Jewish Months, How they differ from Secular Months?

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I'm Jewish, What Month is it?

By Pnina Usherovitz

What kind of question is that? Look at any newspaper or computer and you will see the date. No you won't, You won't, you will not the see Jewish Date. Yes, I said the Jewish or Hebrew Date.

We are a special people and have a special calendar. Ever notice that our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and Passover fall on different dates each year? No, they don't - Rosh HaShana is always on the first of Tishrei and Yom Ha Kippur is always on the 10th of Tishrei and Passover is always on the 15th of Nisan.

Tishrei? Nisan? Yes, these are the Aramaic names of two of our Jewish months. Tishrei is the first month of the year and Nisan is the first month of the months. Yes, we have two beginnings of the year, actually more but we will concentrate on these two. First, things first.

The command to keep and bless the months of our year was the first command given to the Nation of Israel just before leaving Egypt with Moses. As the first command it must be very important and maybe a foundation for all the rest. It is a puzzle to me as to why the first command we received is so little known and observed by the Jews today. Not only is it the first command, but our calendar is packed with beautiful information about our Torah and our people.

True, the calendar used by the most of the rest of the world keeps all money transactions and other things coordinated throughout the world, but to celebrate our birthdays, weddings, etc. on these dates of a calendar based on false gods and dead Caesars robs the important dates of our life of the fullness of what is being celebrated.

So what are the names of the months? Tishrei, Marchesvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar, Nisan, Eyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, and Elul. Then there is an extra month (Adar Bet) added on leap years.

The reason we have an extra month is because our Calendar is based on the Moon and in a moon year there are less days than in a Sun Based calendar so every few years an extra month is added to keep our calendar in check with the seasons of the year. When that happens it is always an extra Adar.

The reason we count the months from our Exodus from Egypt is that this is the month in which we became a Nation and that happened on the fifteenth of Nisan. So just before Nisan on the month of Adar we add another month of Adar calling the first one Adar Aleph and the second one Adar Bet. All of the holiday dates of Adar are then celebrated in the second Adar, Adar Bet. So from Nisan the numbering of the months, as instructed by G-d, and recorded in the Torah is The first month; Nisan, the second month; Eyar, the third month; Sivan, the fourth month; Tammuz, the fifth month; Av, the sixth month; Elul, the seventh month; Tishrei, the eighth month; Marchesvan, the ninth month; Kislev, the tenth month; Tevet, the eleventh month; Shevat, the twelfth month; Adar and on leap years, the thirteenth month; Adar Bet.

This is the numbering recorded in the Torah, but the Torah did not use names only numbers. It was only after the exile into Babylon that we adapted names instead of numbers. When the Torah, after the exodus, says that something is in the first month it refers to Nisan and in the 7th month it refers to Tishrei etc.

But the Hebrew Calendar is much much more that a list of months numbering from the exodus from Eygpt. Each month is filled with all kinds of information and description of the fullness of that particular month. Here's where the fun begins. Here's where it gets really interesting. Much of the information about the months is credited to the "Sefer Hayitzira" which is a work that we are told was written by perhaps Adam (the first human) or Avraham, the first Jew. Each month has one of the twelve tribes assigned to it. Each month has a Hebrew letter, a sense, and a mazal, a astrological constellation.

Although you might confuse the mazal with today's fortune telling - Don't! Fortune telling is not allowed by Torah. The Mazal gives a "personality" to the month. For understanding the contributions of each of the assigned factors you need to learn about them. For example, for the Tribe you can look up the Blessings given by Moses and/or Jacob to each of the tribes.

Each tribe has an overall character and a specific portion of the Land of Israel. All of the contents of the month can by studied using the gematria (the numerical values of their names, which because the numbers in Hebrew are actually Hebrew letters, brings you to the fascinating study of the Hebrew Alphabet, which is an alphabet like no other - after all, it was used to create the world.

As an example: The very beginning of the creation of the world began on the 25th of Elul and continued for six more days with the first of the month of Tishrei being the day of the creation of man - hence the "New Year" for all mankind begins on the first of Tishrey. It is annually the day of judgment for all the world with an extra 10 days of repentance and possibility to change the judgment until Yom Kippur when the final seal is placed for the year to come.

Later on in time, after the sin of the golden calf, Elul was the last full month of Moses receiving forgiveness and the final Tablets of the Ten Commandments which he brought down from Mount Sinai on the Tenth of Tishrey, which is Yom Kippur. So Elul is the month of creation, rectification and forgiveness, and a month of special closeness and compassion of G-d to our Nation.

My daughter was married on the 18th of Elul which means she was married on this beautiful month on the date of (the Hebrew word meaning life which when written in Hebrew is the number 18). Now, isn't that a much more lovely date - "the life of Elul" than the 27th of September! I think you get my meaning.

Our first commandment or gift to us as a Nation is to Bless our months - It's really worth looking into. May this be a Good Year, a Shana Tova, with much love of our "gifts" from G-d to all of us.


from the 2015 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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