|Vol. X No. 6
Elul 5612 September 1852
Observations on the Jewish Year 5613 (1852)
The ensuing year 5613, from the creation, after the ordinary manner of computing time among the Israelites, commences on Tuesday, the 14th of September, 1852, of the vulgar era, or rather on the afternoon of Monday the 13th, with the decline of the sun, as all our festivals begin about sunset, and end with the appearance of the stars on the day of their conclusion. It is an ordinary leap-year, that is to say, it consists of thirteen months, in which there are alternately in each 30 and 29 days, except in the sixth month, which has 30 days as well as its preceding, the fifth month. The Sabbaths in this year are 55; and Passover will be on Sabbath (the 23d of April, 1853). Hence it is designated after the manner of the Jews, as גכ״ז מעברת, meaning an ordinary leap-year, of which Rosh-hashanah is on Tuesday,ג׳ and the Passover on the seventh day, ז׳.
As we have never given an explanation of the Calendar, we wilt now do so, in order that it may serve as a guide for the future.
The Jewish civil year commences with the first of the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year, which latter commences in the Spring, or month of Abib, אביב, as it is called in Scripture, or the one in which the early grain, such as barley, began to ripen, in Palestine. In order to bring the festival of the Passover, on which a measure of barley of the new crop was to be sacrificed in the temple, in its proper season, care was to be taken that the lunar year, consisting ordinarily of twelve lunations or periodical revolutions of the moon round the earth, which would make only 354 days, should be made to correspond with the solar year of 365 days, and nearly 6 hours, by an occasional doubling of the twelfth month by another of 30 days, the one immediately pre<<285>>ceding Abib, or, as we now term it, Nissan; and by repeating this process seven times in a cycle of 19 years, and occasionally adding one day to the eighth month, we obtained the compensation of the excess of 11 X 19, or 209, to which add 4 days for four leap-years of the solar year, the fourth usually of the series, or a total of 213 days, as 30 X 7 is 210, and thus requiring only an addition as above, of 8 or 4 days to the various eighth month, in order to make the lunar year correspond exactly with the astronomical or solar year of 365¼ days, by which we effected, that the Passover always recurred at the same season as the Exodus from Egypt, which was at the ripening of the early harvest. (See Exodus ix. 31.)
Since the Babylonian captivity, when the Israelites became acquainted with the astronomy, no less than the language of the Chaldeans (כשדים), the months have been designated by names derived from the East, and those of old Israelitish origin have disappeared. We find but four proper names in the old Biblical books, to wit: אביב, Abib, the first; זיו, Ziv, or Splendour, for the 2d; אתנים, Aithanim (of no certain derivation), for the 7th; and בול Bul or rain, for the 8th. Otherwise, they are merely styled the first, second, &c. Now, however, they are called ניסן, Nissan; אייר, Iyar; סיון, Sivan; תמוז, Tamuz; אב, Ab; or מנחם, Menachem; אלול, Elul; תשרי, Tishry; חשון, Cheshvan; or מרחשון, Marcheshvan; כסלו, Kislev; טבת, Tebeth; שבט, Shebath; and אדר, Adar. In leap-years the twelfth month is called אדר ראשון, the first Adar, and the thirteenth אדר שני, the second Adar, or ואדר, Veadar.
The first day of Tishry, as above, is called ראש השנה, Rosh-Hashanah, the head or first of the year, or New Year. It is observed, together with the second, as a strict holy day, on which all labour is suspended, except preparing food for actual use. The same is the case with all other festivals. The second day is not of Biblical origin; but arose, probably, during the existence of the second temple, when people out of the reach of the Sanhedrim, who fixed the commencement of the months, and with this, of course, the proper day of the commencement of the festivals, observed double days, so as to be sure of keeping at least one day with the Israelites of Palestine, or those within reach of the high court at Jerusalem. The festival is called in Scripture יום תרועה the day of the blowing of the cornet; which ceremony is still the distinguishing mark by which it differs from the other feasts. Five persons are called up to the first Sepher, or law book, if it be on a week day (the second is always so), and seven when on the Sabbath. The section for the first day, is as indicated in our tables in Genesis xxi., <<286>> from verse 1 to 34. On the second day, the next chapter, xxii., from 1 to 24 is read. On both days the Maphtere is read from the sacrifices in Numbers xxix., from verse 1 to 6. The prophetic sections for both days are alike for all divisions of Israelites, and are indicated in our tables.
The day subsequent to the New Year festival, the third of the month, is a strict fast day, and called צום גדליה, the fast of Gedaliah. If it happens on a Sabbath, it is held on Sunday, the 4th. This year it is on Thursday the 16th of September. In the morning and afternoon a portion from Exodus is read as the lesson of the day, from chapter xxxii., 11 to 15, and from xxxiv., 1 to 10. The same is the case with all other stated fasts, except the 9th of Ab, in the morning. In the afternoon, the Germans [Ashkenazim] read a Haphtorah in Isaiah, lv. 6 to lvi. 8, but the Portuguese [Sephardim] read none, except on the 9th of Ab, as shown in our tables, which are constructed on the Portuguese platform. They were first sent in by one of that denomination.
