Hebrew calendar

Jewish calendar, showing Adar II between 1927 and 1948

The Hebrew or Jewish calendar (Hebrew: הַלּוּחַ הָעִבְרִי, Ha-Luah ha-Ivri) is a lunisolar calendar used today predominantly for Jewish religious observances. It determines the dates for Jewish holidays and the appropriate public reading of Torah portions, yahrzeits (dates to commemorate the death of a relative), and daily Psalm readings, among many ceremonial uses. In Israel, it is used for religious purposes, provides a time frame for agriculture and is an official calendar for civil purposes, although the latter usage has been steadily declining in favor of the Gregorian calendar.

The present Hebrew calendar is the product of evolution, including a Babylonian influence. Until the Tannaitic period (approximately 10–220 CE), the calendar employed a new crescent moon, with an additional month normally added every two or three years to correct for the difference between twelve lunar months and the solar year. The year in which it was added was based on observation of natural agriculture-related events in ancient Israel.[1] Through the Amoraic period (200–500 CE) and into the Geonic period, this system was gradually displaced by the mathematical rules used today. The principles and rules were fully codified by Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah in the 12th century. Maimonides' work also replaced counting "years since the destruction of the Temple" with the modern creation-era Anno Mundi.

The Hebrew lunar year is about eleven days shorter than the solar year and uses the 19-year Metonic cycle to bring it into line with the solar year, with the addition of an intercalary month every two or three years, for a total of seven times per 19 years. Even with this intercalation, the average Hebrew calendar year is longer by about 6 minutes and 40 seconds than the current mean tropical year, so that every 217 years the Hebrew calendar will fall a day behind the current mean tropical year; and about every 238 years it will fall a day behind the mean Gregorian calendar year.[2]

The era used since the Middle Ages is the Anno Mundi epoch (Latin for "in the year of the world"; Hebrew: לבריאת העולם‎, "from the creation of the world"). As with Anno Domini (A.D. or AD), the words or abbreviation for Anno Mundi (A.M. or AM) for the era should properly precede the date rather than follow it.

AM 5780 began at sunset on 29 September 2019 and will end at sunset on 18 September 2020.[3]

Components

Day and hours

The Jewish day is of no fixed length. Based on the classic rabbinic interpretation of Genesis 1:5 ("There was evening and there was morning, one day"), a day in the rabbinic Hebrew calendar runs from sunset (the start of "the evening") to the next sunset.[4] The same definition appears in the Bible in Leviticus 23:32, where the holiday of Yom Kippur is defined as lasting "from evening to evening". Halachically, a day ends and a new one starts when three stars are visible in the sky. The time between true sunset and the time when the three stars are visible (known as 'tzait ha'kochavim') is known as 'bein hashmashot', and there are differences of opinion as to which day it falls into for some uses. This may be relevant, for example, in determining the date of birth of a child born during that gap.[5]

There is no clock in the Jewish scheme, so that the local civil clock is used. Though the civil clock, including the one in use in Israel, incorporates local adoptions of various conventions such as time zones, standard times and daylight saving, these have no place in the Jewish scheme. The civil clock is used only as a reference point – in expressions such as: "Shabbat starts at ...". The steady progression of sunset around the world and seasonal changes results in gradual civil time changes from one day to the next based on observable astronomical phenomena (the sunset) and not on man-made laws and conventions.

In Judaism, an hour is defined as 1/12 of the time from sunrise to sunset, so an hour can be less than 60 minutes in winter, and more than 60 minutes in summer. This proportional hour is known as a sha'ah z'manit (lit. a time-related hour). A Jewish hour is divided into 1080 halakim (singular: helek) or parts. A part is 3⅓ seconds or 1/18 minute. The ultimate ancestor of the helek was a small Babylonian time period called a barleycorn, itself equal to 1/72 of a Babylonian time degree (1° of celestial rotation).[6] These measures are not generally used for everyday purposes.

