[b-hebrew] Jewish Calendar

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Mon Aug 30 08:38:41 EDT 2004


As long as we're on the subject of the Jewish calendar, I thought I would share what is known as the "ATBASH" principle of calculating which holiday falls on what day. I'm sure that some of you are familiar with it, but it's cute enough to be worth repeating (and please excuse the cross-posting).

"ATBASH" means arranging something in such a way, so that the first letter of the alphabet, Aleph, corresponds to the last, Tav, then Bet to Shin and so on. Many of the Medieval Hebrew poets used it.

Now in the fixed Jewish calendar, which has been in use since the 5th century or so, it ALWAYS works out that the first day of Passover ("Aleph") is on the same day of the week as the following Tish'ah BeAv ("Tav") - the Ta'anit (fast - also with a Tav) of the 9th of Av on which the destruction of both Temples is mourned (though in practice, if the 9th of Av is on a Sabbath, the fast is held on Sunday).
The second day of Passover ("Bet") is always on the same day of the week as Shavu'ot (Shin) - the festival of Weeks (Pentecost), on the 6th of Sivan, exactly seven weeks and a day after the "Sabbath" of the first day of Passover (not necessarily the actual Sabbath - we've already discussed that).
The third day ("Gimel") is on the same day of the week as the following Rosh Hashanah (Resh), the New Year on the first of Tishri. The first day of Sukkot, on the 15th of Tishri, and the "Eight Day of Assembly" (Shemini Atseret) are also on the same day of the week.
Day "Dalet" corresponds to Qeri'ah (Qoph), "reading", the day on which "Simhat Torah" (a late rabbinic holiday on which the annual Torah-reading cycle is completed and started again) is observed outside of Israel (within the Land it is observed together with Shemini Atseret).
Day "He" matches Tsom (Sade), the fast par excellence of Yom Kippur.
Day "Vav" always falls on the same day as did the previous Purim.
And Day "Zayin", the last day of Passover, is always on the same day of the week as will be the following Yom ha'Atsmaut ('Ayin) - modern Israel's Independence Day, on the 5th of Iyyar (although, once again, if the actual date is on a Friday or Sabbath, the holiday is celebrated on the preceding Thursday).

So how's that?

Yigal Levin


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