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Maintaining the Cosmic Balance

by Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles


Library » Miscellaneous » The Jewish Calendar | Subscribe | What is RSS?


On the secular Gregorian calendar, every four years an extra day is added to the month of February, since the solar revolution takes nearly 365 plus one-quarter days. The Jewish leap-year system is much more dramatic - it has to be!

On one hand, the Torah commands to track the new moons and to keep a lunar calendar.1 Since the lunar cycle is about 29.5 days, a lunar year of 12 months contains 354 days (the months alternate between 29 and 30 days in length - a month couldn't be 29.5 days anymore than a calendar year could be 365 ¼ days). One consequence of keeping a lunar calendar would be that our festivals (like the Islamic holy days) would occur 11 or so days earlier each year in relation to the solar cycle, and thus, every three years would fall more than a solar month earlier, and every nine years, a whole season earlier.

In order for the festivals to retain their position relative to the seasons, an adjustment must be made to enable the lunar calendar to maintain harmony with the solar cycle
However, it is also specified in the Torah that Passover must always be celebrated in the spring time2  and Sukkot during autumn.3

In order for the festivals to retain their position relative to the seasons, an adjustment must be made to enable the lunar calendar to maintain harmony with the solar cycle, and indeed an extraordinary provision is taken. In the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th year of every 19 year cycle an entire month is added before the month in which Passover falls - not just a day.4 Such a year is called "shanah m'uberret" - literally, "a pregnant year."

This year, 57655, is such a year, pregnant with a thirteenth month and also with extra meaning and growth potential. Let's look at one of the interesting lessons that may be drawn from the "reconciliation" of the sun and the moon and consider its practical applications for our personal lives:

The lunar and solar cycles symbolize two basic spiritual principles, namely, consistency and innovation.

The sun symbolizes stability in that the amount of light it radiates each day is constant. The "sun pole" in our lives is our regular pattern of observance and our basic principles and goals, areas where it is important to be consistent, and unwavering.

The moon symbolizes change in that the amount of light it reflects varies continuously. As such, the "moon pole" in our lives is the striving for improvement, progress and growth, and utilization of one's creativity.


  • 1. Ex. 12:2.
  • 2. Deut. 16:1.
  • 3. ibid.16:12.
  • 4. Very approximately: 19 years of an 11-day annual differential equals 209 days. Seven extra months of 30 days each equals 210 days. In reality it is much more precise, since a flexibility in the length of two consecutive Jewish months, Cheshvan and Kislev - each one can be either 29 or 30 days - allow a regular year to have 353, 354, or 355 days, and a leap year 383, 384, or 385.
  • 5. This article was written in 2005, which corresponded to the Jewish calendar year 5765. See also,79399/What-is-the-cycle-of-the-Jewish-calendar.html


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(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
A one-day holiday celebrated in late winter commemorating the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree of annihilation issued by Persian King Ahasuerus in the year 356 BCE.
The twelfth month on the Jewish calendar. This month (which falls out approx. February-March), is the most joyous month on the calendar due to the holiday of Purim which is on the 14th and 15th of this month.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.