Instead of the international date line convention, there are varying opinions as to where the day changes. One opinion uses the antimeridian of Jerusalem (located at 144°47' W, passing through eastern Alaska). Other opinions exist as well.[7][8] (See International date line in Judaism.)

The weekdays start with Sunday (day 1, or Yom Rishon) and proceed to Saturday (day 7), Shabbat. Since some calculations use division, a remainder of 0 signifies Saturday.

While calculations of days, months and years are based on fixed hours equal to 1/24 of a day, the beginning of each halachic day is based on the local time of sunset. The end of the Shabbat and other Jewish holidays is based on nightfall (Tzeth haKochabim) which occurs some amount of time, typically 42 to 72 minutes, after sunset. According to Maimonides, nightfall occurs when three medium-sized stars become visible after sunset. By the 17th century, this had become three second-magnitude stars. The modern definition is when the center of the sun is 7° below the geometric (airless) horizon, somewhat later than civil twilight at 6°. The beginning of the daytime portion of each day is determined both by dawn and sunrise. Most halachic times are based on some combination of these four times and vary from day to day throughout the year and also vary significantly depending on location. The daytime hours are often divided into Sha'oth Zemaniyoth or "Halachic hours" by taking the time between sunrise and sunset or between dawn and nightfall and dividing it into 12 equal hours. The nighttime hours are similarly divided into 12 equal portions, albeit a different amount of time than the "hours" of the daytime. The earliest and latest times for Jewish services, the latest time to eat chametz on the day before Passover and many other rules are based on Sha'oth Zemaniyoth. For convenience, the modern day using Sha'oth Zemaniyoth is often discussed as if sunset were at 6:00 pm, sunrise at 6:00 am and each hour were equal to a fixed hour. For example, halachic noon may be after 1:00 pm in some areas during daylight saving time. Within the Mishnah, however, the numbering of the hours starts with the "first" hour after the start of the day.[9]

Weeks

A bronze Shabbat candlestick holder made in British Mandate Palestine in the 1940s.

The Hebrew week (שבוע, Shavua) is a cycle of seven days, mirroring the seven-day period of the Book of Genesis in which the world is created. Each day of the week runs from sunset to the following sunset and is figured locally. The weekly cycle, which runs concurrently with but independently of the monthly and annual cycles.

Names of weekdays

The names for the days of the week are simply the day number within the week, with Shabbat being the seventh day. In Hebrew, these names may be abbreviated using the numerical value of the Hebrew letters, for example יום א׳ (Day 1, or Yom Rishon (יום ראשון)):

  1. Yom Rishon – יום ראשון (abbreviated יום א׳), meaning "first day" [corresponds to Sunday]
  2. Yom Sheni – יום שני (abbr. יום ב׳) meaning "second day" [corresponds to Monday]
  3. Yom Shlishi – יום שלישי (abbr. יום ג׳) meaning "third day" [corresponds to Tuesday]
  4. Yom Reviʻi – יום רביעי (abbr. יום ד׳) meaning "fourth day" [corresponds to Wednesday]
  5. Yom Chamishi – יום חמישי (abbr. יום ה׳) = "fifth day" [corresponds to Thursday]
  6. Yom Shishi – יום שישי (abbr. יום ו׳) meaning "sixth day" [corresponds to Friday]
  7. Yom Shabbat – יום שבת (abbr. יום ש׳), or more usually, simply Shabbatשבת meaning "rest day" [corresponds to Saturday]

The names of the days of the week are modeled on the seven days mentioned in the Genesis 1:8 "... And there was evening and there was morning, a second day" corresponds to Yom Sheni meaning "second day". (However, for days 1, 6, and 7 the modern name differs slightly from the version in Genesis.)

