Five Minutes for Israel wishes our Jewish readers a happy and sweet new year
The Jewish year count dates from a traditional date for the creation of the world. Traditionally when writing the Hebrew year, in English, it is preceded by Anno Mundi (Latin for “in the year of the world”; Hebrew: לבריאת העולם, “from the creation of the world”) to distinguish it from other calendars, such as the Gregorian. This is abbreviated to A.M. So the correct form is A.M. 5774.
Hardly anyone uses A.M. any more. So if you write Hebrew or Jewish Year instead you will be forgiven.
The Jewish calendar is based both on solar and lunar cycles, with the lunar influence predominating. Each month in the Jewish calendar is 29 or 30 days long, which approximates the lunar month. Twelve of these lunar months total 354 days, about 11 days short of the solar year. This leads to a substantial drift from year to year of specific dates relative to the solar year (although all holidays occur on a fixed Jewish calendar date). To correct for this, an additional month (Adar II) is added during leap years which occur roughly every third year. In addition, other changes are made every 19th year.†
At some point during the Babylonian exile or diaspora, which started in 597 BCE, Babylonian Jews commenced to use Babylonian month names, which names continue to be used today.
To confuse you even further the New Year celebrated on 4th September is in Hebrew the first day of Tishrei. However the Bible (and common usage) had a different opinion.
Exodus 12:2 and Deut 16:1 set Aviv (now Nisan) as “the first of months”:
- this month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.
So 1st Tishrei actually begins in the seventh month of the year beginning with the month of Nisan! For reasons I have not discovered the year beginning with Nisan is called the ecclesiastical year.