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Inspiration And Information For A Biblically Oriented, Christian World-View
#7 - Why Does The Hebrew Calendar Need Periodic Adjustment ?
The Hebrew's calendar is a lunar-based calendar, and each new Hebrew month always begins with the first sighting of the next waxing moon following a new moon.
When the very first tiny sliver of the next waxing moon crescent appears, the first day of a new month is officially declared.
However, the problem which generates the requirement for adjusting the calendar is the astronomical fact that lunar cycles are out of sync with solar cycles. The calendar is adjusted because a solar year is 365 days long while a lunar year of 12 months is usually 354 days, 11 days shorter. In order to remain aligned with the solar year an extra month is added in certain years, this is a Hebrew leap year. (SEE: Table, at right.)
Every 19 years there are seven Hebrew leap years (the third, sixth, eighth, eleventh, fourteenth, seventeenth and nineteenth years). The 12th (last) Hebrew month is called Adar, but in a Hebrew leap year a 13th month is added called Adar Sheni (the second Adar).
The problem with strictly lunar calendars is that there are approximately 12.4 lunar months in every solar year, so a 12-month lunar calendar loses about 11 days every year and a 13-month lunar calendar gains about 19 days every year. The months on such a calendar "drift" relative to the solar year. On a 12 lunar month calendar, the month of Nisan, which is supposed to occur in the Spring, would occur 11 days earlier each year, eventually occurring in the Winter, the Fall, the Summer, and then the Spring again after about 33 years. To compensate for this drift, an extra month is occasionally added. The month of Nisan occurs 11 days earlier each year for two or three years, and then an extra month is added so that Nisan jumps backward 29 or 30 days on the calendar, balancing out the drift.
The current cycle of Hebrew / Jewish Leap-Years began in Jewish year 5758, the year that began on 1 Tishri, Rosh ha Shanah, October 2, 1997.
The Hebrew / Jewish calendar has the following months:
Adar I (Leap years only)
12 (In a leap year)
Feb/Mar (In leap year)
Adar (Called Adar II in leap years)
12 (#13 in a leap year)
Feb/Mar (Mar/Apr in leap year)
The names of the months of the Jewish calendar were adopted during the times of Ezra / Nehemiah, after the return from the Babylonian exile. The names are actually Babylonian month names, brought back to Israel by the returning exiles. Note that the Bible refers to months by number almost all of the time, not by name.
In ancient times, this extra month was also added by direct observation: the Sanhedrin observed the conditions of the weather, the crops and the livestock, and if these were not sufficiently advanced to be considered "spring," then the Sanhedrin inserted an additional month into the calendar to make sure that Pesach (The Passover) would occur very early in the spring (The Passover is referred-to in Torah as "Chag ha-Aviv," the Festival of Spring!).
And this is what forces observant Hebrews to periodically adjust their calendar in order to remain in sync with the annual, solar-based, agricultural seasons. And, remaining in sync with the annual seasons is of utmost importance to observant Hebrews because their religious-based Feasts, Festivals, High Holy Days and Annual High Sabbaths are
all determined, throughout the year, by exactly when the FIRST day of the FIRST month begins.
A very important use of the Numerical Values in the Hebrew Alphabet is in the process of making accurately faithful hand-written copies of Torah and of the entire Tanakh (The Hebrew Holy Scripture).
As the older scrolls are copied, the numeric value of all letters on a line are totaled and written in the margin. This total is called the gematria, a control/verification process like "Checksum", but is not the discipline of Jewish mysticism also known as "Gematria". The primary language for gematria calculations has always been Hebrew.
When a new copy is made, the numeric value of each new line is totaled and compared with the numeric value of the original. When both totals agree, there is strong likelihood that a line in a new copy has been accurately copied. When the totals do NOT! agree, there is an error and the flawed copy is discarded because it is not accurate.
For more information about Hebrew Gematria Numerical Equivalents, go to:
Click Here - View The Hebrew Alphabet with numeric equivalents
Scroll-Down to "Numerical Values" sub-heading
Click Here - View The Greek and Hebrew Alphabets with numeric equivalents
One may observe the exact opposite effect by noting that Islam does not make any annual adjustments to its lunar-based religious calendar.
The month of Ramadan (which is determined by the observation of a combination of both lunar and celestial signs) actually moves backward eleven or twelve days annually on the calendar.
So that after any 31 year -or- 32 year period, the beginning of Islam's holy month of Ramadan will have rotated completely around the entire calendar and will be back to the month where it was 31 years before.
In 2003, Islam's holy month of Ramadan began on October 27 - in 2004, it begins on October 15. And the annual pilgrimage to Mecca (The Hajj) began on January 30, 2004 - but begins on January 18, 2005. Also, by the year 2020, Ramadan will begin in April, while the Hajj will be in July.
