By Levi Clancy for לוי on
Two months for the olive harvest,
Two months for planting grain,
Two months for late planting,
One month for uprooting flax,
One month for the barley harvest,
One month for the wheat harvest and feasting,
Two months for tending vines,
One month for summer fruit. Gezer Calendar
Judaism is a religion based on agriculture and astronomy, so it is only suiting that the earliest known Hebrew writing is a harvest calendar.
The Gezer Calendar shows the agrarian schedule.
Sundown to sundown
The new year came with the beginning of the rainy season (October - November). This was when farmers began plowing their fields and planting grain.
Chanukkah, the holiday of the giving of light, was celebrated at the time of the winter solstice when the days could become no shorter and finally began to lengthen again.
Barley, mostly grown for animals, ripened in April, several weeks ahead of wheat, and it took at least two months to harvest both crops. Two major festivals marked the harvest season: Passover (Unleavened Bread) at the beginning and Pentecost (Weeks) at the end.
When the wheat harvest came to an end around June, harvesters were cutting the stalks and binding them into sheaves. Others are busy at the threshing floor, located on a windy hillock where crops do not grow. Oxen drag a threshing board over the unbound sheaves to separate the grains from the stalks. Winnowers toss the chopped-up mixture into the air so the wind can blow the chaff to the side while the heavier grains fall straight down.
Chickpeas and fava beans, along with melons, garlic, onions and leeks, are growing in small fields and garden plots. Figs are ripening, but it will be a month or more before the grapes are ready (around July-August?) to be pressed for wine. The oil press next to the threshing floor will be idle until the olive harvest in the fall.
In the fall harvested olives were brought from the terraced orchards and spread out on the flat circular platform to be crushed with the heavy stone roller. The oil ran through the surrounding channel into the adjacent rock-cut vat. This was the best-quality or virgin oil. Pulp from the initial crushing was placed in baskets that were then stacked on top of the pressing platform beneath the long timber beam. The stack of baskets were pressed down with the stone-weighted beam, and the oil flowed into the vat beneath.
Grapevines were sometimes trained to climb trees or trellises, but most grew in terraced vineyards. Stone watchtowers were built to guard the crop.
The main grape harvest fell in late summer, a time of celebration when families set up temporary shelters (booths) in the vineyards and lived in them until the season’s work was done. The grapes were trodden in vineyard winepresses cut in the bedrock, and the juice was fermented into wine and stored in large jars.
After the olives have been pressed for their oil and the new wine has fermented, the agricultural year will culminate in October with a joyful festival called Succoth (Booths). A few weeks later the rains will return, and the annual cycle will begin again.
There are twelve months in the Hebrew calendar.
נִיסָן nisan, 30 days
אייר iyyar, 29 days
סיוון sivan, 30 days
תמוז tammuz, 29 days
אָב av, 30 days
אֱלוּל elul, 29 days
תִּשְׁרִי tishri, 30 days
מרחשוון marcheshvan, 29 days
כסליו kislev, 30 days
טֵבֵת tevet, 29 days
שְׁבָט shvat, 30 days
אֲדָר adar, 29 days
A thirteenth month is added to form leap years: אֲדָר adar becomes אֲדָר א׳ adar I (29 days) and אֲדָר ב׳ adar II (30 days). In ancient times, a leap year was formed when the lunar calendar had deviated enough from the solar calendar that נִיסָן nisan was set to arrive before spring had come.
Also, to prevent יוֹם כִּפּוּר yom kippur and הוֹשַׁעְנָא רַבָּא hoshana rabbah from conflicting with שַׁבָּת shabbat, there are sometimes מלא maleh (full) years where מרחשוון marcheshvan gains a day (becoming 30 days); or חסר chaser (short) years where כסליו kislev loses a day (becoming 29 days).
There are four new years in the Hebrew calendar.
|First of תִּשְׁרִי tishri||When the year number changes and the ראש השנה rosh hashanah (head of the year) is celebrated (and how kings' reigns are calculated).|
|First of אֱלוּל elul||Used to calculate animal ages and tithes.|
|Fifteenth of שְׁבָט shvat||Used to calculate tree ages and agricultural tithes.|
|First of נִיסָן nisan||Marks the so-called religious new year, when sabbatical and jubilee years begin and end. Thus, Passover is the first holiday of the religious cycle.|