The seventh day, Shabbat, as its Hebrew name indicates, is a day of rest in Judaism. In Talmudic Hebrew, the word Shabbat (שַׁבָּת) can also mean "week",[10] so that in ritual liturgy a phrase like "Yom Reviʻi beShabbat" means "the fourth day in the week".[11]

Days of week of holidays

The period from 1 Adar (or Adar II, in leap years) to 29 Marcheshvan contains all of the festivals specified in the Bible – Pesach (15 Nisan), Shavuot (6 Sivan), Rosh Hashanah (1 Tishrei), Yom Kippur (10 Tishrei), Sukkot (15 Tishrei), and Shemini Atzeret (22 Tishrei). This period is fixed, during which no adjustments are made.

Purim Passover
(first day)
Shavuot
(first day)
17 Tammuz/
Tisha B'Av
Rosh Hashanah/
Sukkot/
Shmini Atzeret/
(first day)
Yom Kippur Chanukah
(first day)
10 Tevet Tu Bishvat Purim Katan
(only in leap years)
Thu Sat Sun Sun* Mon Wed Sun or Mon Sun or Tue Sat or Mon Sun or Tue
Fri Sun Mon Sun Tue Thu Mon Tue Mon Tue
Sun Tue Wed Tue Thu Sat Wed or Thu Wed, Thu, or Fri Tue, Wed, or Thu Wed or Fri
Tue Thu Fri Thu Sat Mon Fri or Sat Fri or Sun Thu or Sat Fri or Sun
*Postponed from Shabbat

There are additional rules in the Hebrew calendar to prevent certain holidays from falling on certain days of the week. (See Rosh Hashanah postponement rules, below.) These rules are implemented by adding an extra day to Marcheshvan (making it 30 days long) or by removing one day from Kislev (making it 29 days long). Accordingly, a common Hebrew calendar year can have a length of 353, 354 or 355 days, while a leap Hebrew calendar year can have a length of 383, 384 or 385 days.

Months

The Hebrew calendar is a lunisolar calendar, meaning that months are based on lunar months, but years are based on solar years.[12] The calendar year features twelve lunar months of twenty-nine or thirty days, with an intercalary lunar month added periodically to synchronize the twelve lunar cycles with the longer solar year. (These extra months are added seven times every nineteen years. See Leap months, below.) The beginning of each Jewish lunar month is based on the appearance of the new moon.[13] Although originally the new lunar crescent had to be observed and certified by witnesses,[14] the moment of the true new moon is now approximated arithmetically as the molad, which is the mean new moon to a precision of one part.

The mean period of the lunar month (precisely, the synodic month) is very close to 29.5 days. Accordingly, the basic Hebrew calendar year is one of twelve lunar months alternating between 29 and 30 days:

Month Number* Hebrew month Length Gregorian
Ecclesiastical/
Biblical
Civil
1 7 Nisan 30 Mar-Apr
2 8 Iyar 29 Apr-May
3 9 Sivan 30 May-Jun
4 10 Tammuz 29 Jun-Jul
5 11 Av 30 Jul-Aug
6 12 Elul 29 Aug-Sep
7 1 Tishrei 30 Sep-Oct
8 2 Cheshvan (or Marcheshvan) 29/30 Oct-Nov
9 3 Kislev 30/29 Nov-Dec
10 4 Tevet 29 Dec-Jan
11 5 Shevat 30 Jan-Feb
12 6 Adar 29 Feb-Mar
Total 353, 354 or 355
* – For the distinction between numbering systems, see § New year below.

In leap years (such as 5779) an additional month, Adar I (30 days) is added after Shevat, while the regular Adar is referred to as "Adar II."

Justification for leap months

The insertion of the leap month mentioned above is based on the requirement that Passover—the festival celebrating the Exodus from Egypt, which took place in the spring—always occurs in the [northern hemisphere's] spring season. Since the adoption of a fixed calendar, intercalations in the Hebrew calendar have been assigned to fixed points in a 19-year cycle. Prior to this, the intercalation was determined empirically.[15]

Maimonides, discussing the calendrical rules in his Num 28:14), which implies that we should count the year by months and not by days."[16]

The Bible does not directly mention the addition of "embolismic" or intercalary months. However, without the insertion of embolismic months, Jewish festivals would gradually shift outside of the seasons required by the Torah. This has been ruled as implying a requirement for the insertion of embolismic months to reconcile the lunar cycles to the seasons, which are integral to solar yearly cycles.

