Feb 7, 2008

non-religious minister proposes law regarding Hebrew date change

Mishpacha reported this past week on a law being proposed in Knesset.

Right now the law is that the date officially changes at midnight. That is true for the secular date as well as for the Hebrew date.

That means that if sunset is, for example, at 6pm, and you have a baby born at, for example, 8 pm on 1 Feb 7 2008 which is 1 Adar, you have a discrepancy. By 8 pm the Hebrew date has already changed to 2 Adar, while according to Israeli law the Hebrew date only changes at midnight. So in Jewish dates you were born on 2 Adar, but the Interior Ministry, in this example, would list you as having been born on 1 Adar.

The proposal is to change the law to effect the date change for the Hebrew calendar at sunset. This would avoid any further discrepancy in the population listings (births, deaths, marriages, etc..) between Hebrew dates and Israeli law.

The interesting thing about this law is that it was not proposed by any member of any of the religious parties.

MK Estrina Tratman of Yisrael Beiteinu has been the spearhead of this proposal, and has in the past proposed similar laws with different variations.
When asked what motivated her to propose this law, Tratman says, "I was born between sunset and midnight. My father was always diligent in recording the dates and times of birth of all his children When I saw the dates he had written down for my birth, I noticed it was different than that recorded in my identity card, and I realized I have a problem. We have "neches Tzon Barzel" - a Talmudic term referring to "inalienable goods" - the Jewish calendar, and it is only fitting that the Interior Ministry computers should work according to it."

Mishpacha pointed out that (the tone seemed a bit cynical to me, but maybe not) while the Haredi MKs are busy with problems of universal and actual proportions of all types, there are MKs from other parties that also deal with "yiddishkeit" issues.


  1. Speeking as a computer nerd this gives me headaches. Midnight is if nothing else easy to define. "Sundown" is somewhat harder in that it varies by location and time of year. It is possible that it is still light in Eilat while it is already dark in Metula (and I won't even get into the issues of places outside of Israel).

    Mind you it can be done we would just need to figure out some details.

  2. they must have sunset defined in some sort of calendar for some purpose.

    The interior ministry would have to be keeping different records for each city/area due to different times of sunset, as you say...
    so while somebody born 6:00 in eilat it would still be 1 adar, the baby born in Tel Aviv at 6:00 might already be 2 adar. That is how it works in real life, and the computers will have to figure out how to differentiate.

  3. B"H A friend of mine claims that when he got his teudath zehuth, he provided only the Hebrew date for his birthday, claiming he didn't know the goyshe date. After going back and forth a little while, the clerk gave up, and put only the Hebrew date on his ID.

    He claimed that the computer only converts dates in one direction.
    Any similar stories about this?

    All new immigrants could do the same!

  4. benyehuda - that is funny. why couldn't the clerk just look it up? I have one of those 200 year calendars... they must have something in the computer system that correlates hebrew with english dates...!

  5. Rafi, That would've made way too much sense. Seriously, though, the idea in the Interior Ministry of not knowing, nor needing to know, the goyshe date is completely beyond them.

  6. My son was born between sunset and midnight. I just checked the "nisfach" on my Teudat Zehut, and the Hebrew date listed is for the next day!

    You may be a computer nerd, but a computer programmer wouldn't have much of a problem with this. The time of sunset can be calculated for any date and location pretty easily (it's a long algorithm, but not too hard to program). The computer will have to take place of birth into account, but that's not so hard to do.

    The big problem is what opinion of sunset to rely on (maybe that's the "problems of universal and actual proportions" that Mishpacha is talking about).

  7. Yoni,
    Me too! except i'm a day earlier! I was born yud ches sivan which was june 6th 1985 after shkia!

    Misrad hapnimhas given me yud zayin sivan as my birthday!

    What goyim!

  8. I should clarify I am a programmer, the hard part is not figuring out when sunset happens, that is easy given log/lat which can be looked up easily enough. Its figuring out what definition of sunset we want to use. Civil, Nautical, astronomical or something else. It is a solvable problem as long as someone can define what the requirement is.

    For refrence PHP at least has a sunrise/sunset function in its library and other languages probably do as well. I only know for PHP because I found it once while looking for something else.


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