Two Calendars

Q. I am trying to study the Jewish feasts and I wanted to see a Jewish calendar. I went to a website to look at one and now I am more confused. It shows the Jewish year as September to September however, when reading in Lev 23 about the time of the feasts it says that Passover should be on the 14th day of the first month. So why isn’t passover in September according to the Jewish calendar? I would really appreciate any clarification you could give me on this.

A. Like many other calendars in the ancient world, the original Jewish calendar began in the fall and was based on agricultural cycles. The New Year began when the final harvest of the previous year was completed. (Many religious Jews believe God created the Earth in the fall, at the beginning of the growing season.)

At the time of the Exodus from Egypt God instituted a new calendar that begins in the spring (Exodus 12:1). The first holy day was Passover, which takes place on the 14th day of the first month on the new calendar. Since the time of the exodus the Jews have used both calendars. Today, the one that begins in the spring is called the religious calendar and the one that begins in the fall is called the civil calendar.

Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits all take place in the spring during the first month of the religious calendar, and Pentecost comes 50 days later. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles all come in the fall during the seventh month of the religious calendar, which is also the first month of the civil calendar. That’s why Rosh Hashanah is also celebrated as the Jewish New Year.

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