The tenth of Tishry is the Day of Atonement, יום הכיפרים, and is observed as a strict fast day from the afternoon of the 9th to the rising of the stars on the 10th. It falls this year on Thursday, the 23d of September. It can happen only on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sabbath, but not on Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday, just as New Year cannot happen on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, and Passover on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This fact should be specially recollected, as it will be a good guide to a correct knowledge of the calendar for those who may not live in the vicinity of other Israelites.
The fifteenth of Tishry is the first day of the feast of Tabernacles. It is distinguished by the erection of booths, in obedience to Leviticus xxiii. 42, and by the use of the palm branch, myrtle, willow, and a citron (Ibid. 40). When the first day is on Sabbath, the palm is taken on the 2d; as is also the case on New Year, that the cornet is not blown on the first when on Sabbath, but on the second. The festival commences this year on Tuesday, the 28th of September, and ends on Monday, October 4th, with the 7th day, called הושענא רבה, the Great Hosanna, from the number of prayers, the refrain of which is Hoshangna (abridged, Hosanna), “help us, we pray thee.” On that day it was customary to encircle the altar with willow boughs; which is now commemorated by our taking other willows, in addition to those of the palm, or Lulab. The next day is called, the Eighth, the festival of Assembly, שמיני חג עצרת, and falls this year on the 5th of October. On it prayers are offered up for an abundance of seasonable showers of rain. The 6th <<287>>of October (23d of Tishry), is kept as a special celebration, called “Rejoicing of the Law,” שמחת תורה, and is regarded a continuation of the 8th day. On it, three law-books are taken out of the ark, for reading, and the person to whom the conclusion of Deuteronomy is read, is called “the Bridegroom of the Law,” חתן תורה, and the one who in theory reads the beginning of Genesis is called חתן בראשית, “the Bridegroom of the Genesis.” In many congregations they are considered as honorary officers during the entire year. In the third Sepher the Maphtere is read. We would merely remark that in order to avoid unrolling the Sepher, which is the same as book of the Law of Moses, which alone is kept in our Synagogues in the ark, is a manuscript roll, written only on one side of the parchment composing the same, on the reading desk, as many different books (Sepharim) are taken out, as it is necessary to read disconnected passages. Hence on Simchath Torah, as we are to read the end of Deuteronomy, the beginning of Genesis, and from the 28th of Numbers, we take out three books, which have been unrolled beforehand to the various sections indicated.
The Sabbath subsequent to Simchath Torah, is called Sabbath Bereshith, or “of Genesis,” because on it the first section of Genesis, from i.1 to vi. 8, is read. It happens this year on October the 9th.
On the 25th day of Kislev, Monday, the 6th of December, is the first day of Chanukkah, or festival of the Dedication of the Temple, after the expulsion of Antiochus Epiphanes. It is celebrated by lighting of lamps in the Synagogues and dwellings, commencing with one on the evening preceding the 25th, and increasing by one every day, till the 8th, when eight lamps are lighted. The sections to be read are indicated in the tables.
On Sabbath, the 11th of December, three Sepharim are taken out, it being at the same time Rosh Chodesh, and Chanukkah. In the first is read the usual weekly section, Mikketz (Gen. xli. 1 to liv. 17), on the <<288>> second, the portion for New Moon (Numbers, xxviii. 9 to 15), in the last the appropriate lesson for the day, from Numbers vii. ; this year, verses 42 to 47.
Sunday, the 12th of December, is the 1st day of Tebeth, and the second day of Rosh Chodesh. Two Sepharim are taken out; read out of the first Numbers xxviii. 1 to 15, and out of the second Numbers vii. 48 to 53. Monday is the last day of the Chanukkah, when you take out one Sepher, and read from Numbers vii. 54 to viii. 4.
On the 10th of Tebeth is a general fast day; the reading is the same as on the Fast of Gedaliah. It falls this year on Tuesday, the 21st of December.
January 1st, 1853, falls on Sabbath, the 21st of Tebeth. On Monday, the 10th of January, is Rosh Chodesh Shebat. On Tuesday, the 8th of February, is the 30th of Shebat, or first day of R. Ch. Adar, and on Wednesday the 9th, is the 1st of Adar. The first of R. Ch, Veadar is on Thursday, March 10th, and the first day of the month is on Friday, March 11th.
