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As I understand, the Hebrew calendar is counted from the "date of creation". Currently you have the year 5774.

In the Christian world there are some creationists who also believe that the world is of about the same age, however they are (at least outside US) quite a minority.

I am interested how do those current Jews who do not believe that the world was created 5774 years ago (or similar plus/minus a few years) interpret the "year 0" of the Hebrew calendar. Is it just taken as a convention?

And another question related to the Hebrew calendar - is it currently used for practical things, or is it more or less just a liturgical (or folklore or tradition) stuff and for the practical dates you use the standard world calendar?

I am not interested in theological answer. I am just curious of the everyday practice of those current Jews described above: their interpretation of the "year zero" and if the Hebrew calendar is used for practical things.

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Honza, then I have to vote to close, as the site is only about Judaism, not Jews. However, to answer your question, Israel tried to adopt the Jewish calendar in its early years, and gave up and leaves it only to calculate national holidays. Jewish religious holidays also use the calendar, and in some Jewish religious circles the Jewish calendar date is predominant. In dealing in business in general, and with the wider secular world, everyone uses the Gregorian calendar. I'm not aware of a survey of what Jews believe about the age of the world ... –  Yishai Aug 12 '14 at 22:15
... however, some orthodox Jews take the date quite literally, others do not. Outside of Orthodox Jews, I doubt very many take it literally. –  Yishai Aug 12 '14 at 22:16
Honza, I wouldn't feel consistent about voting to close a question and provide an answer at the same time. I'm happy to (personally) answer your question, but I am respecting the sites rules. They are quite strict, but they keep it civil around here, so although I would be inclined to be more lenient, I'm respecting the rules as they are constructive. –  Yishai Aug 12 '14 at 22:18
@Yishai it seems like a "Jewish life" and/or history question to me, and that seems on-topic. –  Monica Cellio Aug 13 '14 at 0:22

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Technically you could date a check in Israel with the year 5774, and it would be valid; however, few people do so.

The "Hebrew date", including the year, is used on Jewish marriage and divorce documents -- though they specify "according to the year 5774 to the world's creation, according to the counting used in this location of X", to make clear that we're following a convention.

Kids going to Hebrew school will write "August 12, 2014" on their English homework, and "16 Av, 5774" on their Hebrew homework.

You'll also find the Hebrew date, with year, on Jewish tombstones, as well as on plaques in the synagogue to observe the anniversary of a relative's death.

So it's a convention used in certain ways and places. We call the current year "5774 per the creation of the world."

Now if you ask "how old does Judaism believe the world is?", that's a different question. Some ultra-Orthodox rabbis believe in a world literally created 5774 years ago, and that scientific indications to the contrary are either: a fraud; a test; an unsolvable mystery; or the result of God creating a pre-aged world. Many other rabbis are open to the possibility of an older universe. The convention (and it's "Year 1", not "Year 0") of "the world" would fit well with the dawn of Mesopotamian civilization, which is roughly 6000 years ago. In effect, the Torah pays more attention when humans have reached the point where they can build societies. (Scholars such as Gerald Schroeder, for instance, point out that Genesis mentions the inventions of "tents for dwelling with livestock", "sharpened implements for cutting", and musical instruments -- all things less than 6000 years old, and fundamental to building civilization as we know it today. No mention of the invention, say, of cloth or pottery, which archeologists tell you are older than that.)

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I would just note that "5774 to the world's creation, according to the counting used in this location of X" is completely true even if the world is not that age, because its truth value depends on when the convention says the world was created not when the world was actually created. –  Double AA Aug 13 '14 at 0:02
This answer would be more complete if you mentioned the relation of this count to Minyan Shtarot. –  Yitzchak Aug 13 '14 at 19:53

The year "0" is not arbitrary. It is based on the date of Adam's creation. That is, whether it is from the physical creation, or (as some believe) from the development of sapience in the first human being (Adam), or from the development of the first person to a level that allowed prophesy (Adam), it is still counted from the birth of Adam. The time since is derived by adding the ages of death of the generations after Adam and the timeline shown in the Torah afterwards.

Note that this has nothing to do with whether or not someone believes that the world was or was not created 5774 years ago. It is based on when the Torah starts the story.

There are three basic ways of counting the years. Most people date it based on the number of years that the people lived. Thus, year 1 was started when Adam was created (on Rosh Hashanah) and he died in year 930. Others would say that year 1 started when Adam turned one year old and he died at the age of 930 (after his 930th birthday) so that we add one year to the count. There are others who count the "virtual year" of the six days of creation as year 1. This would make Adam's creation on Rosh hashannah as the start of year 2.

Rabbi Schwab, at one point, stated that it was possible that the count was interrupted during the building of the second temple. This is because, given that the first temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, then the second temple's destruction in 70 CE would involve a gap. That is, 70 years of exile and 420 of the existence of the second temple would only take the count back to 420 BCE. Either the 586 BCE date is wrong or the Chachamim did not add to the count of "years of creation" during that gap.

This is something that is expanded upon elsewhere and is too long to go into now Ohr Sameach, The Missing 165 Years - Discrepancy Between Jewish and Secular Calendars and A Y2K Solution to the Chronology Problem deal with this among others.

I have received an article that goes into details on this which I have posted at Rabbi Leibtag shiurim: The Hebrew Calendar and its Missing Years- Part One

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Sorry, I was not asking this. –  Honza Zidek Aug 13 '14 at 12:37
@HonzaZidek I was answering the question How do the mainstream Jews interpret the “year zero” in the Hebrew calendar? That is, Adam could have been created in year 0 or 1 or 2. The rest was an expansion to explain why the year 5774 may not be the exact value counting from creation –  sabbahillel Aug 13 '14 at 21:35
I don't believe that the mainstream Jews believe the world was created 5774 years ago. The details about the exact date of Adam "creation" is very probably not relevant for the mainstream Jews - I'd expect only a few theologians solve such artificial problems. –  Honza Zidek Aug 14 '14 at 7:28
@HonzaZidek as a "mainstream Jew" I do believe in creation. You asked about where the 5774 came from. That is the original source of that number. See what I explain at sabbahillel.blogspot.com/2011/10/… –  sabbahillel Aug 14 '14 at 9:56
I would expect much better understanding of a text from the bearer of the Hebrew tradition. I did not asked about where the 5774 came from, please read my question again. –  Honza Zidek Aug 14 '14 at 11:44

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