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The Jewish Calendar PDF Version
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Woman lighting candles
Source: JTS Library
This lesson will introduce students to the structure of the Jewish calendar and its origins in Babylonia. Students will explore the dating methods and the origins of the days, weeks, months, years, and festivals that are still observed today.

Following the Babylonian conquest in 586 BCE, the exiled people of Judea arrived in Babylonia and confronted a sophisticated and very different society. There they absorbed many aspects of the general culture (such as calendrical names and the local language and writing system), but maintained their own separate religion and traditions.

The lesson begins with a summary of the Babylonian Captivity, the context in which the development of the Jewish calendar took place. Students will then explore different aspects of the Jewish calendar, comparing it with the Gregorian calendar.

Grade Level:
Middle School

Subjects Covered:
Ancient Civilization, World History, World Religions, Lifecycles, Geography

Students will use the calendar, which has provided structure for the daily life and religious practice of Jews for thousands of years, as a vehicle for learning more about Jewish life. Students will understand the development of the Jewish calendar as a product of adapting to exile after 586 BCE.

Learning Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  • locate Jerusalem and Babylon on an ancient map;
  • describe the origins of the Hebrew calendar;
  • define what constitutes a day, month, and year in the Hebrew calendar;
  • describe the origins of Jewish holidays;
  • connect this knowledge with their knowledge of Jewish holidays today.

Suggested Time Frame:
Two 45-minute sessions

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