Characteristics of leap months

In a regular (kesidran) year, Marcheshvan has 29 days and Kislev has 30 days. However, because of the Rosh Hashanah postponement rules (see below) Kislev may lose a day to have 29 days, and the year is called a short (chaser) year, or Marcheshvan may acquire an additional day to have 30 days, and the year is called a full (maleh) year. The calendar rules have been designed to ensure that Rosh Hashanah does not fall on a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday. This is to ensure that Yom Kippur does not directly precede or follow Shabbat, which would create practical difficulties, and that Hoshana Rabbah is not on a Shabbat, in which case certain ceremonies would be lost for a year.

The 12 lunar months of the Hebrew calendar are the normal months from new moon to new moon: the year normally contains twelve months averaging 29.52 days each. The discrepancy compared to the mean synodic month of 29.53 days is due to Adar I in a leap year always having thirty days. This means that the calendar year normally contains 354 days, roughly 11 days shorter than the solar year.

Traditionally, for the Babylonian and Hebrew lunisolar calendars, the years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 are the long (13-month) years of the Metonic cycle. This cycle forms the basis of the Christian ecclesiastical calendar and the Hebrew calendar and is used for the computation of the date of Easter each year.

During leap years Adar I (or Adar Aleph – "first Adar") is added before the regular Adar. Adar I is actually considered to be the extra month, and has 30 days. Adar II (or Adar Bet – "second Adar") is the "real" Adar, and has the usual 29 days. For this reason, holidays such as Purim are observed in Adar II, not Adar I.

Year 5780 since the creation of the world,
according to the traditional count.
  • This year has 355 days,
    making it a full (שלמה) year.
  • In 5780, Rosh Hashanah is on Monday,
    while Passover is on Thursday
According to the Machzor Katan, the 19-year (Metonic) cycle used to keep the Hebrew calendar aligned with the solar year:
  • This year is the 4th year of the 305th cycle.
    It is not a leap year.
According to the Machzor Gadol, a 28-year solar cycle used to calculate the date to recite Birkat Hachama, a blessing on the sun:
  • This year is the 12th year of the 207th cycle.
According to the current reckoning of sabbatical (shmita) years:
  • This year is the 5th year of the cycle.
  • It is a maaser sheni year.

Years

The Hebrew calendar year conventionally begins on Rosh Hashanah. However, other dates serve as the beginning of the year for different religious purposes.

There are three qualities that distinguish one year from another: whether it is a leap year or a common year; on which of four permissible days of the week the year begins; and whether it is a deficient, regular, or complete year. Mathematically, there are 24 (2×4×3) possible combinations, but only 14 of them are valid. Each of these patterns is called a keviyah (Hebrew קביעה for "a setting" or "an established thing"), and is encoded as a series of two or three Hebrew letters. See Four gates.

In Hebrew there are two common ways of writing the year number: with the thousands, called לפרט גדול ("major era"), and without the thousands, called לפרט קטן ("minor era"). Thus, the current year is written as ה'תש"ף ‎(5780) using the "major era" and תש"ף ‎(780) using the "minor era".

Anno Mundi

The Jewish calendar's reference point is traditionally held to be about one year before the Creation of the world.

In 1178 CE, Maimonides wrote in the Mishneh Torah[17] that he had chosen the epoch from which calculations of all dates should be as "the third day of Nisan in this present year ... which is the year 4938 of the creation of the world" (22 March 1178).[18] He included all the rules for the calculated calendar and their scriptural basis, including the modern epochal year in his work, and beginning formal usage of the anno mundi era. From the eleventh century, anno mundi dating became dominant throughout most of the world's Jewish communities.[19][20][page needed] Today, the rules detailed in Maimonides' calendrical code are those generally used by Jewish communities throughout the world.

