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Is it permissible to write the secular/Christian date?

Example: On a letter (bad example but you get what I mean).

Some conceivable issues: We're told "this month (Nisan) shall be for you the head of the months", so calling the secular months "first", "second", etc., may be a violation of that. Secondly, the secular years are counted from Jesus's time, which may be inappropriate (like the rule against saying an idol's name). But those might bot be issues, or there may be others.

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Dionysius Exiguus's calculations leading to the Common Era was supposed to be based on the birth of Jesus, but probably missed by a few years –  Henry Jul 2 at 7:00
Jewish month names are based on the names of Babylonian gods. Why is that better than Roman gods? –  Charles Koppelman Jul 2 at 14:07
@CharlesKoppelman see Ramban to shemos 12:2 –  YEZ Jul 2 at 16:14
@CharlesKoppelman That doesn't give you a right to number April 4 instead of 1 –  Double AA Jul 2 at 19:31

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Dinonline has an extensive essay on this issue.

In short, the Tzitz Eliezer and Yabia Omer allow the writing of the secular date, but mention that the Jewish date is preferred when possible. They do have different ideas on how to write it out (see article for details). The Maharam Schik, on the other hand, was against such a practice (I remember learning that he was also against secular names and his last name which was שי"ק stood for Shem Yisrael Kodesh).

The Sefer Avnei Yashfei 1:153:3 goes through the sugya nicely. He seems to hold it to be okay to use on occasion for business or on other occasions on which one needs it, but not on a permanent basis. He gives a few examples where poskim used the secular date (see in tshuvah). One example is the Rama in his Shu"t Siman 51 where he mentions the year 1546 in December.

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I get annoyed when I see newspaper ads from kosher hotels that say "Celebrate Pesach 2015". I never knew that Pesach was based on the Gregorian calendar! –  DanF Jul 2 at 2:41
are there any contemporary poskim who forbid this? –  ray Jul 2 at 13:05
Not that I know of, since this practice has been done for numerous years. But, even if readers know what it means, it is clearly incorrect, and I think, it discourages people from being aware of what the Jewish year is and how all the holidays, Pesach, esp. are related to the Judaic calendar. –  DanF Jul 2 at 13:23

There’s a Rabbi Frand tape on it. It appears that in the Chasam Sofer’s world, the standard Jewish custom had been to write only the Hebrew date on a tombstone, and then some progressives wanted to include the Gregorian date — he railed against that change. But that was that particular application. Apparently there are documents and letters from the Chasam Sofer where he himself used the Gregorian date.

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For many centuries (during the time of the Talmud), Jews used a secular calendar system. Dating based on the 'Creation of the World' only starting in the Medieval period.

From "Comparative Jewish Chronology" by Rabbi Simon Schwab:

In the spirit of the aforesaid, a new light is shed on the strange fact that - soon after Ezra and Nehemia - a new method of counting the years was introduced by our Sages, a method which was retained for well over 1200 years by our people. We are referring to the so called Greek Era. In Seder Olam 30 we are told that "in the exile" we are to write into our documents the date according to מנין שטרות אלפא. The term Minyan Sh'taroth means the "Era of Contracts" and refers to the so-called Seleucid era. This era, also sometimes called minyan yevanim, began on Rosh Hashanah 312-311 BCE after the battle of Gaza and the conquest of the Holy Land by Seleucus Nikator, one of the generals of Alexander the Great. The Seleucid era was in use until the Middle Ages when the familiar terms l'bri'as olam was introduced, or re-introduced, by the latter Gaonim, such as R. Sh'rira (cf Rambam hilchos Gerushin 1:27). There are numerous Gittin (divorce documents) still extant which carry the date according to minyan sh'taroth. We can very well understand the bewilderment of a Sadducee wondering why a non-Jewish date was admitted into the sacred documents (Yaddaim 4:8). For indeed minyan sh'taroth was not a Jewish date. It was employed by a majority of nations in the Near East and of the Mediterranean area for countless generations and still is in use in some Eastern groups.

Finally, the names of the months used by Jews (for many centuries) are based on the Babylonian calendar. They are not "the months that Hashem appointed," and are in fact based on pagan worship. (The Torah doesn't mention names for months; it just has numbers - first month, second month, etc.)

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But the numbers of months are biblical. Perhaps we can call them December but must number December month 9. –  Double AA Jul 2 at 19:30
Perhaps, but no one does that. People just say the name, whether English or Hebrew. For example, I've yet to see a gravestone that said "ניסן, חדש הראשון" (or would that be תשרי?) Plus, "December" is meaningless on the Tanach system, since it's solar and not lunar (it doesn't match up with the Hebrew months). –  Shmuel Jul 2 at 19:35
You refer to months by numbers all the time. For instance, today is 7/2/14 (or 2/7/14). –  Double AA Jul 2 at 19:37
Hmm, you're right. Well then, based strictly on the notion of "the months that Hashem appointed" (Tanach), maybe we should have to drop the Babylonian names and just use the numbers. (I agree with your first comment.) –  Shmuel Jul 2 at 19:38
I think the questioner was more concerned with the year than with the months. Based on Tanach's year-numbering system, we'd either make Year 1 the year of State of Israel's founding (ie, based on the current King of Israel, as in Nach), or based on the Shemita cycle (which would also mean counting the number of Shemita cycles since a certain arbitrary point). As such, today would be 4/4/66, although see R' Medan (on another question about the calendar on this site). –  Shmuel Jul 2 at 19:44

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