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Leap Year: More about the Jewish calendar


Leap Year:

More about the Jewish calendar


For those of you who follow the Jewish calendar you might have noticed that there is something different this year

The Gregorian calendar serves as the standard civil calendar throughout the world. Leap Year adds one day the calendar – February 29th. While is it a little strange to have 366 days in the year it is only one day and mostly goes by unnoticed.


What if a leap year added a whole month to the calendar? How would we handle all those births and weddings during that month? Would their birthdays and anniversaries only come up on leap years?


This is just the case in the Jewish calendar. Every two to three years an extra month is added. The Jewish calendar is based on the phases of the moon. Each month begins with a new moon. This cycle produces a year consisting of 354 days, each of the 12 months are 29 or 30 days in length. Simple and orderly.


Now here is where is gets a little more complicated. The Jewish calendar is systematic and cyclic. The holidays and festivals need to occur in the seasons for which they were intended, as these reoccurring patterns are divine revelation of our sacred history. Additionally, from a practical standpoint it would be pointless to have the harvest festival Sukkot in the middle of summer when the crops are just growing.


The seasons are generated by the proximity of the sun to the Earth. Therefore, to ensure the holidays and festivals stay in their proper seasons, the Jewish calendar takes into account the sun’s yearly journey. The sun is on a 365-day schedule making an 11-day lag between the two calendars. 


This gets us back to the extra month. Within a 19year cycle a 13th month is added on the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th years of that cycle. This month is called Adar I or Adar Alef. It occurs just before Adar (which is called Adar II or Adar Bet in a leap year). While this system is perplexing, it does work to keep the calendar in order. In English these are called leap years in Hebrew they are called Shanah Me’uberet – a pregnant year.


So how do we handle the birthdays and anniversaries produced during a Shanah Me’uberet? The answer lies in a famous Jewish riddle…


Two twin boys are born only minutes apart, but 13years later their Bar Mitzvahs are celebrated 29 days apart and the second born celebrates first. How can that be?


The twins were born in a Shanah Me’uberet. The first son was born just before sunset on 30 Adar I and the second son was born just after sunset on 1 Adar II. In a regular year, such as the boys’ Bar Mitzvah year, each twin celebrates his birthday on the corresponding day in the regular month of Adar.


Therefore, the younger twin will have his Bar Mitzah first on the 1st of Adar and the older twin will have his Bar Mitzvah 29 days later on the 30th of Adar.


To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.


Ecclesiastes 3:1


Next month is the holiday of Purim. This holiday commemorates Queen Esther and the defeat of Haman's plot to massacare the Jews as recorded in the Book of Esther.


Because this year is a  Shanah Me’uberet there are actually two Purims. "Little Purim" or "Purim Katan" was held on February 14/15. 


There are no traditions, other than being particularly joyous, for this very minor occurance. However, it is another interesting aspect of the Jewish calendar.


Purim Katan is held on the exact day that Purim would have been if it were not a leapyear.


The real Purim will be held on March 15/16 this year.


Watch for future newsletters from JesusBoat.com for interesting information and specials about the super fun holiday of Purim.


Noise Makers


A traditiona of Purim is listen to the Book of Esther read aloud. While the story is read, everytime the name Haman is said we are to make a loud noise to blot out his name.



We have traditional wooden Purim noise makers called "groggers".



Only $3.30 plus shipping!




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