The Intricacies of the Jewish Calendar

The Intricacies of the Jewish Calendar

The Jewish calendar is more than a technical, timekeeping device. It is a critical element of Jewish identity, rich in symbolism and history. It governs the cycles of Shabbat, the months, the feasts, and the Shmita (sabbatical year). It has incorporated elements of the ancient Persian and Babylonian calendars, all the time retaining its distinct Jewish character. To this day, its use remains an important part of what it means to be Jewish. This talk discusses the mechanics of the Jewish calendar, its components, eras, origin, relationship to other calendars, history, and relevance to Jewish identity.

Bert Hayden works as a navigation systems engineering specialist for the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, CA, where he analyzes the performance of GPS and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). He has over twenty years of experience in the Defense industry, working on navigation systems, satellite communications, and space-based remote sensing. He served in the US Air Force for eight years, four of them working on the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS). His interest in the Jewish calendar (and calendars in general) is tied to a life-long interest in both history and astronomy. It is also tied to his work on navigation systems, which must address many of the same timing and earth orientation phenomena that also affect calendar design. In addition to his engineering work and studies, Bert has studied Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic at a graduate level, and is an active student of the Hebrew Bible and Jewish history. He holds both a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Master of Arts in Theology.

(This post is part of Sinai and Synapses’ project Scientists in Synagogues, a grass-roots program to offer Jews opportunities to explore the most interesting and pressing questions surrounding Judaism and science. This Selichot program on September 9, 2023 was part of “The Intersection of Judaism and Science: Coexisting Searches” at Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center).

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