4 Jewish New Years

The Jewish Calendar has four New Years. This might seem strange to those following the Western Calendar, but the western calendars also have multiple new years, though only one is universal and the rest vary by country.

The Universal New Year of the Western Calendar falls on January 1.

There is also a fiscal New Year for tax purposes. .

There is the Academic New Year, the Broadcast Calendar, the 4-4-5 calendar, and a variety of astronomical years, all of which can be researched in Wikipedia.

But in this site we are interested in the Biblical Years, of which there are four listed below starting with Tishri:

1. The first of Tishri is the New Year for the civil calendar (including the counting of the reigns of foreign kings; see RH 3a–b and cf. Git. 8:5) for the Sabbatical and Jubilee years (plowing and planting being forbidden from that date), and for the year of planting of fruit and vegetables. The establishment of the first of Tishri as the religious New Year (see *Rosh Ha-Shanah) depends upon the statement that on that day “all the world is judged” (RH 1:2).

According to Rabbi Simeon and Rabbi Eleazar the first of Tishri is also the New Year for the tithing of cattle and therefore there are only three New Years.

2. The first of Shevat is the New Year for trees, according to Bet Shammai, but Bet Hillel fixed the date as the 15th of Shevat, and since the halakhah is established accordingly, it is this date which is celebrated today (see Tu bi-Shevat). The reason given in the Talmud (RH 14a) is that on that date the greater part of the year’s rain has fallen.

3. The first of Nissan is the New Year for (Jewish) kings and for the religious calendar (for festivals). Thus if a king ascended the throne during Adar, the next month would constitute the second year of his reign. Passover is the first festival of the year and thus the 1st of Nissan is the Rosh Hashana, hear of the year. The Talmud (RH 7a) adds that it is also the New Year for the purchase of congregational sacrifices with the *shekalim collected in Adar, and for the renting of houses.

4. The first of Ellul is the New Year for the tithing of cattle (but see the first of Tishri), i.e., tithes had to be given for all cattle born between the first of Elul and the 30th  of Av.


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