Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Bo

“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months” Exodus 12:2

    And so the Jewish calendar, with its amalgam of lunar and solar elements, is born. It is part a solar calendar based around days and weeks, all neatly adding up to almost exactly the amount of time it takes the earth to travel once around the sun.

    The verse above was interpreted by the rabbis of the Talmud as an invitation to graft a lunar element consisting of months on to the simple solar version. This hybrid eschews the simple formula of one leap day every four years in favour of the confusing seven leap months every 19 years.

    That confusion was then infused with uncertainty as the rabbis added a human element. A month was to be determined by human action. The Talmud demands that time itself was to wait for human intervention in the form of witnesses who had seen the new moon and a beit din to proclaim the new month.

    Why was such an ugly construct so attractive to the rabbis of the Talmud? The Dead Sea Scrolls reveal that there were opponents to the incorporation of the lunar aspects of our calendar. The calendars of Qumran were strictly solar. The Qumran calendar, devoid of any human element reflecting the certain and relentless march of time, is linked by Professor Rachel Elior with the Dead Sea Sect’s belief in the inevitability of aristocratic governance through the High Priesthood.

    Our rabbis rejected aristocracy. Our role models are Hillel and Akiva, men of modest birth. The rabbis reject the aristocratic fatalism of their opponents by championing the uncertain lunisolar calendar. If time itself must wait for human intervention, then we live in a world with mankind and free will at its heart.

    RELATED STORIES

  • Sidrah

    Toldot

    Rabbi Joseph Dweck

    Thursday, December 1, 2016

    Toldot
  • Sidrah

    Chayei Sarah

    Rabbi Debbie Young Somers

    Thursday, November 24, 2016

    Chayei Sarah
  • Sidrah

    Vayera

    Rabbi Joseph Wolfson

    Thursday, November 17, 2016

    Vayera
Sidrah

Lech Lecha

Rabbi Daniella Kolodny

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lech Lecha
Sidrah

Chol Hamo'ed

Rabbi Mark Solomon

Friday, October 21, 2016

Chol Hamo'ed
Sidrah

Nitzavim

Rabbi Larry Tabick

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Nitzavim
Sidrah

Noach

Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Noach
Sidrah

Ha'azinu

Rabbi Daniel Roselaar

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Ha'azinu
Sidrah

Ki Tavo

Maureen Kendler

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ki Tavo
Sidrah

Bereshit

Rabbi Joseph Dweck

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bereshit
Sidrah

Vayelech

Dr Lynndy Levin

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Vayelech
Sidrah

Ki Tetzei

Rabbi Mark Solomon

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ki Tetzei