Since the codification by Maimonides in 1178, the Jewish calendar has used the Anno Mundi epoch (Latin for "in the year of the world," abbreviated AM or A.M., Hebrew לבריאת העולם), sometimes referred to as the "Hebrew era", to distinguish it from other systems based on some computation of creation, such as the Byzantine calendar.

There is also reference in the Talmud to years since the creation based on the calculation in the Seder Olam Rabbah of Rabbi Jose ben Halafta in about 160 CE.[21] By his calculation, based on the Masoretic Text, Adam was created in 3760 BCE, later confirmed by the Muslim chronologist al-Biruni as 3448 years before the Seleucid era.[22] An example is the c. 8th century Baraita of Samuel.

According to rabbinic reckoning, the beginning of "year 1" is not Creation, but about one year before Creation, with the new moon of its first month (Tishrei) to be called molad tohu (the mean new moon of chaos or nothing). The Jewish calendar's epoch (reference date), 1 Tishrei AM 1, is equivalent to Monday, 7 October 3761 BCE in the proleptic Julian calendar, the equivalent tabular date (same daylight period) and is about one year before the traditional Jewish date of Creation on 25 Elul AM 1,[23] based upon the Seder Olam Rabbah.[24] Thus, adding 3760 before Rosh Hashanah or 3761 after to a Julian year number starting from 1 CE will yield the Hebrew year. For earlier years there may be a discrepancy [see: Missing years (Jewish calendar)].

The Seder Olam Rabbah also recognized the importance of the Jubilee and Sabbatical cycles as a long-term calendrical system, and attempted at various places to fit the Sabbatical and Jubilee years into its chronological scheme.

Occasionally, Anno Mundi is styled as Anno Hebraico (AH),[25] though this is subject to confusion with notation for the Islamic Hijri year.

New year

A shofar made from a ram's horn is traditionally blown in observance of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish civic year.

The Jewish calendar has several distinct new years, used for different purposes. The use of multiple starting dates for a year is comparable to different starting dates for civil "calendar years", "tax or fiscal years", "academic years", and so on. The Mishnah (c. 200 CE) identifies four new-year dates:

The 1st of Nisan is the new year for kings and festivals; the 1st of Elul is the new year for the cattle tithe... the 1st of Tishri is the new year for years, of the years of release and jubilee years, for the planting and for vegetables; and the 1st of Shevat is the new year for trees—so the school of Shammai; and the school of Hillel say: On the 15th thereof.[26]

Two of these dates are especially prominent:

  • 1 Nisan is the ecclesiastical new year, i.e. the date from which months and festivals are counted.[27] Thus Passover (which begins on 15 Nisan) is described in the Torah as falling "in the first month",[28] while Rosh Hashana (which begins on 1 Tishrei) is described as falling "in the seventh month".[29] Since Passover is required to be celebrated in the spring, it should fall around, and normally just after, the Exodus 12:1–2 require that the months be determined by a proper court with the necessary authority to sanctify the months. Hence the court, not the astronomy, has the final decision.[30]
  • Nowadays, the day most commonly referred to as the "New Year" is 1 Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah, lit. "head of the year"), even though Tishrei is the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year. 1 Tishrei is the civil new year, and the date on which the year number advances. Tishrei marks the end of one agricultural year and the beginning of another,[31] and thus 1 Tishrei is considered the new year for most agriculture-related commandments, including Shmita, Yovel, Maaser Rishon, Maaser Sheni, and Maaser Ani.

For the dates of the Jewish New Year see Jewish and Israeli holidays 2000–2050 or calculate using the section "Conversion between Jewish and civil calendars".

