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Unlike the general, solar-based calendar, the Jewish calendar is lunar, consisting of twelve 29- and 30-day-long months, based on the new moon. Thus, the year has 354, rather than 365 days. To make up for this difference, the Jewish leap year has an additional month after Adar, called Second Adar, which occurs every third, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th year. In ancient times, before astronomical calculations became mathematically exact, the people of Judea watched the skies for the appearance of the new moon. As soon as the new moon was spotted by witnesses, bonfires were lit on the hilltops to spread the news. Burning torches signaled from mountain to mountain, beginning with Jerusalem‘s Mount of Olives and on as far as the Babylonian frontier. In the Holy Land the Sanhedrin, the highest legislative and judicial council, set the dates of the holidays and the festivals, and fast messengers relayed the information as far as Babylonia. By the middle of the 4th century, persecution had made conditions in Palestine difficult and uncertain. The head of the scattered Sanhedrin, Hillel II, introduced then a final and fixed calendar. He published the mathematical and astronomical information for it and made it possible for all Jewish communities in the Dispersion to use this knowledge. This uniformity removed uncertainty from the date of the Rosh Hodesh, the New Moon, and the first day of the year from which the dates of all holidays are set.

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