Vagaries of a Jewish Leap Year
Lewittes, Mendell, Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought
The year 5752 Anno Mundi (1991-1992) was a leap-year in the Jewish calendar, adding a whole month to the usual twelve. This occurs with a certain regularity in a cycle of 19 years. The 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th years are leap-years; the others are 12-month years. This arrangement brings the 354 days of the lunar year (12 x 29 1/2) in line with the 365 days of the solar year, assuring that the Festival of Passover occurs in the beginning of the Spring season. The occurrence of a leap-year has led to a number of problems concerning the observance of the various holidays and other rituals, as discussed in Talmudic and post-Talmudic literature. Actually, the more serious problems arose during the period in Jewish history prior to the middle of the fourth century, C.E., when Hillel the 2nd fixed the calendar that is in use today. In that period, the beginning of each month (Rosh Hodesh) had to be determined and declared by the High Court in Israel, which was also charged with the responsibility of deciding every year whether or not it should be proclaimed as a leap-year.
Let us examine one of the major problems faced by the Jewish people in those days as a consequence of this ad hoc fixing of the calendar, bearing in mind that the Jewish reckoning of the annual cycle of months begins with the month of Nisan, which must, necessarily, occur after the Spring equinox (Exodus 12:2, 13:4). The Mishnah (Eduyot 7:7) records that Rabbis Yehoshua and Papias testified (before the Sages in Yavneh) that a leap-year could be decided upon as late as the 29th day of Adar (the month before Nisan), whereas previously it had been ruled that it has to be decided upon before Purim (which is celebrated on the 14th of Adar). The Talmud (B. Rosh Hashanah 7a) explains the previous ruling as follows: Already at Purim time, 30 days before Passover, public discussions were conducted concerning the laws of Passover and, thus, the people anticipated that festival to occur within a month. If an additional month were to be proclaimed after Purim, there would be much confusion concerning Passover, as people …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Vagaries of a Jewish Leap Year. Contributors: Lewittes, Mendell - Author. Magazine title: Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought. Volume: 42. Issue: 3 Publication date: Summer 1993. Page number: 344+. © American Jewish Congress Fall 1996. COPYRIGHT 1993 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.