Why a Leap Year?


This coming year is going to be a Jewish Leap Year. How do these leap years work? Why are they instituted? And what does it say about the Jews? An astrological journey in the heavens, its impact on the Jewish calendar, and the Jewish soul.

Lesson Contents:

A. The Jewish Calendar

What makes a Jewish calendar? Before the Israelites left Egypt, G-d commanded Moses to count the months, i.e. to follow a lunar calendar (source 1). As we read in Maimonides, the lunar month is 29 1/2 days, resulting in a year which is 354 days (source 2). However, the Torah also commands us to celebrate Passover in the spring (source 3). As Maimonides explains, we therefore observe a leap year every two or three years, in which we add one month to the calendar (source 4).

In the first segment of the Rebbe’s talk, he sums up these details.

B. Sun & Moon — The Deeper Meaning

In the Rebbe’s talk, he draws comparisons between the human being and the sun and moon. Like the moon, we all have elements in ourselves which fluctuate, and experience rise and decline. Like the sun, there are elements which are static. This is true in our regular life and in our service to our creator. In this segment, the fluctuations are presented as a negative thing; a person should be committed to the point that there are no changes in how he serves G-d.

C. The Leap Year of the Soul

In the final segment of the Rebbe’s talk, the Rebbe explains the lesson of the leap year. Instead of just filling gin the missing days, a leap year jumps ahead with a full month. This is a lesson in Teshuvah: When something is lacking in our service to G-d, we cannot suffice with filling the void; we need to gain far more.

In Source 5, the Rebbe explains how the fluctuations of the moon can be seen as an advantage as well: The stability of the sun and the constant renewal of the moon signify different elements of serving G-d. There are those elements which are constant, daily, endeavors, and there are holidays and commandments which only take place in special times. They engender a renewal in our service of God, and that renewal is supposed to envelope our regular service as well.

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