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Over-Interpretating the Bible: Our Literary Critic's Weekly 'Daf Yomi' Talmud Study.

Literary critic Adam Kirsch is reading a page of Talmud a day, along with Jews around the world.

When does the Jewish year begin? The answer seems obvious: Everyone knows it's Rosh Hashanah, whose name literally means "first of the year." Yet if you read the Bible, it becomes clear that God himself had a different idea. In Exodus 12, God addresses Moses and Aaron directly, telling them that Nisan, the month of the Exodus from Egypt, "shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you." (Though the Bible does not actually use the word "Nisan": the names of the months as we know them are Babylonian and date from the Babylonian exile in the 6th century B.C.E.) It makes perfect sense that Nisan, which marks the beginning of Jewish freedom and includes the most important Jewish holiday, Passover, would be the month chosen to begin the year. And as we read earlier in the Daf Yomi cycle, in Tractate Shekalim, it was in Nisan that the Temple authorities marked the new year for the purposes of collecting tithes. Why, then, do we celebrate Rosh Hashanah on the first of Tishrei, six months later?

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Author:Kirsch, Adam
Publication:Tablet Magazine
Date:May 20, 2014
Words:223
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