April 25, 2024

Getting to Know the Jewish Religious Calendar

Close Up of Jewish Calendar

The Jewish people have always been unique in many ways, and one of those is their Jewish calendar system. The lunar-solar Hebrew calendar not only determines the dates on which Jews all around the world celebrate religious holidays – it also marks a deep connection to our past and serves as an important part of our identity today.

What Is the Jewish Calendar?

The Jewish calendar, sometimes referred to as the Hebrew calendar, is a lunisolar calendar used to determine the dates on which religious observances such as Shabbat (Sabbath), Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, and Hanukkah are observed. 

These holidays hold additional significance from a philanthropic perspective, as they are often when the food insecure and chronically poor, as well as lonely widowed women and orphans need us most. 

How the Jewish Calendar Has Evolved Over Time

The Jewish calendar dates back millennia to the literal beginning of time. Archeological findings in the Canaanite town of Gezer (between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) are the earliest record we have of it today, dating back to the 10th century BCE. The world has obviously changed since then, and with it, the Jewish calendar.

Originally, the Jewish calendar relied solely on an observational system that followed the visible sighting of the crescent moon. This system remained in place until Rabbi Hillel II standardized the calculations for its length and seasonal basis in 359 CE.

Rabbinic authority and community leader Maimonides further developed the calendar system that we know today by estimating the day on which Earth was created – October 7, 3761 BCE. Based on that calculation, the conventional year 2024 most people follow is actually 5785 CE, 4244 years from creation. Other adjustments to the calendar were made over time, including the addition of leap years every two or three years.

How the Jewish Calendar Differs From Other Calendars

The Jewish calendar is a lunar-based calendar, which means that each month begins with the sighting of the new moon. This makes it different from other calendars, such as the Gregorian calendar (also known as solar-based or civil), which follows a predetermined numerical cycle of months and years.

The 12 Months of the Jewish Calendar

While most people today go through their year on a January-to-December basis, Jews follow a different protocol. The Hebrew calendar can be broken down into 12 lunar months — each lasting around 29–30 days — with an additional month added every two or three years to keep the calendar synchronized with solar-based calendars. This leap year cycle ensures that holidays remain fixed within a certain season; for instance, Passover always falls in the spring.

Here are the 12 months in order of occurrence in the Jewish calendar:

  • Nisan
  • Iyar
  • Sivan
  • Tammuz
  • Av
  • Elul
  • Tishrei
  • Heshvan
  • Kislev
  • Tevet
  • Shevat
  • Adar

How the Beliefs and Practices of Judaism Revolve Around the Calendar

The first day following every 29-day month on the Jewish Calendar is Rosh Chodesh (literally “head” or “beginning”) which is seen as a minor holiday celebrating the new cycle of months. According to Jewish tradition, it’s customary to set money aside for donations to critical causes like community healthcare and children’s education or get involved with charity on this day.

The Significance of the Luach

The term “Luach” is used to describe a physical, printed calendar that includes the dates of holidays and other Jewish events.

The main purpose of a Luach is to help people keep track of festivals and other important events in the Jewish calendar. Many Luachim include a list of Shabbat readings and parashot, as well as special prayers and blessings that are recited on specific days.

Luach calendars aren’t just tangible items but often serve as physical reminders of the connection between a person and G-d. The beliefs and practices of Judaism are best followed when they are what contextualize our daily lives.

Get a Luach and Support the Colel Chabad Movement

Since day one, Colel Chabad’s mission has been to empower Jews with the tools and resources they need to live faithful lives. Our offering of Luach calendars comprises several options, including pocket-sized and wall-sized Hebrew/English versions.

Donate to Jewish Non-Profit Organizations With a History of Charitable Giving

As Israel’s oldest Jewish philanthropy organization, Colel Chabad has been providing vital support and care to Israel’s less fortunate for over two centuries. Our mission is to bring goodness and justice into the lives of those in need.

We believe that the act of giving is not only a Jewish obligation as encouraged by leaders like Rabbi Meir Baal Haness and other key figures in our history, but also an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others. In keeping with this belief, we invite you to choose to support community non-profit fundraising efforts.

Your generous donations go to worthy causes that make a tangible impact. Online donations enable us to build a better future for the neediest children; fight food insecurity and chronic poverty; provide medical care for those in need; support orphans and widowed women; and offer special services for the most vulnerable members of Israeli society.

Colel Chabad Is an Israeli Charity That Makes a Real Impact

Our recent investments in healthcare and children’s education have already made a difference in countless lives. You can continue to help us build on our success by choosing an amount to give or getting involved with charities in several ways.

No matter how you choose to give to Israeli charities – whether by finding various ways to volunteer time or by offering money – every act of Chesed is valuable. Collectively, we at Colel Chabad believe that every kind deed and donation echoes throughout the world, creating an immense wave of goodness every day on the Jewish calendar.

Donate to Jewish non-profit charity organizations that make a difference. Donate to Colel Chabad today.



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