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Sukkat Shalom B'nei Noach




The Jewish New Year

There are four Rosh Hashanah’s [Jewish New Years]: the 1st of Nissan is the New Year for kings and festivals, the 15th of Elul is the New Year for the tithing of animals (according to Rabbis Elazar and Shimon, this is on the 1st of Tishrei), the 1st of Tishrei for counting years, the Jubilee and Shemitta cycles, and the tithing of trees and produce. The 1st of Shvat is the New Year for trees according to the yeshiva [school] of Shammai. According to the yeshiva [school] of Hillel, it is on the 15th of Shvat.

We will zoom in on Rosh Hashanah because this is the New Year, the birthday of the universe, the day that G-d created Adam and Eva. Rosh Hashanah was celebrated on Tishrei 1 and 2, beginning at sunset on the eve of Tishrei 1. In 2023 it begun with the sunset on 15 September and continues until nightfall on 17 September on which the New Year of 5784 started. Rosh Hashanah is important for all the people in the world because this is the day that G-d judge everyone. The Jewish for observing the 613 commandments and the non-Jews for the 7 Noahide Commandments as we can read in the Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 1:2

At four times of the year the world is judged: On Passover judgment is passed concerning grain; on Shavuot concerning fruits that grow on a tree; on Rosh HaShana, all creatures pass before Him like sheep [benei maron], as it is stated: “He Who fashions their hearts alike, Who considers all their deeds” (Psalms 33:15); and on the festival of Sukkot they are judged concerning water, i.e., the rainfall of the coming year.

The judgment on Rosh Hashanah, is more of a moral/religious judgment.[1]

The Jewish era is also important for the whole world because it makes us aware of the time plan G-d has with the world: how long it will exist, and when the world as we know it today will be changed because Messiah will be revealed, and a new era will begin.

The western “New Year” on januari 1st

The Gregorian solar calendar, widely used for civil affairs worldwide, took years to be universally adopted. In the Netherlands, this transition spanned from 1583 to 1701, while Japan switched in 1873, Russia in 1918, and Saudi Arabia in 2016.[2]

This calendar, proclaimed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, improved upon the Julian-Roman Calendar, still utilized in Eastern Orthodox churches today. The Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BC, was a Roman adaptation of the Egyptian calendar, which featured three seasons, divided into four months of 30 day each, which again dived into three decades. Five more days were added to these 360 days, so that the year has 365 days. Alexander the Great spread this Egyptian calendar throughout the Central Sea region.

The Romans, in 153 BC, added two months before March and shifted the new year’s celebration to January, named after the two-faced god Janus, who was the roman god of beginnings. He had two faces allowing him to look back into the past and forward into the future. Emperor Julian made slight changes, primarily renaming the months. Despite the political significance of starting the year on January 1, marking the consuls’ assumption of office in Rome, the Roman influence is evident in month names. For instance, September, October, November, and December, although now representing the ninth to twelfth months, were originally named for their positions in the Roman calendar. [3] Despite the year beginning on Jan 1, March 25 remained New Year’s Day for many Christians, celebrating the Annunciation.

Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk commissioned by Pope Joannes I in 525 BCE, devised the Western calendar, separating Easter from the Jewish Passover, to create a new Easter table. [4] This was because the Pope did not want to be dependent on having to ask the Jews when to celebrate Easer as expressed, for example, in The Council of Nicea as follows:

It separated the celebration of Easter from the Jewish Passover, stating, “For it is unbecoming beyond measure that on this holiest of festivals we should follow the customs of the Jews”[5]

So many Christian countries initially marked the new year on Easter. Over time, Western European[6] nations shifted to January 1 even before adopting the Gregorian calendar.

Celebrating the first of Januari

Because the year doesn’t start on January 1st, there is not a specific reason to celebrate that date; in fact, it is a somber date for the Jews. Below are some examples of events that occurred on January 1st.

