Significance of Hebrew Year

I know the Hebrew calendar year is counted from Rosh Hashanah, and the current year is 5778. But what is that measuring – the years since the world’s creation?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Almost, but not quite. The year 5778 measures the number of years since the creation of man on the sixth day of creation – not the creation of the world on the first (Vayikra Rabbah 29:1). The earlier days of creation occurred in a time before the calendar as we know it existed. Early sources refer to those days as falling out in the year of “tohu” (chaos) – a year which did not exist in the sense we know.

This is especially significant because although the passage of time since Adam’s creation is clearly measured in the same units we have today, it is possible that the pre-Adam days were measured on an entirely different scale. (This is especially possible since the heavenly bodies were not put into place until day 4.) The number 5778 measures the years since Adam’s creation, and can basically be borne out from the lifespans of the Biblical figures. But the days before, falling in the period of “chaos,” may have functioned entirely differently.

It is also debated whether Adam’s creation occurred in year 1 and the earlier days fell in year 0 (before the count began), or if the earlier days fell in year 1 and Adam was created at the start of year 2. (This is relevant for many of the calendrical calculations we make today.) Thus, Adam was created either 5777 years ago or 5776. (Note that according to all, man’s creation did not occur in year 0.)

For more information on this fascinating topic, see this response regarding the lengths of the first days of creation, as well as these two articles: Age of the Universe, The Age of the Universe: One Reality Viewed from Two Different Perspectives.

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