The section from Exodus xxx. 11 to 16, called Parshath Shekalim, or the section of the Shekels, is read on the Sabbath before or on* the 1st of Adar, in an ordinary, or of Veadar, if in a leap-year. Two Sepharim are then taken out, and the Haphtorah is read from 2d Kings xi. 17 to xii. 17 (the Germans commence with xii. 1). This year, on the 5th of March. The Sabbath before Purim (which see) is called Parshath Zachor, in remembrance of the attack of the Amalekites on Israel (Exod. xvii. 8); when two Sepharim are taken out, and read from the second Deuteronomy xxv. 17 to 19, and the Haphtorah from 1st Samuel xv. 1 to 34. This year Zachor is on the 19th of March.
The Fast of Esther is on the 13th of Adar, in a plain year, and on the same day of Veadar in a leap-year. But if this be on a Sabbath, the fast is kept on the Thursday preceding. The reading as usual on other fasts.
The festival of Purim is on the 14th of the month, the next succeeding the fast. It is commemorated both evening and morning by reading the book of Esther in commemoration of the deliverance granted to the Israelites when Haman, a satrap of the King of Persia, had bought of the latter the privilege of destroying them all, and to confiscate their property. The reading for the day is from Exodus xvii. 8 to 16. The next day is called Shushan Purim, or the day, in memory <<289>>of the additional vengeance taken by the Jews of the capitol of Shushan on their enemies. These days fall this year respectively on Wednesday, the 23d, Thursday, the 24th, and Friday, the 25th of March.
The first or second Sabbaths after Purim, as the case may be, is called Parshath Parah, when out the second Sepher to be taken out the section, from Numbers xix. 1 to 22, relating to the Red Cow which was burned for purification (see the chapter cited), is read. The Haphtorah is from Ezekiel xxxvi. 16 to 36. The Sabbath Wore the new moon of Nissan, is called Parshath Hachodesh, when two Sepharim are taken out, the second to serve for reading the institution of the month Nissan as the first and of the Passover (Exodus xii. 1 to 20). The Haphtorah is from Ezekiel xlv. 18 to xlvi. 23. If on Rosh Chodesh, three Sepharim are taken out, the second for Numbers xxviii. 9 to 15, and the third for Exodus xii. 1 to 20.
The first falls this year on April 2d, the other, which is also Rosh Chodesh Nissan, on April 9th.
The Passover always comes on the first full moon after the equinox (the 21st of March), and on no other time. It is in celebration of the redemption from Egypt, as the Pentecost (50 days later), is to recall the declaration of the Decalogue or Ten Commandments at Sinai, and the feast of Tabernacles, that God protected the Israelites forty years in the desert of Arabia. The Passover lasts by the Bible seven, but by our customs, eight days, during which no leaven of any sort, either in food or drink, can be used, and we are commanded to eat unleavened bread, especially on the night preceding the 15th of Nissan. The lessons and Haphtorahs are pointed out in the tables. It commences this year on Sabbath, the 23d, and finishes on the 30th of April. The first of Omer is on the night after the first day. The Omer is a formula of numbering, with prayer, the days between Passover and Pentecost, or 7 times 7 weeks. (Leviticus xxiii. 15.)
Between Passover and Pentecost (and some during the whole summer) many are accustomed to read every afternoon of Sabbath one of the six chapters of the Ethicks of the Rabbins, or the Proverbs of the Fathers, in rotation.
The first day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar, is on Sunday, the 8th, and the se<<290>>cond on Monday, 9th of May. The second Passover (פסח שני), for which, see Numbers ix. 11, is on the 14th of Iyar; this year, on Sunday, the 22d of May.
The 33d day of Omer, observed as a half festival, occurs on the 18th of Iyar; this year, on Thursday, May 26th.
Rosh Chodesh Sivan, is on Tuesday, the 7th of June; and the Pentecost, which is on the 6th and 7th of Sivan, about the first quarter of the moon, on Sunday and Monday, the 12th and 13th of June.
Rosh Chodesh Ab, will be on Friday, August 5th. The 9th of the month, is a strict fast, held in commemoration of the burning of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and Titus; but it is observed as above, on Sunday if the proper day be Sabbath; as will happen this year, on the 14th of August, instead of the 13th. This manner of removing a fast, is called נדחה (Nidcheh). The Portuguese read for Minchah (the afternoon service), the Haphtorah from Hosea xiv. 1 to 9, and add the last three verses from Micah (vii. 18 to 20).
The first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, will be on Sabbath, September 3d, and the 2d day on Sunday, the 4th, and the Eve of the New Year, 5614, on Sunday, October 2d. The Portuguese use propitiatory prayers, סליחות, both morning and evening of week days, including the night after Sabbath from the 1st day of Elul; but the Germans commence only the Sunday before New Year, when this is on Thursday or Sabbath, and the second Sunday before New Year, when this happens on a Monday or Tuesday. This year they commence on September 25th.We may perhaps append other remarks hereafter.