In my message Wednesday morning I noted that while my father’s birthday is 7 days before mine according to the Gregorian calendar, my birthday is actually five days before his according to the Hebrew calendar. I was asked by a congregant how this can be. The answer lies in the differences between how the Hebrew calendar works and how the Gregorian calendar works. Tomorrow we will bless the coming new month of Adar I which begins a week from today, and this is a convenient time to explain some of the differences between the two calendars. Why do we have two months of Adar this year? And why does that mean that all of the holidays for the next year will be “late”?
While the Gregorian calendar is solar and contains 365 days in a year, the Hebrew calendar is what is known as “luni-solar.” It has features of both the solar calendar as well as the lunar calendar which has 354 days in a year. If the Hebrew calendar were purely lunar, each holiday would be 11 days earlier than it was the previous year. But the Torah specifically connects Pesach to the spring and Sukkot to the fall, and without some corrective mechanism Pesach would soon be in the winter and Sukkot in the summer.
To insure that the holidays remain at the “right” time, the Sages developed a leap year system where an extra month is added to the calendar seven out of every nineteen years. That “extra” month is Adar I. Since this year is a leap year, we have two months of Adar, but the “real” Adar is Adar II. So Purim will fall on the 14th of Adar II which is March 24. Similarly, Pesach will be “late,” with the first Seder on April 22 and Rosh Hashanah will begin on Oct. 2. This also means that this year Easter and Passover will fall more than three weeks apart while the first day of Chanukah will coincide with Christmas.
As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Additionally, if you know of a Kehilat Shalom congregant who could use a phone call, please let me know.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian