This Hebrew year consists of thirteen months rather than twelve. Jews throughout the world will add (“intercalate”) a second month of Adar this year, in order to insure that Passover falls in the spring. Although we think of it as the Jewish calendar, the calendar of twelve “lunations”, 29 or 30 day months corresponding to the cycle of the moon – whose 354-day years are adjusted to the solar year of 365 days by intercalating a thirteenth month every two or three years – was the most common calendar in the ancient world.
Jerry Clower of Mississipi tells a story about his good buddy Reverend Sam McAlwee. One day he had to preach a funeral, but he got a flat tire. He opened up the trunk, got out the jack, fixed the flat, brushed himself off and rushed off to the church, but no one was outside. He ran into the church and there were two or three old folks there. He said, “Is the funeral over?” One said, “Well, they’re gone.” He said, “What direction did they go in? Where’s the graveyard?” “Well, the deceased was Aunt Hattie Simmons and she grew up in Oak Grove, so I reckon they’re taking her to the Oak Grove Cemetery.” Well, Reverend Sam jumped in his car and rushed out there. He saw a graveyard and way up on the hill past the graveyard there were two fellows throwing dirt in a hole. He jumped out of the car, ran up the hill, looked down in the hole and said, “Well, I reckon I should say something since I missed preaching at the poor old soul’s funeral.”
When is the proper time to begin reciting Selihot before Rosh Hashanah? Why do Ashkenazic Jews start on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah, while Sefardic Jews start on Rosh Hodesh Elul?
The ritual known today as birkat hahodesh, “the blessing of the new moon”, is widely observed in synagogues throughout the world. On the last Shabbat of the Hebrew month, the cantor stands with the Torah scroll in his arms, and announces the day of the coming week on which the New Moon, Rosh Hodesh, will fall. The announcement is preceded and followed by particularly melodious prayers for a blessed month…