Of all the arcana of Jewish life, that most universal instrument, the Jewish calendar, is one of the more enigmatic. Solar? Lunar? Length of month? Two days of a holiday, or one? What about the “leap month”? And whence derives our calendar? Ancient Judaea/Palestine? Babylonia? The Tanakh? The Talmud?
Can the zodiac be integrated into the Jewish tradition?
When my great-nephew Owen arrived in the world in January, there was a collective spate of “Your constellation is good!” OK, we shortened the sentiment to “mazal tov!” but the meaning was the same. We were congratulating the new parents on their mazal (from Akkadian, “location of a star”), luck that’s credited to the stars and has nothing to do with merit. Which begs the question: Is there mazal for Jews?
Rosh Hodesh, Susan B. Anthony and the teenage girl.
Rabbi Anne Ebersman
I recently attended my daughter’s fifth grade American Heritage Ceremony. The students researched how various important documents from American history were created and then wrote and performed in skits about what they learned. One group was assigned the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
In perfecting Judaism’s complex, lunisolar calendar, the Rabbis likely relied on advanced mathematics.
David E. Y. Sarna
Passover, the Bible tells us (Exodus 34:18), is Hag Hamatzot (Holiday of The Matzot) whose time is Mo’ed HaAviv, a spring festival, that begins on the 15th day of Nisan, on the night of a full moon after the vernal equinox (“Tekufat HaShana”), following the Passover sacrifice on the 14th.
It’s an unusually precise specification. To ensure that Passover did not start before spring, the tradition in ancient Israel held that the first day of Nisan would not start until the barley is ripe, that being the test for the onset of spring.
Elisheva Carlebach rediscovers the lost art of ‘sifrei evronot,’ Jewish calendar booklets.
Harriet R. Goren
Tucked into a corner of the Columbia University campus at the end of a long hallway, Elisheva Carlebach’s book-lined office is as quiet and serene as a library. But as soon as she begins to speak about her new book, “Palaces of Time” (Harvard), we’re transported to a world where few things are fixed or organized — not even the concept of time.
Sunday, Oct. 28 was Bess’s first birthday. The festivities began two weeks earlier with a collective party for my local moms’ group’s entire brood — Bess won our first annual crawling race by a mile! — and culminated with an immediate-family-only party featuring homemade frosted pomegranate layer cake. (Rimona, Bess’s middle and Hebrew name, is the feminized form of rimon, or pomegranate.)