Volume 21 Number 94
                       Produced: Fri Nov 10 15:16:00 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Jewish Calendar
         [Mottel Gutnick]
Origin of the word Yok
         [Moshe Klempner]
Ribis and Allowance
         [Michael Lipkin]
Thanksgiving (2)
         [Yitzchok D. Frankel, Jay & Dena-Landowne Bailey]
Tunes for T'filot  Vol. 21 #91
         [Neil Parks]


From: Mottel Gutnick <MOTTEL@...>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 1995 15:11:26 GMT+1000
Subject: Jewish Calendar

My longtime interest in the above subject has recently been rekindled
through some research that I am doing for an article on the Jewish
Calendar. In connection with this, I've been looking back over some past
M-J digests and came across Dave Curwin's post of 14 August (subject:
Pesach in Winter, revisited), on which I would like to comment.

Shmuel Yarchina'ah (meaning the Astronomer) of Nehardeah (mid 3rd
century CE) drew up a calendar in which he adopted, as his estimation of
the length of the solar year, the year of Sosigines, namely 365.25
days. (Sosigines was the Alexandrian astronomer who, in 46 BCE, assisted
Julius Caesar in his reformation of the Roman Calendar from which came
the Julian Calendar, named in Caesar's honour, adopted the following
year.) His contemporary, Rav Adda, (identified with Rav Adda bar Ahava)
assumed a year-length of 365d 5h 55m 25.4386s (i.e. 365d 5h 997ch 48reg,
using the Jewish units of time, where 1h=1080ch and 1ch=76reg). As will
be seen later, this figure was based on the observations (made about 146
BCE) of the Greek Astronomer Hipparchus, whose calculations are
preserved in Ptolemy's works.

(It has been asserted that R. Adda was president of Sura in 250 CE.
Does anyone have an authoritative source confirming this?)

Just a word of explanation before I continue: Bear in mind that
"tekufa", depending on the context, can mean either "season" or the
(computed) equinox or solstice with which a season begins.

The tekufot of Mar Shmuel figure in our calendar in only two relatively
minor capacities. Namely, in determining: (1) the annual commencement
date, for the diaspora, of she'elah, the period over the northern
Winter, during which we insert the request for rain in our daily
prayers, and (2) the date for Birchat Hachama, recited once every 28
years when the spring season commences on a Wednesday, the weekday on
which the sun and moon were created. (365.25d x 4 x 7 = 28
Julian/Shmuelian years.)

(By the way, it seems to me that this observance follows the dictum of
R. Joshua that the world was created in Nisan, whereas our Rosh Hashanah
liturgy seems to uphold the view of R. Eliezer, that the world was
created in Tishri -- anyone care to comment on this?)

The above observances are either supplicatory or thanksgiving in nature
and not at all comparable to the Biblical requirement (deduced in R.H.
21a from Deut. 16:1) to ensure that the celebration of Pesach is kept in
season (i.e. after the vernal equinox, which marks the beginning of
spring.) As Zvi Weiss pointed out (30 June, subject: "Calendar, et al"),
She'elah is only loosely connected with the tekufah in any case.

Birchat Hachama presents, at first glance, a slightly greater problem.
Although it is of a thanksgiving nature only, it is supposed to mark an
astronomical event. But the truth is that whichever value we choose as
the length of the tropical year -- Shmuel's, Rav Adda's, or the
presently accepted astronomically correct value, which is about 6.6
minutes shorter than Rav Adda's -- none of them will be an exact number
of days, so with all of them there will be a creeping error (some
slower, some faster) in the dates fixed for Birchat Hachama.  The only
way to eliminate this error entirely is to multiply the year length,
expressed in days and a fraction of a day, by a number that will
eliminate the fraction. Then, if the product is not of the form 7n, we
must multiply that period by seven. The result would be such an enormous
interval between one Birchat Hachama and the next that, for all
practical purposes, the observance would be eliminated entirely.  (I
think I got the above maths right. If not, would you mathematicians
amongst us please correct me.)