Leap years

The Jewish calendar is based on the Metonic cycle of 19 years, of which 12 are common (non-leap) years of 12 months and 7 are leap years of 13 months. To determine whether a Jewish year is a leap year, one must find its position in the 19-year Metonic cycle. This position is calculated by dividing the Jewish year number by 19 and finding the remainder. (Since there is no year 0, a remainder of 0 indicates that the year is year 19 of the cycle.) For example, the Jewish year 5780 divided by 19 results in a remainder of 4, indicating that it is year 4 of the Metonic cycle. [32]

Years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 of the Metonic cycle are leap years. To assist in remembering this sequence, some people use the mnemonic Hebrew word GUCHADZaT "גוחאדז"ט", where the Hebrew letters gimel-vav-het aleph-dalet-zayin-tet are used as Hebrew numerals equivalent to 3, 6, 8, 1, 4, 7, 9. The keviyah records whether the year is leap or common: פ for peshuta (פשוטה), meaning simple and indicating a common year, and מ indicating a leap year (me'uberet, מעוברת).[33]

Another memory aid notes that intervals of the major scale follow the same pattern as do Jewish leap years, with do corresponding to year 19 (or 0): a whole step in the scale corresponds to two common years between consecutive leap years, and a half step to one common year between two leap years. This connection with the major scale is more plain in the context of 19 equal temperament: counting the tonic as 0, the notes of the major scale in 19 equal temperament are numbers 0 (or 19), 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, the same numbers as the leap years in the Hebrew calendar.

A simple rule for determining whether a year is a leap year has been given above. However, there is another rule which not only tells whether the year is leap but also gives the fraction of a month by which the calendar is behind the seasons, useful for agricultural purposes. To determine whether year n of the calendar is a leap year, find the remainder on dividing [(7 × n) + 1] by 19. If the remainder is 6 or less it is a leap year; if it is 7 or more it is not. For example, the remainder on dividing [(7 × 5780) + 1] by 19 is 10, so the year 5780 is not a leap year. The remainder on dividing [(7 × 5781) + 1] by 19 is 17, so the year 5781 is not a leap year.[34] This works because as there are seven leap years in nineteen years the difference between the solar and lunar years increases by 7/19-month per year. When the difference goes above 18/19-month this signifies a leap year, and the difference is reduced by one month.

Rosh Hashanah postponement rules

Day of week Number of days
Monday 353 355 383 385
Tuesday 354 384
Thursday 354 355 383 385
Saturday 353 355 383 385

To calculate the day on which Rosh Hashanah of a given year will fall, it is necessary first to calculate the expected molad (moment of lunar conjunction or new moon) of Tishrei in that year, and then to apply a set of rules to determine whether the first day of the year must be postponed. The molad can be calculated by multiplying the number of months that will have elapsed since some (preceding) molad whose weekday is known by the mean length of a (synodic) lunar month, which is 29 days, 12 hours, and 793 parts (there are 1080 "parts" in an hour, so that one part is equal to 3​13 seconds). The very first molad, the molad tohu, fell on Sunday evening at 11.11​13 in the local time of Jerusalem[35], or -3761/10/6 (Proleptic Julian calendar) 20:50:23.1 UTC, or in Jewish terms Day 2, 5 hours, and 204 parts.

In calculating the number of months that will have passed since the known molad that one uses as the starting point, one must remember to include any leap months that falls within the elapsed interval, according to the cycle of leap years. A 19-year cycle of 235 synodic months has 991 weeks 2 days 16 hours 595 parts, a common year of 12 synodic months has 50 weeks 4 days 8 hours 876 parts, while a leap year of 13 synodic months has 54 weeks 5 days 21 hours 589 parts.

The two months whose numbers of days may be adjusted, Marcheshvan and Kislev, are the eighth and ninth months of the Hebrew year, whereas Tishrei is the seventh month (in the traditional counting of the months, even though it is the first month of a new calendar year). Any adjustments needed to postpone Rosh Hashanah must be made to the adjustable months in the year that precedes the year of which the Rosh Hashanah will be the first day.

