Monday, January 14, 2019

An Eight or Nine Day Week?

Practically all civilized humanity has agreed on some basic common measures to mark time. A day consisting of 24 hours follows the natural rotation of the earth on its axis. The lunar calendar uses the waxing and waning of the moon to note the passing of a month. A year passes when the earth completes a lap on its track around the sun.

What does not fall neatly into nature, but is nonetheless universally accepted, is the seven-day week. There is no natural phenomenon which parallels the seven day cycle. Seven, a prime number, does not neatly fold into a month, or a year.

What then, is the source of the seven day week? The billions-strong human religious community acknowledges that the seven day week finds its source in the biblical story of God’s Creation of the Universe, as described in the first two chapters of Genesis. However, there have been attempts through the years, to alter the seven-day week, to fit more neatly into our method of marking time.

The Julian calendar was replaced by the Gregorian calendar, but the Gregorian calendar has its own flaws. In 1923, the League of Nations considered updating the calendar. They very much wanted each month and day to fall on the same day of the week each year. In order to accomplish this, they suggested creating a 364 day year (which is divisible by 7). Their plan was to insert a “blank day” every year, where Monday would not follow Sunday that year, but would come a day later. During Leap Years, two blank days would be added. The idea had financial backers, most notably the now defunct Eastman Kodak company.

This, of course, would cause bedlam for Sabbath observers world-wide. The day after Sunday is Monday, and five days after that is the Sabbath. It does not matter what the world calls it. According to the Ramban, Jews fulfill daily the mandate to “Remember the Sabbath,” by announcing in morning prayers the relationship of each day to the Sabbath. Sunday is the first day of the Sabbatical week; Monday is the second day of the Sabbatical week, etc…

Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz (1872-1946,) Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, known to many as the editor and author of the once-ubiquitous “Hertz Chumash” containing his Bible translation and commentary, partnered with religious leaders across many faiths, to lead the successful battle to defeat “Calendar Reform,” also known as “The World Calendar.”

Rabbi Hertz passed away on January 14, 1946, corresponding to the 12th of Shevat. May his memory be a blessing.

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