It can be challenging to remember when Rosh Hashanah occurs on the Gregorian calendar. Usually, it’s in early September, but sometimes the holiday begins toward the latter part of the month—and it can begin as late as October.
It’s no problem, though, to know exactly when Rosh Hashanah comes on the Hebrew calendar: it’s always the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei.
Tishrei is a special month because it contains two of our most important Jewish holidays: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But here are some facts about the month you may not already know:
• The word “Tishrei” is not Hebrew. It’s Aramaic, from shera, meaning “to begin.”
• Tishrei can begin on the Gregorian calendar as early as Sept. 6 (and end on Oct. 5). It can begin as late as Oct. 5 (and end on Nov. 3).
• The month is always 30 days long.
• In addition to being the month in which we observe Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Tishrei brings other holy days: Tzom Gedaliah, Sukkot, Hoshanah Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.
• Frequent mention of Tishrei is made in rabbinic literature, especially Megillat Ta’anit.
• After Tishrei come the Hebrew months Heshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar, Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av and Elul.
Now, what about the Hebrew year?
With Rosh Hashanah, we enter a new year. This marks the anniversary of when the world was created, according to those who interpret literally the creation account in Bereshit, or Genesis. Even if we do not interpret the Torah literally, Judaism teaches us that the words of the Torah are true. How then can we reconcile the truth of the Torah account of creation with what most people regard as the truth of science, which says that the earth is millions of years old? Some Torah scholars suggest that we must do what Torah scholars have done for generations: find a deeper meaning in the words of the Torah what is immediately apparent. Thus, when the Torah states that the world was created in six days, we must try to understand than what the Torah means by the word “day.”
Perhaps it was a 24-hour day (remember, the sun was not created until the fourth “day”), or maybe each “day” lasted thousands or hundreds of thousands of years. We simply don’t know. This approach is not merely a way of bridging an uncomfortable dichotomy between religion and science. There are several instances where the Torah uses familiar words in an uncommon context. For example, in the Torah, the word Shabbat is not always the seventh day of the week; it sometimes means a holiday.