February 2018


Purim in February?!  It is hard to believe, but in this Jewish calendar year the festival of Purim begins on the last day of February. Usually, I think of Purim being a “March” holiday and indeed the daytime part of Purim is on March 1st, but reading Megillat Esther and munching on Hamentashin falls on February 28th. Now, I know I have spoken many times that the holidays are never early or late, but always “on time.” So you ask, what is going on with the Jewish calendar this year? Here’s a reminder  about the workings of the  Jewish calendar.

First of all, Purim is falling at its proper time in the holiday cycle. The Jewish calendar is based on a lunar cycle, not a solar cycle as in our secular calendar. The length of a Jewish month is determined by the time it takes for the moon to make one revolution around the earth. It takes the moon 29 days, 12+ hours to make one complete revolution. Because the time period is not a perfect 30 days, the rabbis actually calculated how the calendar would work to get a set period of days making up a full year. The first part was to make some months 29 days and other months 30 days.  Hence the reason we have one or two day Rosh Hodesh. In addition, a year in the Jewish calendar consists of twelve lunar months. The lunar year is roughly 354 1/3 days in length, while the secular—sun based year is approximately 365 ½ days or about eleven days longer.

Purim specifically falls during the last Hebrew month of the Jewish year, Adar. But sometimes, a second Adar, called Adar Sheni is added to ensure the Jewish calendar will function properly, or Passover, the first major festival, will end up in the winter months. This is not an exciting thought, for who would want to eat matzah instead of Latkes on Hanukkah. This is also the real reason our Jewish holy days and festivals shift earlier or later in regard to the secular calendar. It is logical.

In the end, Purim is celebrated when it should be according to what Megillat Esther decrees:

“And he (Mordecai) sent dispatches to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Ahasuerus, near and far, charging them to observe the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar, every year…as days of feasting and merrymaking…”

Purim shall always be an “Adar” celebrated festival.

What is the end result of all this calendar baalagan? This year we dress up in creative costumes, eat hamentashin and rejoice as we hear the Megillah as a Temple Beth Sholom community…in February! So, come Wednesday night, February 28th at 6:30 PM as we rejoice together as a merry kehillah. Sign up for Pasta Purim beforehand, and don’t forget to wear a crazy costume. What a fun month February will be.

One last note, if Purim starts in February, that means our first seder is…wait for it…March 30th!

Hag Purim Sameach,
Rabbi, Dr Larry Bazer