Understanding the Hebrew calendar and its 12 months of the year can be intimidating for those not familiar with it, but it’s actually quite simple once you know the basics. Knowing when each month starts, as well as the Jewish holidays that fall on certain months of the year, are great ways to deepen your understanding of your own tradition and help you connect to the rest of the Jewish world at large. The following list contains all of these vital details about the Jewish calendar and its many months, including fun tidbits about each month that will make learning easier than ever!
The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar. It consists of 12 months and each month begins when the new moon appears. The names of the months are Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul, Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, and Adar. Each month has either 29 or 30 days depending on if it’s a leap year or not. The start of these months can shift by one day to adjust for religious holidays and festivals like Rosh Hashanah, Passover, and Yom Kippur.
Starting the Month with Rosh Chodesh
Every month on a day that corresponds to no particular date (except in Israel, where it falls on a Sunday), Jews all over the world celebrate Rosh Chodesh or New Moon. Rosh Chodesh is marked by Torah readings, candle lighting, and other rituals. It is also a time for individuals to make new resolutions or renew old ones. Some people set these goals with their local synagogue community; others prefer to do so at home with family members. Whatever works for you will work just fine!
What does it look like?
Jewish months are based on a lunar calendar. This means that each month is exactly 29.5 days in length. The Jewish year usually begins with Rosh Hashanah—the first day of Tishrei, or month number one—in September or October and ends with Simchat Torah—the last day of Tishrei, which is also considered a holiday. (These dates vary from year to year because the Jewish calendar is not fixed.)
Why Is The Jewish Calendar Different From The Gregorian Calendar?
The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, meaning it’s based on cycles of moon phases. This allows for a more gradual measurement of time. The Gregorian calendar, used in many countries around the world today, is a solar calendar—meaning it counts days from one new moon to another. The Jewish month begins at dusk on new moon and ends with nightfall. There are twelve months each year (called lunar months), which alternate between 29 and 30 days. A thirteenth leap month is added seven times every 19 years (or so) to align with our slightly irregular solar year.
The Most Important Dates in the Jewish Calendar
Rosh Hashanah is among one of the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar.
It’s a time for celebration and introspection, as we all work to improve ourselves and start our new year in a better place.
We reflect on all that has happened during our past year and accept responsibility for our choices. Rosh Hashanah is held in September or October, depending on when Jews observe Tishrei, which is according to the Biblical calendar. There are also many other special days in the Jewish year including Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), and Hanukkah (Festival of Lights) Purim (Feast of Lots), Pesach (Passover), and Shavuot. The Jewish calendar changes every year because it follows lunar cycles instead of solar ones like ours does.