The Hebrew's calendar is adjusted to prevent that same effect (which Islam tolerates) because THE God of Abraham is the author of the Hebrew's form of worship.
Since one of the Hebrew's earliest annual feasts has strict agricultural requirements dictating its seasonal occurrence, it is essential that the Hebrew's first month ALWAYS begin very early in spring.
The Hebrew's Holy Days cannot be allowed to rotate around the calendar, as Islam's do, because of seasonal requirements connected to certain agricultural harvests which are religiously and spiritually connected to the God-ordained form of worship practiced by observant Hebrews.
In the Hebrew's first month, called Nisan (and also called Abib), falls
the Feast of Passover, at the beginning of the 14th day atsundown.
It is followed by the 7-day-long Feast of Unleavened Bread, beginning
with a High Holy Day which is an Annual High Sabbath, on the 15th day atsundown.
The 7-day-long feast runs through the 21st day (aka: The Week of Unleavened Bread).
And during the 7-day-long Feast of Unleavened Bread there is always a Sunday which is a special festival, with special religious devotional and sacrificial practices, the centerpiece of which is directly connected with the annual harvest of early spring wheat (barley).
On THAT Sunday (The Sunday following Passover), within the seven-day-long Feast of Unleavened Bread, occurs the Feast of Firstfruits. THAT Sunday is when a Hebrew High Priest takes a sheath of freshly harvested, RIPE, spring wheat (barley) and waves it before God as an offering in thanksgiving for a spring wheat (barley) harvest which is about to begin.
The spring wheat (barley) used in the offering MUST be ripe, not green and immature.
The High Priest will actually inspect the wheat (barley) while it is still in the fields
to insure that ONLY when the wheat (barley) is ripe, mature (Abib) and ready for harvest
is it gathered in small amounts for the God-ordained ceremony connected with the
religious feast / festival of Firstfruits.
This ceremonial, symbolic offering is
called the "Wave-Sheath Offering".
And, for those who are interested...
Since Easter is capricious and occasionally occurs BEFORE The Passover...
No matter WHEN Easter is celebrated, The Sunday FOLLOWING Passover is the
same Sunday when one counts 50 days in order to determine the Sunday for Pentecost.
Christ Jesus was crucified on Passover; resurrected from the dead on the Feast of
Firstfruits (the Sunday AFTER Passover); and the Holy Spirit descended upon the
apostles, 50 days from THAT Sunday, on the Hebrew High Holy Day of Pentecost.
Click Here - View A Chart Of Easter, Passover and Pentecost Dates For Years 2000 -thru- 2050
It is for this very important religious, ceremonial reason that the Hebrew's first month
absolutely has to begin soon AFTER spring begins, for it is only THEN that the early spring wheat (barley) will be ripe and mature, making it ceremonially acceptable to God.
This means that, occasionally, whenever the Hebrew's 12th month ends far too early in the year for the 14th day of the next month to have ripe and mature wheat (barley) available, an extra month must be added.
And this extra added month brings the calendar back into sync with the agricultural season that will yield ripe and mature wheat (barley) during the middle of what (later) becomes the first month of the year.
It is for this specific, religious, ceremonial purpose that the High Priest ventures forth into the wheat (barley) fields to inspect the condition of the crop, determining whether the wheat (barley) is "ABIB" - ripe and mature.
If the wheat (barley) is not Abib, not ripe and not mature, then the first month is, likewise, not ready to begin.
The maturation of the early spring wheat (barley), as it becomes ready for harvest, is what is the final determinator of just when the first month is permitted to be declared as having officially begun.
If there is no ripe, mature, Abib wheat (barley) there can be no wave-sheath for an offering to God. There can be none of the feasts or festivals, none of the High Holy Days and none of the Annual High Sabbaths proscribed by THE God of Abraham until the following month, when the wheat (barley) is finally Abib - ripe and mature.
And that seasonal requirement, combining religious, ceremonial practices with agricultural realities, is why the Hebrew's first month (officially named Nisan) is also referred to as the month of Abib. Abib (Aviv) means "RIPE". Abib is the "RIPE" month!
No month can be declared the 1st month unless the wheat (barley) is Abib enough - ripe and mature enough - to satisfy the God-ordained requirements for an acceptable and efficacious offering that THE God of Abraham is willing to accept as righteous and sanctifying - on the Hebrew's part - and consider HOLY unto Himself.
The wheat (barley) must be ABIB to be HOLY !
The Hebrew's calendar has to be periodically adjusted to accommodate
those specific requirements applicable to this situation.