A Jewish man from the Shomron petitioned the Israeli High Court, requesting they declare this year to be a leap year, which would add an additional month, effectively delaying the Holiday of Passover.
Yedidia Ephraim Meshulami, a resident of Itamar in the Shomron (Samaria) petitioned the Israeli High Court, requesting that they issue an emergency injunction, ordering the Chief Rabbinate to explain why they do not declare this year, 5780, to be a leap year.
The Hebrew calendar is based on having seven leap years in every cycle of 19 years falling in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th years. In a leap year, an additional month of Adar, referred to as Adar Bet, is added. The next leap year will be in 5782, year number six of the current cycle. According to halacha (Torah law), another month of Adar can be added until the 29th of Adar which falls next Wednesday.
“First, it appears there’s no need to explain the severity of the situation in our country regarding individual freedom as well as public stability on issues of health, the economy, society, the courts, government and on and on – all of them as a direct result of only the coronavirus epidemic.
“It can be argued emphatically that in this situation which involves a crucial influence on the way of life in Israel in every area – it appears that ‘Ibbur hashana,’ the extension by one month of the Hebrew year, which would mean pushing off the holidays in the month of Nissan (namely Pesach/Passover), would constitute ‘first aid’ for the Israeli society.
“It should be noted that the Holiday of Matzos (especially) has far reaching meanings for the Israeli public, as a whole and as individuals concurrently, both as the result of the Jewish customs as well as of the law forbidding chometz (leavened food products) – which may be damaged irreparably as a result of the current situation.
“It is abundantly clear that the necessary preparations for the arrival of the holiday are significant for many citizens who follow Jewish customs (some more than others), as well as for all the state institutions which are obligated to rule on this matter.”
The court will also present the petition to the Knesset as well as the Chief Rabbinate.
Meshulami based his petition on the Talmud (Sanhedrin 11-12) and on Maimonides, a medieval Torah authority known by the acronym the Rambam. The sources both state that leap years can be performed in Israel even in our time when necessary if certain conditions exist.
- The wheat stalks must be standing upright and ready for the harvesting of the Omer.
- The fruits must be mature enough for the pilgrimage of Shavuot.
- It must be past the equinox – so that Passover takes place in spring, and Sukkot in autumn.
The halachic sources note that the decision must be made by the Sanhedrin. Meshulami maintains that the present situation warrants taking such a step. He emphasized that it was not his decision to make and he was merely raising the issue with the powers-that-be.
“The considerations involved in declaring a leap year were always more involved than exclusively astronomical factors,” Meshulami told Breaking Israel News. “As well as observing the solar and lunar calendars, the Sanhedrin took into account the needs of the public. It seems clear that the public is in dire straits this year due to the coronavirus and delaying Passover by one month would help enormously.”
“Cleaning for Passover, normally quite intensive, will be impossible for people who are trapped in their houses. In addition, a major aspect of the holiday is the coming together of families and loved ones. Unless the holiday is put off for one month, this will not happen.”
The Jewish Press reported on Meshlami’s petition, noting that it is not without consequences.
“There are countless unintended consequences to the proposed action,” The Jewish Press stated. “Not the least of which being that we’d have to celebrate Purim again, seeing as Purim falls on Adar II. Much worse than that would be making the seder night fall in May, Shavuot in late June, and Rosh Hashanah in mid-October, followed by Sukkot in November.”