Just four potential conditions are considered to determine whether the date of Rosh Hashanah must be postponed. These are called the Rosh Hashanah postponement rules, or deḥiyyot:[36][37][38][39][40]

  • If the molad occurs at or later than noon, Rosh Hashanah is postponed a day. This is called deḥiyyat molad zaken (דְחִיַּת מוֹלָד זָקֵן, literally, "old birth", i.e., late new moon).
  • If the molad occurs on a Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday, Rosh Hashanah is postponed a day. If the application of deḥiyyah molad zaken would place Rosh Hashanah on one of these days, then it must be postponed a second day. This is called deḥiyyat lo ADU (דְחִיַּת לֹא אד”ו), an acronym that means "not [weekday] one, four, or six."

The first of these rules (deḥiyyat molad zaken) is referred to in the Talmud.[41] Nowadays, molad zaken is used as a device to prevent the molad falling on the second day of the month.[42] The second rule, (deḥiyyat lo ADU), is applied for religious reasons.

Another two rules are applied much less frequently and serve to prevent impermissible year lengths. Their names are Hebrew acronyms that refer to the ways they are calculated:

  • If the molad in a common year falls on a Tuesday after 9 hours and 204 parts, Rosh Hashanah is postponed to Thursday. This is deḥiyyat GaTaRaD (דְחִיַּת גטר”ד, where the acronym stands for "3 [Tuesday], 9, 204."
  • If the molad following a leap year falls on a Monday, more than 15 hours and 589 parts after the Hebrew day began (for calculation purposes, this is taken to be 6 pm Sunday), Rosh Hashanah is postponed to Tuesday. This is deḥiyyat BeTUTeKaPoT (דְחִיַּת בט”ו תקפ”ט), where the acronym stands for "2 [Monday], 15, 589."

At the innovation of the sages, the calendar was arranged to ensure that Yom Kippur would not fall on a Friday or Sunday, and Hoshana Rabbah would not fall on Shabbat.[43] These rules have been instituted because Shabbat restrictions also apply to Yom Kippur, so that if Yom Kippur were to fall on Friday, it would not be possible to make necessary preparations for Shabbat (such as candle lighting). Similarly, if Yom Kippur fell on a Sunday, it would not be possible to make preparations for Yom Kippur because the preceding day is Shabbat.[44] Additionally, the laws of Shabbat override those of Hoshana Rabbah, so that if Hoshana Rabbah were to fall on Shabbat certain rituals that are a part of the Hoshana Rabbah service (such as carrying willows, which is a form of work) could not be performed.[45]

To prevent Yom Kippur (10 Tishrei) from falling on a Friday or Sunday, Rosh Hashanah (1 Tishrei) cannot fall on Wednesday or Friday. Likewise, to prevent Hoshana Rabbah (21 Tishrei) from falling on a Saturday, Rosh Hashanah cannot fall on a Sunday. This leaves only four days on which Rosh Hashanah can fall: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, which are referred to as the "four gates". Each day is associated with a number (its order in the week, beginning with Sunday as day 1). Numbers in Hebrew have been traditionally denominated by Hebrew letters. Thus the keviyah uses the letters ה ,ג ,ב and ז (representing 2, 3, 5, and 7, for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) to denote the starting day of the year.

Deficient, regular, and complete years

The postponement of the year is compensated for by adding a day to the second month or removing one from the third month. A Jewish common year can only have 353, 354, or 355 days. A leap year is always 30 days longer, and so can have 383, 384, or 385 days.

  • A chaserah year (Hebrew for "deficient" or "incomplete") is 353 or 383 days long. Both Cheshvan and Kislev have 29 days. The Hebrew letter ח "het" is used in the keviyah.
  • A kesidrah year ("regular" or "in-order") is 354 or 384 days long. Cheshvan has 29 days while Kislev has 30 days. The Hebrew letter כ "kaf" is used in the keviyah.
  • A shlemah year ("complete" or "perfect", also "abundant") is 355 or 385 days long. Both Cheshvan and Kislev have 30 days. The Hebrew letter ש "shin" is used in the keviyah.

Whether a year is deficient, regular, or complete is determined by the time between two adjacent Rosh Hashanah observances and the leap year. While the keviyah is sufficient to describe a year, a variant specifies the day of the week for the first day of Pesach (Passover) in lieu of the year length.

