Monday, April 27, 2015

How Old Are You Between Your Hebrew and English Birthdays?

Today, I bring a personal question to the blog. Despite over 11 years of being "Jewishly affiliated," I still feel most connected to the secular calendar. Only in the last few years have I made more of an effort to interact with the Hebrew calendar. 

This has created a strange problem, I'm not sure how old I am this week! Last week was my Hebrew birthday, and this week is my English birthday. In prior years, this was more of a theoretical question in my head, but this year...suddenly everyone needs to know how old I am! I have never sputtered more about my age as I have for the last week. Am I still 30 or have I crossed into 31? Am I actually living in The Twilight Zone?

How do you handle this? Does it (should it) matter who asks? For instance, it makes more sense to tell a doctor according to the secular calendar. Does the Hebrew date make more sense when talking to a Jewish friend? Does it matter how cognitively attuned the Jewish friend is to the Hebrew calendar? I'm plenty orthodox, yet I would never call myself cognitively attuned to the Hebrew calendar! It just isn't internalized yet, for whatever reason. So how can I judge how in-touch another person is with the Hebrew calendar? 

We won't even get into the fact that I have four other "birthdays," thanks to my conversions... But we shall never forget halfbirthdays. And that, folks, is how you justify 12 birthday cakes per year. You're welcome.

This should be the worst of my problems. 

So what do you do? 


  1. similar to you, i am still struggling with the hebrew calender. after 20 years i still cant tell you the exact order of the hebrew months.
    for official letter and applications i use both dates (thanks to my smartphone i always know what date we have) and slowly but surly i get used to it.
    here in israel it becomes more and more trendy to use the hebrew date. (maybe a additional reason to move to israel? :) )
    birthdays i don't celebrate. non of all. not my real birthday or re-birthday or "re-re-birthday lechumra".
    i try to congratulate my jewish friends only at the hebrew date. sometimes if i don't know the exactly hebrew date i congratulate them to their "GOJISH BIRTHDAY".

  2. I find yahrtzeit dates harder - my dad who was Jewish died 3 days after my anniversary, and my Jewish grandmother's date is 2 days later. Also really close to Pesach. So the difficulty is more emotional than calendar-related. Oh, well, lots of happy and sad times are close together on the Hebrew calendar, we just live with it and move forward.


  3. Personally, I am still attached to the secular calendar and don't give much thought to my Hebrew birthday, sometimes I even forget it...
    Think it depends on the community we live. In a secular neighborhood, mention secular calendar, in a religious community, mention both, in a religious-hassidic-isolated-community, mention only the Hebrew (there's a community like this in Quebec, they talk 100% of time mentioning the Hebrew calendar only... once a guy said to my husband "I will meet you next week, Tishrei 25... which day is today?" I answered the secular date and he had difficulty to assimilate both because he was expecting a "Hebrew answer"...
    I agree with Fritzi, mentioning the Hebrew birthday AND the secular date has become a trend.

  4. I am also "plenty Orthodox" but I use the secular calendar (strictly: solar calendar) for birthdays. I believe I have the support of Rav Saadia Gaon and the ibn Ezra here, both of whom state that birthdays go by the solar calendar, which was how they recorded birthdays for the ages of animal sacrifices in Temple times. It makes sense, as the lunar calendar technically records months, not years.

    The only instance in Tanakh of someone celebrating a birthday is Pharoah in the story of Yosef, so celebrating a birthday on the Jewish date seems like a mixture of Jewish and non-Jewish to me.

    All that said, I admit I don't take much notice of birthdays anyway; Jewish or otherwise, they don't mean much to me.

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