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04 Feb

After many years of blissful ignorance, I finally sat down and worked out the mathematics involved, and I have added a page on The Jewish Calendar: A Closer Look, which may be of interest to those who want a deeper understanding or who want to write a Jewish calendar computer program.

For the rest of us, there are plenty of easily accessible computer programs that will calculate the Jewish calendar for more than a millennium to come. Note that the number of days between Nissan and Tishri is always the same.

These three phenomena are independent of each other, so there is no direct correlation between them.

On average, the moon revolves around the Earth in about 29½ days.

If you are musically inclined, you may find it helpful to remember this pattern of leap years by reference to the major scale: for each whole step there are two regular years and a leap year; for each half-step there is one regular year and a leap year.

This is easier to understand when you examine the keyboard illustration below and see how it relates to the leap years above.

The month of Nissan occurs 11 days earlier each year for two or three years, and then jumps forward 30 days, balancing out the drift.

The Earth revolves around the sun in about 365¼ days, that is, about 12.4 lunar months.

The civil calendar used by most of the world has abandoned any correlation between the moon cycles and the month, arbitrarily setting the length of months to 28, 30 or 31 days.

Many Orthodox Jews will readily acknowledge that the first six "days" of creation are not necessarily 24-hour days (indeed, a 24-hour day would be meaningless until the creation of the sun on the fourth "day"). The names of the months of the Jewish calendar were adopted during the time of Ezra, after the return from the Babylonian exile.

For a fascinating (albeit somewhat defensive) article by a nuclear physicist showing how Einstein's Theory of Relativity sheds light on the correspondence between the Torah's age of the universe and the age ascertained by science, see The Age of the Universe. The names are actually Babylonian month names, brought back to Israel by the returning exiles.