Sharona Margolin Halickman

Should we be using the secular date?

When writing a check in Israel, one can choose to date it with the “Jewish” date (ex: 1 Nissan) or with the secular date (ex: March 1). But is the “Jewish” date really Jewish and if not then why are we using it?

The Ramban teaches on the topic of Parshat HaChodesh that we should count the months based on the first month of the redemption so that we will always remember the Exodus from Egypt. Therefore, the months in the Torah have no individual names. Just as in counting the days of the week we always remember Shabbat since the weekdays have no specific Hebrew name of their own, but are instead called “the first day in the week of Shabbat”, “the second day in the week of Shabbat” so too the months have no name other than “the first month”, “the second month”, “the third month” to our redemption (from Egypt).

The rabbis taught in the Yerushalmi Rosh HaShana 1:2, “The names of the months came up with us from Babylon”, since at first we had no names for the months. The reason for this adoption of the names of the months when our ancestors returned from Babylon to build the Second Temple was that at first their reckoning was a memorial to the Exodus from Egypt, but when we came up from Babylon the words of scripture were fulfilled as it says in Yirmiyahu 16:14-15 “And it shall no more be said: As the Eternal lives, that brought up and led B’nai Yisrael from the land of Egypt, rather: As the Eternal lives that brought up and led B’nai  Yisrael from the land of the north.” From then on we began to call the months by the names they were called in the land of Babylon. In that way we are reminded that there we stayed during the exile and from there God brought us up to our Land. The names- Nisan, Iyar etc. are Persian names and are only found in the books of the prophets of the Babylonian era (Zecharia, Ezra, Nechemia) and in Megillat Ester and are often used alongside the original numbers of the months as in “In the first month, that is, in the month of Nisan,” (Ester 3:7). Through the names of the months we remember our second redemption as we have done until then with regard to the first one.

Today, we are living during the era which we hope is “the first flowerings of the third redemption” so it actually makes sense to use the secular date (as in March 1) to remind us that we were once again in exile and now Jews from all over the world are returning to Israel as part of what we hope is the process of the third redemption.

What is interesting is that most Israelis call the secular months by the number of the month so March 1 would be called the first day of the third month which sounds a lot like the way the dates are outlined in the Torah.

Before long, checks will become obsolete as all banking will be done online so this won’t even be an issue at all.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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