A Metonic cycle equates to 235 lunar months in each 19-year cycle. This gives an average of 6939 days, 16 hours, and 595 parts for each cycle. But due to the Rosh Hashanah postponement rules (preceding section) a cycle of 19 Jewish years can be either 6939, 6940, 6941, or 6942 days in duration. Since none of these values is evenly divisible by seven, the Jewish calendar repeats exactly only following 36,288 Metonic cycles, or 689,472 Jewish years. There is a near-repetition every 247 years, except for an excess of 50 minutes 16​23 seconds (905 parts).

Four gates

The annual calendar of a numbered Hebrew year, displayed as 12 or 13 months partitioned into weeks, can be determined by consulting the table of Four gates, whose inputs are the year's position in the 19-year cycle and its molad Tishrei. The resulting type (keviyah) of the desired year in the body of the table is a triple consisting of two numbers and a letter (written left-to-right in English). The left number of each triple is the day of the week of 1 Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah (2 3 5 7); the letter indicates whether that year is deficient (D), regular (R), or complete (C), the number of days in Chesvan and Kislev; while the right number of each triple is the day of the week of 15 Nisan, the first day of Passover or Pesach (1 3 5 7), within the same Hebrew year (next Julian/Gregorian year). The keviyah in Hebrew letters are written right-to-left, so their days of the week are reversed, the right number for 1 Tishrei and the left for 15 Nisan. The year within the 19-year cycle alone determines whether that year has one or two Adars.[46][47][48][49][50][51]

This table numbers the days of the week and hours for the limits of molad Tishrei in the Hebrew manner for calendrical calculations, that is, both begin at 6 pm, thus 7d 18h 0p is noon Saturday. The years of a 19-year cycle are organized into four groups: common years after a leap year but before a common year (1 4 9 12 15); common years between two leap years (7 18); common years after a common year but before a leap year (2 5 10 13 16); and leap years (3 6 8 11 14 17 19), all between common years. The oldest surviving table of Four gates was written by Saadia Gaon (892–942). It is so named because it identifies the four allowable days of the week on which 1 Tishrei can occur.

Comparing the days of the week of molad Tishrei with those in the keviyah shows that during 39% of years 1 Tishrei is not postponed beyond the day of the week of its molad Tishrei, 47% are postponed one day, and 14% are postponed two days. This table also identifies the seven types of common years and seven types of leap years. Most are represented in any 19-year cycle, except one or two may be in neighboring cycles. The most likely type of year is 5R7 in 18.1% of years, whereas the least likely is 5C1 in 3.3% of years. The day of the week of 15 Nisan is later than that of 1 Tishrei by one, two or three days for common years and three, four or five days for leap years in deficient, regular or complete years, respectively.

Four gates or Table of Limits
molad
Tishrei ≥
Year of 19-year cycle
1 4 9 12 15 7 18 2 5 10 13 16 3 6 8 11 14 17 19
7d 18h 0p 2D3   בחג 2D5   בחה
1d 9h 204p  
1d 20h 491p 2C5   בשה 2C7   בשז
2d 15h 589p  
2d 18h 0p 3R5   גכה 3R7   גכז
3d 9h 204p 5R7   הכז  
3d 18h 0p 5D1   החא
4d 11h 695p  
5d 9h 204p 5C1   השא 5C3   השג
5d 18h 0p  
6d 0h 408p 7D1   זחא 7D3   זחג
6d 9h 204p  
6d 20h 491p 7C3   זשג 7C5   זשה
Incidence (percentage)
common years leap years
5R7 18.05 5C3 6.66
7C3 13.72 7D3 5.8
2C5 11.8 2D5 5.8
3R5 6.25 3R7 5.26
2D3 5.71 2C7 4.72
7D1 4.33 7C5 4.72
5C1 3.31 5D1 3.87

Holidays

See Jewish and Israeli holidays 2000–2050

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