September 7, 2006 - Jewish Calendar - Part 22007-05-30 09:42:20
By MARK MIETKIEWICZ
We are now well into the month of Elul, the last month of the year preceding Rosh Hashanah. This is traditionally a time to take stock of our conduct during the past year, look at our goals for the coming one... and, of course, pick up a new Jewish calendar. You CAN get a calendar the old fashioned way by walking into your nearest Judaica store or bakery. Or you can do it the easy way... by travelling on the Jewish Internet.
There are two basic kinds of calendar programs on the Internet. Some programs are built right into a Web page. Typically, you type in the information you want, hit enter and you get your response. There are also some calendar programs which you can download onto your computer and use whenever you want. These programs are usually more sophisticated and may or may not be free.
In the web-based category, I highly recommend the Hebcal Interactive Jewish Calendar. Plug in the name of your city (or your longitude and latitude) and customize whether you'd like the Hebrew date, holidays or that week's Torah portion to appear. Click and you have a personalized calendar. You can even export the results to other programs! http://www.hebcal.com/hebcal/
The Ezras Torah foundation is known for its information-packed wall and pocket calendars. That calendar is now available online. The real benefit of this calendar is the detailed explanation about major holiday-related customs for the coming year and specific notes about possible exceptions. For example, next year when the first day of Sukkot falls on Shabbat, we are reminded not to wave the lulav. http://www.ezrastorah.org/calendar.htm
Some online calendars are very specialized. Andrew Tannenbaum's 50 Year Yahrzeit Calendar Calculator does exactly what it promises. Plug in a date (using either the Jewish or civil calendar) and the page generates a list which tells you when the yahrzeit will fall. Tannenbaum notes that you can also use the program to generated a list of your Jewish birthday for the next 50 years but does note that "rules for determination of bar mitzvah dates are different from yahrzeit dates in some cases." http://shamash.org/trb/yahr/
Rather than looking everything up on the web, you may want a stand-alone calendar program that has more functions. There are plenty that you can purchase but I have come across some that you can download free. (Some do ask for a donation, though.) Aish Hatorah's Aish Luach (for Windows) lets you look up birthdays, yahrzeits and can be set for hundreds of cities around the world. http://tinyurl.com/39ghu If you use Windows 2000, you can download a Jewish calendar add-in for Outlook. http://tinyurl.com/lgxdy More recent versions of Outlook have that functionality built in. The Microsoft site explains how you can make use of it. http://tinyurl.com/qxz52
Mac users haven't been forgotten. Although it doesn't boast as many features as Aish Luach, Jewish Calendar also does a solid job. http://tinyurl.com/47axg If you want to carry your Jewish calendar with you, download the free Der Tog program for your Palm running OS 5. http://www.tichnut.de/dertog/ And check out the great Tichnut page for a summary of other Jewish calendar programs - some free, some not - that you can download. (Please note that I have not tested most of these calendars.) http://www.tichnut.de/jewish/
(Just a reminder that many of these programs are "shareware." Shareware is software provided to you on the honour system. Try it. And if you like it, you are expected to pay for it. And what better time to take stock of all those shareware programs you're using but have forgotten to pay for than before Rosh Hashanah.)
Rather than give you a calendar, the Hagshama site breathes some life into it by telling you about a Jewish event that has occurred for every date of the year. Did you know that on September 2, 1825, Mordechai Manuel Noah "led a parade in New York City declaring Grand Island, N.Y., a Jewish city. The 2500-acre island ... was part of the Noah Colonization dream to provide a refuge for his Jewish brethren. He was to call his city Ararat. Few people took him up on his dream and the plan soon disintegrated." The vast majority of dates in the Hagshama calendar, though, refer to various pogroms, blood libels and forced conversions that have been perpetrated against Jews over the centuries. http://tinyurl.com/q6c8y
Though the programs I've mentioned do a fine job of calculating dates, even the Internet still can't create a free glossy calendar that comes with lovely photos of sunrise over Masada or sunset at the Kotel. Maybe that bakery shop calendar isn't threatened, yet.
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Mark Mietkiewicz is a Toronto-based Internet producer who writes, lectures and teaches ab