You may have noticed, during the last few months, that our Jewish holidays were a bit earlier than usual. The High Holy Days started so early in September that Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah were done by October. Chanukah was over by December 9th, while Tu B’shevat, which we usually celebrate in February, occurred on January 21st.
This happens because the Jewish Calendar is a lunar calendar, consisting of 12 lunar months, totaling 354 days, while the secular calendar is a solar calendar consisting of 12 months totaling 365 days. Because of this 11 day difference between the two calendars, the Jewish holidays tend to fall about a week earlier from one year to the next year. This wouldn’t be a problem except that the Torah commands us to celebrate Passover in the Spring. Without correction, celebrating the holidays on a strict 12 month lunar calendar would lead to Passover being celebrated at anytime of the year over the millennia. So, much the same way, a leap day, February 29th, is added to the secular calendar in line with the sun, so a leap month was added to the Jewish calendar, an additional month of Adar, to push the holidays back into the season in which they belong.
Originally, this was done, by sending the High Priest in Jerusalem to evaluate the New Moon for what should be the beginning of the month of Adar, a full six weeks prior to Passover. If he determined that the weather felt too cold, that Spring had not yet arrived, he would declare that an additional month be added, and Passover would now be 10 weeks away. Because the holiday of Purim falls in Adar, the addition of a leap month pushes it four weeks as well, so that the celebration of Purim is still in the month prior to Passover. Following the destruction of the Second Temple the rabbis put in place a repeating 19 year cycle during which there are 7 leap months added to the calendar.
This is one of those years. February 5th, 2019, coincides with the 1st of Adar I, 5779. This means, that if there were still a High Priest in Jerusalem, he would be evaluating the weather right now and would know as we do, “It’s way too cold, Spring is still two months away.”
Given our predicted temperatures, this week, I doubt any of us would argue. Hang in there, Passover is just around the corner.
Be well everyone, and stay warm, Spring is coming.