A very dumb question about Jewish holidays

Firstly, please confirm the following: All Jewish holidays are from sunset to sunset, not just some of them, right?

If so, it’s because for some reason the Jewish people have historically followed a lunar calendar, correct? So by the traditional Jewish calendar, the fifth of April in fact starts when the sun goes down on the fourth.

Is it simply a matter of “the ancient Israelites measured days from sunset to sunset, rather than sunrise to sunrise”? Or is there some religious reasoning for it? I don’t remember anything in the bible about it, but I could very well be mistaken.

Yes. In the jewish calender all days start and end at sunset, not midnight. So every holiday also starts and ends at sunset, because the day the holiday falls on starts then.

Yes, all Jewish holidays (and all days in the Jewish calendar) start and end at sunset.

The explanation I’ve heard is that saying a day starts at sunset comes from the “then there was evening and then there was morning” passages about creation in Genesis.

Days starting at sunset doesn’t really have anything to do with the lunar calendar.

And this has nothing in particular to do with the fact that the Jews use a solunar[sup]*[/sup] calendar. When you start a day has no relation to how you reckon the months and years, and you could in principle start at sunset in a pure solar calendar, or start at midnight (or sunrise, or noon, or 3:17 PM) in a lunar calendar.
*A solunar calendar has leap months, to keep it approximately matched to the solar year, so (for instance) Passover always falls in the early spring. A pure lunar calendar, such as is used by the Muslims, drifts over time, so some years Ramadan is in the summer, and some years it’s in the winter.

This is a very good point, and now has sort of messed with my mind. (Time moves the same no matter how we measure it…)

Bonus Jewish question (can’t stop at just one…): A church has pews. A synagogue has…pews, also? Seating? Obviously I’m just looking for a general term - I’ve been in synagogues that have nothing more than folding chairs, but IME most have some manner of permanant bench-esque seating.

What I wonder about the Jewish calendar is this: Why is the date of Shabbat determined by the civil calendar, while the dates of holidays are determined by the Jewish calendar? AIUI, the Jewish calendar was the only calendar in use in Israel in Biblical times- how did they determine when Shabbat should be?

Mr. Neville and I call the ones in our synagogue pews.

Anne Neville:

Because “Shabbat” is a day of the WEEK, not a day of the YEAR. So it doesn’t matter what overall calendar you use, if you have a seven-day week, one of those days will consistently be the Jewish Sabbath.

The Holidays are days of the YEAR. You need to follow a specific calendar to have the right month and day as defined thereby.

There are seven days of the week in either calendar. Why would those need to change?

Shabbats could fall on specific dates of the Jewish months, as the holidays do. There would be some problems with that, though, since some Jewish months have different lengths in different years (like February in leap years, though there’s more than one month that can vary in length).

I’m wondering when and how it got decided that Saturday was Shabbat.

Well, the orthodox answer is that ever since the first week of creation, there has been an unbroken string of weeks since then. And every seventh day since the day God rested from his labors has been the Sabbath.

I don’t know when we have solid historical information about when the ancient hebrews started observing Sabbath, but it’s part of the earliest writings in the Bible.

You might try this reference:


With regards to pews, in my synagogue, we call them benches, on the rare occasion that we refer to the seating at all. If I referred to them as pews, people would probably (although not definitely) know what I was talking about, but would think it odd because of the church-y overtones.