05 January 2010

Happy New Year

I’ve been thinking a lot about the New Year and specifically whether or not it is my new year at all. I did a quick search on the Gregorian calendar and came up with a few facts:
  •  It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII and the name Gregorian is a tribute to him.
  • The Gregorian calendar is an adjustment of the Julian calendar, both of which exist primarily to help the church calculate when Easter should be celebrated.
  • The names of the months come from Latin and most pertain to Roman Catholic or Pagan gods, people and events. For example; January = Janus = Roman god of gates, doorways, beginnings and endings. August = Augustus = First Roman emperor
  • BC & AD mean Before Christ and Anno Domini which means “In the year of our lord” (not "after death" as Turtle's public school teacher told her. Is it no wonder I homeschool?!). This comes from the Julian calendar and was first used around 527 A.D. It was surmised that the incarnation of Jesus was the 25th of March in the year 754 and therefore the year 754 became year 1 A.D.
  • Some countries who were not Catholic felt trepidation taking on the Gregorian calendar. Many protestant countries worried that this new calendar was an attempt by the Catholic church to bring them back to Catholicism.
Nowhere in my reading did I notice anything about the Gregorian Calendar being secular, on the contrary, it is, in fact, a Catholic/Christian entity. This therefore, makes the Gregorian New Year a Christian holiday. In the US it is celebrated as a secular holiday, however we can not fool ourselves into thinking it is secular. This is how the Jewish community gets lost and Christian holidays end up in our schools and our children don't understand why we don't celebrate Easter (becuase the teacher said Easter is a secular holiday!!!). We become too complacent and one day wake up and wonder why we can’t remember how to celebrate Passover and why our children have Christmas trees in their homes (you may say I’m not one to talk and you’d be right).

So, I’ll leave the celebrations to the goy on New Years Eve. I acknowledge the passing of a year much the same as a passing of a school year or a birthday; but that’s all. I also have no choice (because I am not in Israel) but to use the Gregorian calendar but I will not call it a secular calendar any more.

Coincidently I’ve noticed a difference in my thinking between New Year and Rosh Hashanah. This is actually what got me thinking about the differences between the two and what lead to this rant on the matter.

My resolutions for this 2010 year are much more superficial than my resolutions for Rosh Hashanah 5770. In 2010 I want to loose weight, wake up and go to bed earlier, be more organized etc. In 5770 I want to pray more, be thankful more, give tzedakah, and be more vigilant about reading and discussing the Torah portions with my children. I recently read a funny article that compared the Hebrew New Year with the “Goyish” New Year. The article was funny, meant to mock extremes however they make a good point. The Goyish new year is time of football, drinking, partying and Dick Clark. The Hebrew/Jewish New Year is a time of prayer, repentance, family, and Gd. At the beginning of the year we Jews feel a new hope for the future. Having cast off our sins we can make the appropriate changes in our lives and make plans for the future. We take a deep breath and realize we have a second chance to make ourselves and the world better. At the beginning of the Goyish year we (they) are tired, hung over, and wishing for a few extra vacation days.

While we are here lets talk a little about the Hebrew calendar:

The Hebrew calendar has its roots in the Torah (five books of Moses in the Old Testament). There are several commandments in the Torah that relate to the calendar. It was established around 400 C.E (Common Era – noted on the Gregorian calendar as A.D) by Hillel II.

Years in the Hebrew calendar are numbered from the date of the creation of Adam. This was figured by adding up the ages of the people in the bible back to the time of creation of Adam. Note, this is not how old the universe is, it is how old mankind is. There are differing opinions on the age of the universe which I’ll not discus now as it advances beyond the scope of this article. To find the current year add 3760 to the Gregorian year if it is before Rosh Hashanah. After Rosh Hashanah add 3761. So today’s date is 19 Tevet, 5770.

The moths are: Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul, Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, and Adar. In the leap years we add Adar I and the regular Adar is called Adar II. The names are actually Babylonian month names brought back to Israel after the return from the Babylonian exile. Most of the months in the bible are referred to by number rather than name. So Nisan is 1, Iyar is 2…and so on. Rosh Hashanah, btw, is “the Head of the Year.” However, it is not the first month in the year; that is Nisan. The number year is increased on Rosh Hashanah in Tishri which is the 7th month.

The head, or start, of each month is also taken from the Torah. "The L-rd spoke to Moses and to Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 'This Chodesh shall be to you the head of months.'" The Chodesh is the crescent new moon and this is where each month starts. Originally there was no fixed calendar so the Sanhedrin (the Rabbinical Supreme Court) would determine the length of each month based on the length of the last. Hillel II realized that this system could not go on forever and came up with the current system.

The seven days of the week are taken from the seven days in which the world was created. In the Hebrew calendar the days are not named. They are simply counted as they are in the story of creation with Shabbat being the 7th day. Yom Rishon = first day = Sunday; Yom Sheni = second day = Monday; Yom Shlishi = third day = Tuesday; Yom Reviʻi = fourth day = Wednesday; Yom Chamishi = fifth day = Thursday; Yom Shishi = sixth day = Friday; Yom Shabbat = Shabbat day (Rest day) = Saturday.

The length of a day is from sunset to sunset. When Gd created time he began with night and then day. So the Jewish calendar begins with the night before the day. The Gregorian calendar begins and ends at midnight while the Jewish calendar begins and ends at sunset. You’ll understand why when I get into how time is measured but this is why Shabbat begins at sunset on Friday and ends at Sunset on Saturday. This makes our 24 hour clock irrelevant. The hour of the day is calculated by taking the total time of the daylight of a day from sunrise to sunset and dividing it into 12 equal parts. So the 5th hour of the day would not be 5:00 is would be 5 hours after sunrise. This also means that an hour is not necessarily 60 minutes. On a day when the sun rises at 6:30 and sets at 7:30 the “proportional hour” or “sha’ah zemanit” is 70 minutes long.

I’d like to also add that the holidays on the Hebrew calendar do not change. They are the same time every year. It is the difference between the Hebrew and Gregorian calendar that make Chanukah (for example) seem like it jumps around while Christmas remains stationary. If we used the Hebrew calendar regularly then it would seem the other way around.

So I'd like to take this time to wish my Christian friends and all who celebrate it a Happy New Year!

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