Jewish Talmudic Calendar

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The Jewish Talmudic Calendar is a lunisolar calendar using Tishri-years, observed by the Jewish people since the Late Antiquity (AD 300-700). While it is based on Nisan-years, which began from the prebiblical Babylonian times (c. 2000 BC), and the Tishri-years was formed in the time of David (c. 1000 BC), the full formation of the Jewish Talmudic Calendar was during the time of the writing of Talmud (c. AD 300-600), usually attributed to Hillel II.[1]


The ancient Israelite Calendar, no matter Nisan-years or Tishri-years, was determined by the astronomical observation of the New Moon, and the agricultural observation of the growth of Abib (the spikes on the Barley) in late Winter and early Spring. After the second (Roman) Diaspora, in order for the Jewish people away from the Land of Israel to be able to observe their Spring Feasts and Fall Feasts in the same calendar, the Jewish Talmudic Calendar was formed, based on mathematical algorithms, and free from the required observations.[2]


The Jewish Talmudic Calendar, in agreement with the Almagest and the writings of Kidinnu,[3] assumes that a month is uniformly of the length of an average synodic month, taken as exactly 291375325920 days (about 29.530594 days, which is less than half a second from the modern scientific estimate); it also assumes that a tropical year is exactly 12719 times that, i.e. about 365.2468 days. Thus it overestimates the length of the tropical year (365.2422 days) by 0.0046 days (about 7 minutes) per year, or about one day in 216 years. This error is less than the Julian years (365.2500 days) make (0.0078 days/year, or one day in 128 years), but much more than what the Gregorian years (365.2425 days/year) make (0.0003 days/year, or one day in 3333 years).

The Day[edit]

A day is defined to begin from the previous evening, at the time of sunset, when three mediums sized stars appear. Practically it begins from 6:00 pm (18:00) Jerusalem time (16:00 Universal Time). A day is divided into 24 hours, each with 1080 parts (halakim). Thus each minute is composed of 18 halakim; each halakim is 3.33 seconds.

The Months[edit]

There are twelve months in a common year, and thirteen months in a leap year. The New Years Day (Rosh Hashana) is Tishri 1. The months are 30 days and 29 days in turns. A regular common year is 354 days; while a regular leap year is 384 days (adding in a 30-day Adar I, and making the 29-day month Adar II).

The Year[edit]

There are times when a common year is 353 days, or a leap year is 383 days; these are called the Defective Years. When a common year is 355 days, or a leap year is 385 days, these are called the Excessive Years. In Defective years, the regularly 30-day Kislev is made 29 days; in Excessive Years, the regularly 29-day Heshvan is made 30 days.

Month Sequence Numbered Month Month Name Regular Year Defective Year Excessive Year
1 Seventh Tishri 30 days 30 30
2 Eighth Heshvan 29 days 29 30
3 Ninth Kislev 30 days 29 30
4 Tenth Tevet 29 days 29 29
5 Eleventh Shevat 30 days 30 30
6 Twelfth Adar 29 days 29 29
7 First Nisan 30 days 30 30
8 Second Iyyar 29 days 29 29
9 Third Sivan 30 days 30 30
10 Fourth Tammuz 29 days 29 29
11 Fifth Av 30 days 30 30
12 Sixth Elul 29 days 29 29

The Era[edit]

Jewish Talmudic Calendar is coupled with the Rabbinical Chronology, taking Monday, (Julian) Oct 7, 3761 BC. as the date of creation, and the beginning of the Era of the World (Anno Mundi). The reference junction of the Sun and the Moon (Molad 1) on the day of creation is considered to be at 5 hours and 204 halakim, or 11:11:20 pm, in the evening of Sunday, Oct 7, 3761 BC.[4]

The Cycles[edit]

In every 19 years, the solar and lunar calendars basically synchronize, with only about 2 hours of difference. Thus each 19 years is called a Small Mahzor in Jewish Talmudic Calendar, which is equivalent to the Greek Metonic Cycle, although they do not start on the same year. The year of creation according to the Rabbinical Chronology (3761 BC) is taken as year 1 in the first Small Mahzor. The Greek cycle begins from an arbitrarily year, usually from the beginning of the Common Era (Anno Domini).

If every 13 Small Mahzor is called an Iggul, because 12 times 2 hours is a day, and 30 days are a month, in less than 30 Igguls a whole intercalary month should be removed.

The Year Patterns[edit]

The position of the years in a Small Mahzor is called the Golden Number. The pattern of the leap years will change slightly each Iggul, but the Jewish Talmudic Calendar fixd the leap years in the year with these golden numbers: 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, 19. If we mark a Leap year as L, the Followship Year as F, and the Other common year as O, we have

Golden Numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Year Types F O L F O L F L F O L F O L F O L F L

Because the Julian years are 365 and a quarter days, in every 28 years the weekday pattern will repeat. This is call the Sun Cycle. The beginning of this cycle is arbitrary.

Because every 50 years is a Jubilee year, there is a Yobel Cycle; Because every seven years is a sabbatical year, there is a seven-year Release Cycle. The placement of these cycles is controversial. Historically there are enough evidences to fix the sabbatical years in the Second Temple Period.[5] But it may not match with the sabbatical cycle derived from the biblical period; and there is no consensus on whether or not the Jubilee year is the fiftieth year or the latter half of the forty ninth year.

Hebrew Calendar[edit]

A few suggestions were made to improve the Jewish Talmudic Calendar, in order to reduce its accumulated error for the remote past and future. One is to delay the leap years gradually so that a whole intercalary month is taken out at the end of Iggul 21; another is to adopt the synodic month to be the more accurate 29.53058868 days, thus the length of the year would be (235*13*26-1)/(19*13*26) = 365.2426 days, very close to the actual 365.2422 days of the tropical year. The result is the "Hebrew Calendar" in the program CalMaster2000.[6]


  1. ^ Arthur Spier, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar: Its Structure, History, and One Hundred Years of Corresponding Dates: 5660-5760, 1900-2000 (New York: Behrman House, Inc. Publishers)
  2. ^ Arthur Waskow, Seasons of Joy: a modern guide to the Jewish holidays (Boston: Beacon Press, 1982)
  3. ^ Dershowitz, Nachum; Reingold, Edward (2007). Calendrical Calculations (3 ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-0521885409. 
  4. ^ Edgar Frank, Talmudic and Rabbinical Chronology: The System of Counting Years in Jewish Literature, (New York: Philip Feldheim, Inc., Publisher, 1956)
  5. ^ B. Zuckermann, A Treatise on the Sabbatical Cycle and the Jubilee, trans. A. Löwy (New York: Hermon Press, 1974)
  6. ^ A. O. Scheffler and P. P. Scheffler, Calmaster2000: Dates, Holidays, Astronomical Events (Pittsburgh, PA: Zephyr Services).