Posted on October 4, 2022
The holidays of Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur – the Day of
Atonement, together called the High Holidays, are fast approaching, and with them, Jews
around the world will be asking the annual question, will they be late or early this year? They
never seem to ask will they be on time!
Actually, they are always “on time” if you go according to the Hebrew calendar, which is based
on a lunar cycle. But if you go according to the Gregorian calendar, which we commonly use
and is based on a solar cycle, Rosh Hashanah can occur as early as September 5th or as late
as October 5th.
Why? Because the lunar year is 11 days shorter than the solar year so it is unlikely that a
Jewish holiday from year to year will occur on the same date in the solar calendar.
To make up for the 11-day shortfall every year since eventually a holiday in one season would
end up being celebrated in another season, a leap month is added every few years to make
sure that the holiday stays in its proper season.
The Jewish New Year occurs on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. In biblical times,
however, the new year was prescribed to the month of Nissan, the month the Jews left Egypt
after hundreds of years of being slaves. However, somewhere between that time and the time
of the early Rabbis, the month of Tishrei was selected as the first month of the Jewish year,
probably because it coincided with the beginning of the agricultural season.
So, whether the High Holidays are early, late, or even on time this year, the important thing to
remember is that they represent a time for Jews around the world to reflect on their actions this
past year, to make amends with those they have wronged, and to strive to be better in the new
year to come.