In any case, for these observances, Shmuel's reckoning was held to be a
sufficiently close approximation of the year's length, and, after all,
an approximation is all we can ever hope to achieve. It makes plenty of
sense therefore to assert that the year of Mar Shmuel was adopted for
these purposes in preference to that of Rav Adda, despite the fact that
Rav Adda's was known to be more accurate, because it was easier to use
Shmuel's year-length. These dates, dependent, as they are, upon the
solar year, could not be permanently incorporated in our calendar, whose
dates are expressed according to the lunar months.  Therefore, these
calculations would have to be performed independently -- possibly by
laymen not necessarily expert in calendar calculations -- so that
keeping it simple was probably thought to be important.  (It is for the
same reason that many of the shiurim in halacha are expressed in
inexact, but commonly recognisable, units, such as tefach, amah, zeret,
zayit, betza, kimehalech 18-mil, etc.)

It is true that, by Mar Shmuel's reckoning, Pesach retrogresses against
the seasons by one day in just over 128 years. This, however, is of no
consequence to us whatsoever, because, as mentioned above, Shmuel's year
length and, hence, his tekufot, were adopted for the above two purposes
only. For other calendar purposes it is clear that Hillel II adopted the
more accurate year-length of Rav Adda. In the mechanism which Hillel
adopted for keeping Pesach (and, hence, all the other festivals) in
season, namely, the 19-year cycle whereby seven extra months are
intercalated every 19 years, it is R. Adda's year by which the tekufot
are calculated.

This is quite easy to show, because R. Adda's year length is based on
Hipparchus's calculations (made about 146 BCE) for the mean length of a
lunar month, namely: 29d 12h 793ch. This is the length adopted in our
calendar as that of an astronomical month and R. Adda's year- length can
be exactly obtained by multiplying this figure by 235/19.  The 235
represents the number of months in 19 Jewish years according to the
intercalation sequence ordained by Hillel (19 x 12 + 7).

Many authorities are in agreement on this point, although I can only
quote them from secondary sources. One of these sources quotes from R.
Avraham Zacuth: "The president Hillel, son of Yehudah the president,
composed the annual reckoning according to the astronomical teaching of
R. Adda, to be employed by us until the coming of Mashiach ben David."
(I am not familiar with this authority; if anyone can enlighten me I'd
be grateful.) They also cite Sefer Hayuchasin 50a.  The Encyclopaedia
Judaica states that according to many (unnamed) scholars, the very fact
that Pesach has many times in recent centuries preceded Tekufat Nisan as
calculated by Mar Shmuel, even though the object of the intercalations
is to ensure that Pesach succedes the Tekufah, is, of itself, sufficient
evidence that Hillel II did not adopt Shmuel's year length for these
calculations but that of R. Adda.

(The nineteen-year cycle comes from the discovery, in 432 BCE, by the
Athenian astronomer, Meton, that 235 lunations are very nearly, though
not exactly, equal to 19 solar years. This discovery was held to be of
such great importance that it was ordered to be inscribed, in letters of
gold, on a marble tablet which was placed in one of the temples at
Athens. It was also inscribed on the pillars of many public buildings.
With publicity like that, there is no doubt that this information
quickly spread throughout the ancient world, and Rav Adda, in 250 CE,
must certainly have known of this and would have utilised it in his
calculations, as did Hillel II a century later.)

Since our calendar is based on Rav Adda's year, the only thing that need
worry us, as far as Pesach is concerned, is how accurate that year
length is. If we take the presently assumed value of 365d 5h 48m 46.069s
as the mean length of the solar year, we find that the year- length
assumed by the Jewish calendar exceeds this by 6m 39.3696s.  Therefore
the computed astronomical commencement of every Jewish year will be that
much later, with reference to true solar time, than the commencement of
the preceding year. This advance will amount to a whole day in a little
over 216 years (a closer approximation is 216 years plus 83.5 days), or,
as Arthur Spier writes, the error will amount to a little over four and
a half days per thousand years.

Unless some correction is made, Pesach will continue to creep forward by
this rate until it eventually leaves the spring season and enters the
summer season. At this rate, however, assuming that the Calendar was
correct by both sun and moon in 358 CE when Hillel II reformed the
Calendar, it will not be until 6848 CE that the error will amount to 30
days. That year corresponds to the Jewish year 10608, which, being the
6th year of a cycle, is a leap year, so, at that time, the error may
easily be corrected by dropping the intercalated month of that
year. Such a variation from Hillel's Calendar would, at that stage, be
justified by the Biblical commandment (Deut. 16:1) "Shamor et chodesh
ha'aviv ...", as interpreted in Rosh Hashanah 21a (near the foot of the
page). (Put this posting in a time capsule and tell them to open it
forty eight centuries from now.)

So much for keeping Pesach in season. As far as she'elah and Birchat
Hachama are concerned, whilst, as I have suggested above, an
approximation of the tekufah is sufficient, nevertheless, it is true
that eventually their dates will become so far removed from the seasons
at which they are supposed to be observed that they too will require
some correction. Perhaps a correction similar to that employed when the
transition from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar took place will be
necessary. At any rate, if we continue to use Shmuel's calendar for
these two observances, the correction will not be so simple as the one
suggested above for the year 6848. Perhaps someone else can suggest a
workable solution for this.

Mottel Gutnick         <mottel@...>

(May the Almighty comfort all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.)


From: Moshe Klempner <101355.1634@...>
Date: 10 Nov 95 03:17:40 EST
Subject: Origin of the word Yok

My English neigbour tells me that this expression dates back to the
infamous confrontation in the City of York in the late 12th century
where many Jews lost their lives to the Yoks- in what is most likely the
earliest recorded pogrom.

Moshe Klempner


From: <Michael_Lipkin@...> (Michael Lipkin)
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 95 08:48:50 EST
Subject: Ribis and Allowance

>From: Jay Denkberg

>I was about to start giving my children an allowance. (shhh, I 
>haven't told them yet!) I would like to teach them the value of 
>saving their money by "rewarding" them with interest.  Can I?

>They are under bar/bat mitzvah, if that makes a difference.

I think this would be a problem because the law against interest falls
on both the giver and recipient.  You also have a responsibility of
chinuch, teaching your children proper halachic behavior.  But I'm sure
that more competent halachic authorities will chime in on this.

I just started giving my children allowance this week.  I asked them to
set aside 10% of the money for charity and split the remainder between
short term "binge" buying and longer term saving for some larger goal.
I also opened bank accounts for each of them so they could learn about
interest.  (My bank has a "kids" account with no minimum and quarterly
statements). I tried to get into compounding with them but it's a little
too early for that!



From: <Ydfrankel@...> (Yitzchok D. Frankel)
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 1995 00:34:06 -0500
Subject: Thanksgiving

In Igros Moshe E.Hoezer 2:13 Rabbi Feinstein Z.Tz.L. writes that while a
bal nefesh (a person of piety) may want to be strict in this matter
there is no prohibition in celebrating Thanksgiving.

Yitzchok D. Frankel
Long Beach, NY

From: <jaydena@...> (Jay & Dena-Landowne Bailey)
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 95 13:09:57 PDT
Subject: Re: Thanksgiving

Dani Wassner wrote:
>Coming from Australia, I was always amazed at frum people in Israel
>(ex-Americans) who observed Thanksgiving. I don't know the origins of
>the festival, but in Australia at least, no "goyishe customs" like
>Thankgiving are observed by Jews. After all, just because Christmas has
>no religious significance to most Christians today, we don't put
>Christmas trees in Australia (at least not in Australia).

Thanksgiving is generally regarded as an *American* holiday, with no 
particular Christian roots. The American Pilgrims who originated it 
*were* Christian, but it was not based in their Theology, as far as I 

              Jay & Dena-Landowne Bailey
Rechov Rimon 40/1 <> PO Box 1076 <> Efrat, Israel
Phone/Fax: 02/9931903 (until we get a 2nd line)
      E-mail: <jaydena@...>


From: Neil Parks <nparks@...>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 95 13:11:56 EDT
Subject: Tunes for T'filot  Vol. 21 #91 

Yeshaya Halevi said: 
>>         However, the rabbaim still threw a fit when one of us led the
>> rest in singing Adon Alom to the tune of "Scarborough Fair, by Simon &
>> Garfunkle -- despite the fact that both S&G are Jewish :) .
>>      <Chihal@...> (Yeshaya Halevi)

Last year at the annual Shabbaton of Jewish Learning Connection here in
Cleveland, it was the head of JLC, Rabbi Ephraim Nisenbaum, who led us
in singing Dror Yikra to the tune of Scarborough Fair.

(BTW, the next Shabbaton is coming up the last week in January.  When I
get more details I'll try to remember to send a msg for posting to
m.j. A&R.)

....This msg brought to you by:
     NEIL PARKS  Beachwood, Ohio    mailto://<nparks@...>


End of Volume 21 Issue 94