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Where Did the Jewish Calendar Come From?

Returning from exile in the 5th century BCE, Jews brought with them the Babylonian names for the months and the Babylonian calendar itself. As Sacha Stern writes, it suited them:

The Babylonian calendar originated in Babylonia (southern Iraq) in the early second millennium BCE, spread to the rest of Mesopotamia in the late second millennium BCE, and then became, in the first millennium BCE, the official calendar of the great empires of Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia, in use across the whole Near East. The Jews under Persian rule adopted it as their own calendar, as did many other peoples in the Persian empire.

The Jews adopted not only Babylonian month names but also the entire Babylonian calendar. This calendar was lunar, with each month beginning at the sight of a new moon. Since twelve lunar months are approximately eleven days shorter than the solar year, the Babylonian calendar was intercalated (or evened out) every two or three years by the addition of a thirteenth month (usually by duplicating the twelfth month, Adar, and less frequently by duplicating the sixth month, Elul). This allowed the lunar system to catch up with the sun and the seasons. This calendar may have been quite similar to the original Israelite one, which was most likely also lunar; indeed, this may have helped the Jews to adopt it without qualms. . . .

[A]fter the Jewish Hasmonean state broke off from its Hellenistic Seleucid overlords in the mid-2nd century BCE, the Jews no longer had any reason to comply with the calendar of distant Babylon, and their calendar soon acquired distinct features.

Read more at Bible Odyssey

More about: Ancient Persia, Babylonian Jewry, Halakhah, Maccabees, Religion & Holidays, Second Temple

 

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen