובל) year is the year at the end of seven cycles of Sabbatical years (Hebrew Shmita), and according to Biblical regulations had a special impact on the ownership and management of land in the territory of the kingdoms of Israel and of Judah; there is some debate whether it was the 49th year (the last year of seven sabbatical cycles, referred to as the Sabbath’s Sabbath), or whether it was the following 50th year. The English term Jubilee derives from the Hebrew term yobel (via Latin:Jubilaeus), which in turn derives from yobhel, meaning ram; the Jubilee year was announced by a blast on an instrument made from a ram’s horn, during that year’s Yom Kippur. The biblical rules concerning Sabbatical years (shmita) are still observed by many religious Jews in the State of Israel, but the regulations for the Jubilee year have not been observed for many centuries.

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