Did you know?
By Rabbi Fabian Werbin
The Jewish calendar is unique in that it follows the moon and the sun. It’s not very hard to understand but explaining it can be difficult. So, here’s a brief explanation.
Because there are actually 12½ lunar months in one solar year, the roughly eleven-day difference between the year lengths of the Hebrew calendar vary over a repeating 19-year cycle of 235 lunar months. In addition, there is an additional lunar month added two or three years according to strictly defined rules. That makes a total of 7 additional months every 19 years, meaning we have 7 leap years in a cycle of 19 years. Was it clear? More or less.
Today this calendar is used by the Jewish people all over the world but this is not the only calendar the Jewish people have used over the years.
Up until the 13th century most of the Jewish people used a calendar called Minyian Hashtarot, מניין השטרות or “The Seleucid Era.” The era dates from the return of Seleucus I Nicator to Babylon in 311 BC after his exile in Ptolemaic Egypt, considered by Seleucus and his court to mark the founding of the Seleucid Empire. The dates from this calendar were commonly used in ketuvot (wedding documents), divorces, and on tombstones and traditionally, the date of creation or the number of years that had passed since the destruction of the Temple were added. Maimonides used this calendar often and the Yemenite Jews used it until they made Aliyah and went to Israel, right up to the 20th century. Some years ago Rabbi Yitzchak Ratzabi desired to renew usage of this calendar and wrote a text for a ketuvah with the old calendar in it. Some Yemenite congregation in Israel adopted this ketuvah form.