  • 1577 Pope Gregory XIII decreed that all Roman Jews, under pain of death, must listen attentively to the compulsory Catholic conversion sermon given in Roman synagogues after Friday night services. 
  • 1578 Gregory signed into law a tax forcing Jews to pay for the support of a ‘House of Conversion’ to convert Jews to Christianity. 
  • 1581 Gregory ordered his troops to confiscate all sacred literature from the Roman Jewish community.  Thousands of Jews were murdered in the campaign.[7]
  • 1791, Russian ruler Catherine the Great established the Pale of Settlement, an area in the western part of her empire which became the only district in Russia’s vast empire where Jews were permitted to live.
  • 1798, all Hebrew language books began to be censored in Russia.
  • 1807, Russia’s Czar Alexander I introduced wide-ranging new laws governing what Jews could do and how they could be educated and earn their livings.
  • 1939, all Jews in Germany had to add the names Sarah (for women) and Israel (for men) to their names. They also had to start carrying identity cards with them at all times.
  • 1940, Jews were forbidden from gathering for prayer, either in synagogues or in private homes, in Nazi-controlled lands.[8]

New Year does not fall on Jan 1 and so “New Year’s Eve” does not fall on Dec 31. This evening is called “Sylvester” in German-speaking countries and in Poland, and not without reason. Sylvester I was the 33rd pope of the Roman Catholic Church who died on this date and the evening on which he is commemorated. This pope played a major role in making Christianity a state religion and shaping the Concilie of Nicea, which led to major negative consequences for the Jewish people.

Sylvester and the Concilie of Nicea

Not much is known about him, but Sylvester I presided over the Catholic Church during a crucial period in its history. It is said, for instance, that he cured Constantine of leprosy, which prompted Constantine to convert to Christianity and be baptized just before his death.

Additionally, Sylvester played a significant role in the formulation of the final declaration of the Council of Nicaea in the year 325. Although he could not attend in person due to his advanced age, he sent his legates, who held the foremost position among the subscribers to its decrees, preceding the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch.[9]

The Council of Nicaea produced the Nicene Creed, a statement of the most important Christian doctrines, which directly contradicts the 13 Jewish principles of faith as outlined by Maimonides, such as the belief in one G-d. Furthermore, as mentioned above, this council established the date of Easter, explicitly rejecting the Oral Torah.[10]

Christianity and Judaism were therefore opposed from that point onwards as we can see in the following decree that was issued after the Council:

We wish to make it known to the Jews and their elders and their patriarchs that if, after the enactment of this law, any one of them dares to attack with stones or some other manifestation of anger, another who has fled their dangerous sect and attached himself to the worship of God [Christianity], he must speedily be given to the flames and burnt together with all his accomplices. Moreover, if any one of the population should join their abominable sect and attend their meetings, he will bear with them the deserved penalties. (Laws, Oct. 18, 325-J. R. Marchus, The Jew in the Medieval World, p.4)[11]

Which led to progroms, persecutions of Jews, murders, blood fairy tales, until today. In short all this did nothing good for the Jewish people and Noahides. Which makes New Year’s Eve/ Sylvester yet New Year’s Day no cause for celebration.

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] English Explanation of Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:2:1
[2] Gregoriaanse kalender
[3] Juliaanse kalender
[4] Waar komt onze jaartelling vandaan?
[5] Lets Get Biblical Volume 1 p. 7
[6] The official start of the year on January 1 gradually spread to different regions:- 1522: Republic of Venice – 1544: Holy Roman Empire (Germany) – 1556: Spain, Portugal – 1559: Prussia, Sweden – 1564: France – 1576: Southern Netherlands – 1579: Lorraine – 1583: Republic of the Seven United Netherlands – 1600: Scotland – 1700: Russia – 1721: Tuscany – 1752: Great Britain (excluding Scotland) and its colonies.
[7] Sylvester Night is not a holiday
[8] January 1: Five Jewish Facts
[9] St. Sylvester
[10] Lets Get Biblical Volume 1 p. 282-283 by Rabbi Tovia Singer
[11] Lets Get Biblical Volume 1 p. 7 by Rabbi Tovia Singer

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