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Shanah tovah, or happy New Year! The importance of the lunar calendar

L’shanah Tovah to all! That’s Happy New Year!

This week is Rosh Hashanah, or New Year, for the Jewish community. Marking the passage of a time and a new year is important. The Bible even begins with the words “In the beginning…”

Western civilization uses a solar-based calendar but why don’t Jews?

After being delivered from bondage in Egypt, the very first commandment God gave Israel was to sanctify the “New Moon” (Exodus 12:1-2). No longer were they to reckon their years and seasons like the Egyptians who worshipped the sun god Ra. Israel was to be set apart!

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God placed Israel on a lunar calendar which is so different from the solar calendar. The moon and its phases are the clock that determines the planting seasons and festivals for the Jewish nation. The day begins at dusk when three stars become visible in the sky. Genesis 1:5 even refers to this saying, “and the evening and the morning were the first day.” The moon has preeminence over the beginning of the day as it arches across the sky! Shabbat, the seventh day or day of rest, begins on Friday when those three stars are visible and lasts until the following evening. In Judaism, Shabbat is the climactic end to the work week! When we take our tour groups to the Western Wall before Shabbat begins, they experience something that doesn’t happen in Christianity – people celebrating the coming of the day of rest! The day on which God chose to rest.

As for Christian religious holidays, they are typically based on the solar calendar with one big exception. Only Easter is based on a lunar calendar. It is always the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring and is always near Passover.

Happy New Year!

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice