Facts and Figures about the New Year
AT A GLANCE
- 5771 has 385 days, including 55 Shabbatot, the longest possible year in the Jewish calendar.
- 5771 is a 13-month year, known as a Jewish “leap year” (shanah me’uberet), in which the month of Adar is doubled (intercalated).
- The Jewish calendar works in cycles both of nineteen years, known as the lunar (or lesser) cycle, and of twenty-eight years, known as the solar (or great) cycle. 5771 is the fourteenth year of the 304th lunar cycle and the third year of the 207th solar cycle since Creation. It is the third year of the current shemittah cycle.
- These factors combine to formulate the “type” of year—out of 14 possible year-types—that characterize 5771. Thus, its code is: mem–for me’uberet, a year of 13 months; heh–signifying that Rosh Hashanah will begin on a Thursday, the fifth day of the week; shin–for shalem, meaning that both Cheshvan and Tevet will each have their full complement of 30 days.
- This year-type is the most common of the seven 13- month year-types, with a frequency of just under 6.7 percent, or about once in 15 years. Counting all 14 year-types, it is the fourth most common. Yet, the last memheh- shin year was 27 years ago, while the next one is scheduled for 5774.
- With Rosh Hashanah occurring on Thursday and Friday, Tzom Gedalyah and Yom Kippur both fall on Shabbat. Tzom Gedalyah is postponed to Sunday, but Yom Kippur remains on its set day, the only one of the fasts ever observed on Shabbat.
- This is the beginning of a five-year period, in four of which (5771, 5772, 5774 and 5775) Rosh Hashanah will fall on Thursday and Friday, and Yom Kippur on Shabbat.
- In shalem years like 5771, the first day of Chanukah is the same as that of Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot, which is Thursday this year. In other years, Chanukah begins one day of the week earlier
- Asarah b’Tevet falls on Friday this year, which means that, of necessity, the fast actually extends a little into Shabbat, and is only broken with Kiddush. The Torah is read at erev Shabbat Mincha, and the haftarah for a fast day is recited. Asarah b’Tevet is the only fast that can fall on Friday, and it happens with a 20 percent frequency, the last time being 10 years ago (5761).
- Beginning with Adar Sheni, all of this year’s holidays and fasts fall on the same day of the week as last year, because they will all occur 385 days, exactly 55 weeks, later. Since Purim is again on a Sunday, Ta’anit Esther is once more observed on the preceding Thursday. Because the fast day is not followed immediately by Purim, Avinu Malkeinu and Tachanun are said at Mincha on Ta’anit Esther. In Jerusalem, even though Purim will be on Monday, Ta’anit Esther is observed there on the same day as it is in the rest of the world.
- The month which is added to make 5771 a leap year is Adar Rishon, the first Adar, so that all the special dates in Adar (the Four Parshiyot, Ta’anit Esther, Purim) are observed in Adar Sheni, the second Adar. The 14th and 15th of Adar Rishon are known as Purim Katan and Shushan Purim Katan, respectively.
- As last year, Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Hazikaron (IDF Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) will each be observed on the day following their official dates, so as to avoid any possible breach of Shabbat laws on the evenings preceding them.
- Only one of the pairs of parshiyot that are sometimes combined and sometimes separated is combined in 5771, namely Nitzavim and Vayelech.
- Finally, the Hebrew letters for the year 5771—heh, tav, shin, ayin, aleph—can be looked at as rashei tevot (a literary abbreviation) for a prayer to God: “Hashem, Tifros Shelomcha Aleinu, Amen—God, spread Your peace over us,” to which we add a resounding Amen! So may it be His will.
Phil Chernofsky is the educational director of the Seymour J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center, and the editor of Torah Tidbits, its famed English-language weekly Torah publication.