The Difference is .000002 - March 1, 2024

How about something more joyous and perhaps educational this week!


We are currently in the Jewish month of Adar. There is a rabbinic saying: “As Adar comes upon us, joy is increased.” Adar is also the month when we celebrate Purim (begins the evening of March 23).


This year is a Jewish “leap year,” which means we add an extra month to the Jewish calendar. This occurs seven times in a 19-year cycle. The Jewish calendar, based on the lunar cycle, has 13 months instead of the regular year's 12. The addition of a month is a reconciliation of the lunar and solar calendars. This is called “intercalation” and is done so the lunar-based Jewish year remains aligned with the solar seasons (12 lunar months make up a total of 354 days — slightly more than 11 days short of the 365¼ day solar cycle). The added month is called "Adar I" and is inserted before the month of Adar (termed "Adar II" in leap years). Based on a line in the Mishnah, Purim is celebrated in Adar II (Megillah 1:4). This extra month is also why our holidays will feel “later” this year with Rosh Hashanah starting on October 2 and Chanukah on December 25.


In addition, this year, 2024, is also a leap year with yesterday being February 29. Interesting to note that these two leap years do coincide, but not too often. In fact, it will not happen again until 2052.


Tradition has it that Hillel, head of the Sanhedrin (think Jewish Supreme Court) from 320 to 385 CE, helped create the Jewish calendar through some type of mathematical and astronomical calculations (remember this was 1650 years ago). They created the 19-year cycle with seven leap years to anchor the holidays in/around the same time of the year.


Unlike our Gregorian calendar, the Jewish calendar relies on three factors: the Earth’s rotation (24 hours), the moon’s revolution around the Earth (29½ days) and the Earth’s revolution around the sun (365¼ days).


Understanding this, how did they know what to do or how much time to add? To figure out exactly how often a leap month needs to be added to the lunar calendar, and exactly how many solar days it needs to displace, one must make an accurate calculation of the lunar month.


Think about this, with only the human eye and no modern technology, Hillel and friends calculated each lunar month to be 29.53059 solar days. According to measurements derived from satellites orbiting the earth, the lunar month is exactly 29.530588 days long. The difference is .000002 = two millionths of a day!


How did they figure that out? Hillel and company realized that if they stayed strictly lunar holidays would soon get out of sorts, and thus they put in a system to fix that with the added month. They relied on nature to tell them when a leap year was needed. If the weather and crops were not yet acting as if it was spring and if the spring equinox did not arrive before the middle of the Jewish month of Nisan, then the judges of the Sanhedrin knew the leap year with its extra month would be needed to keep Passover in its rightful place.


Muslims also follow a lunar calendar. However, the Muslim calendar does not adjust the dates to keep holidays in place, which is why Ramadan can be in the winter, spring, summer, or fall.


So, we are in Adar I and commanded to be happy. To be frank, the world around us does not feel so happy. The political climate. The Middle East. Even the rain. Plus, Portland is ranked the 67th happiest city in the United States (Seattle is #18).


The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that in Jewish tradition when the good-to-bad ratio is 60-to-one or more, the good swallows up the bad. So, the 60 days of happy Adar I and II can “swallow up” any unpleasant occurrences during that period. Moreover, our sages teach us that at our moments of greatest joy, we can find space for introspection – and, at our moments of introspection, we can find joy.


It is Adar and we should all seek happiness. It may not always be obtainable, but happiness exists.


March 8 is International Women’s Day. Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is leading “End the Silence,” a campaign to bring worldwide attention regarding the sexual abuse of Israeli women hostages on October 7. Please sign this petition that is directed to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to end the silence and speak out against rape as a weapon of war.


We held our final webinar with Voices from Israel on Wednesday. We heard from Col. Kobi Marom, who provided excellent insights into the current situation. You can watch the recording here(A special thank you to Rachel Nelson for coordinating this series.)


Nominations will soon close for the 2024 Laurie Rogoway Outstanding Jewish Professional AwardThis award celebrates an outstanding early to mid-career professional (minimum three years) working in a professional capacity at a Jewish communal organization in Greater Portland. The recipient will receive up to $1,800 to participate in a professional development experience. Anyone can nominate an outstanding professional via this nomination form by March 8.


During the pandemic, I discovered the joy of baking. It started with banana bread and then my repertoire of baked goods became quite elaborate. I then challenged the Jewish Federation professional team to a chocolate chip cookie baking contest and earned the title of “Cookie Master.” This week, for the first time in several years, we held a new (any type of) cookie baking contest. I am excited to share that Laura Jeser is our new “Cookie Master” with her award-winning snickerdoodle cookies. I look forward to reclaiming my title next year. (By the way, tomorrow is National Banana Cream Pie Day – my all-time favorite.


Shabbat shalom and may we all be happy and joyous.



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