Friday, May 15, 2015

Rabbi Leibtag shiurim: The Hebrew Calendar and its Missing Years- Parts 1 - 3

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The Hebrew Calendar and its Missing Years- Part One
by Reuven Herzog (‘13) and Benjy Koslowe (‘13)
Kol Torah is enormously proud to present a landmark article written by TABC alumni Reuven Herzog '13 and Benjy Koslowe '13, themselves former Kol Torah editors-in-chief. This article was originally delivered as a Shiur at TABC's summer of 2014 Tanach Kollel.
The article presents an intriguing solution to a very well-known issue regarding the compatibility of Chazal's Seder Olam and the commonly accepted historic chronology. Although dozens of articles address this issue, we believe that this article is the best article written on this subject published to date.
This article is based on a series of Shiurim given by Rav Menachem Leibtag at Yeshivat Har Etzion.
I. Introduction
The Hebrew calendar counts the current year as 5775 Anno Mundi[1]. However, many adherents to this calendar may not realize that this year stems from Seder Olam Rabbah, a late Tannaitic work. Detailing important dates and years in Jewish history, Seder Olam establishes a timeline from Adam HaRishon to the end of the Bar Kochba revolt, and it became the ubiquitous dating convention in the Jewish community around the turn of the second millennium CE.
A challenge regarding the Hebrew calendar is that the year 5775 may not be so precise. Seder Olam records that the time between the destructions of the two Batei Mikdash lasted 490 years. However, secular history records that the Churban of the first Beit HaMikdash took place in 586 BCE, and that the Churban of the second Beit HaMikdash occurred in 70 CE; this leaves us with a period of 655 years[2]. Thus, there is a discrepancy of 165 years between Seder Olam and secular history!
The “missing years” are a puzzling element of the Jewish Mesorah. They beg the question of what happened to them and whether Seder Olam was intended to be a definitive history or something else entirely.
In this article, we intend to follow Seder Olam’s chronology and explain how it reaches its conclusions, using an internally consistent methodology. Beyond this, we hope to demonstrate how Seder Olam’s inconsistency with outside sources is not a flaw; rather, it serves a tremendous purpose in the Rabbinic period.
II. Seder Olam’s Count
Seder Olam Rabbah is a Tannaitic work generally attributed to the mid-2nd century Tanna Rabi Yosi ben Chalafta. A Midrashic commentary on Jewish history, it chronicles and exegetes the stories of Tanach and a little beyond, using the historical narratives as a springboard for Chazal’s teachings and messages, similar to other Midreshei Aggadah. In fact, Seder Olam can be thought of as similar to the Midrash Rabbah collection, a “History Rabbah[3],” in that its goal is not to explicitly comment on historical facts, but rather to use stories as an educational tool.
In building its timeline, Seder Olam uses two primary sources, both stemming from the Tanach. The first and dominant source is explicit references from the books of Tanach to specific years and periods of time, combined via simple arithmetic intuition. These references are plentiful and clear enough to write the timeline almost entirely, from Adam HaRishon to the Churban of the first Beit HaMikdash. (The dating of Malchut Yehudah is slightly cloudier; we will deal with this later.) The second source is implicit references and inferences used to fill in the gaps where Tanach is more ambiguous. These are primarily used in the works post-Churban HaBayit, where dates of certain events are given, but there are no large blocks of time recorded.
II-A. From Adam HaRishon until the Beit HaMikdash’s Destruction
The first section of the timeline is incredibly easy to construct, taken almost directly from lists found in Sefer BeReishit. After the conclusion of the Gan Eden narratives there is a list of Adam’s descendants, including how long they lived, and more significantly how old they were when the next child on the list was born. As an example (BeReishit 5:12-14):
“VaYechi Keinan Shiv’im Shanah VaYoled Et Mahalaleil. VaYechi Keinan Acharei Holido Et Mahalaleil Arba’im Shanah UShemoneh Mei’ot Shanah VaYoled Banim UVanot. VaYihyu Kol Yemei Keinan Eser Shanim UTsha Mei’ot Shanah VaYamot.”
“And Keinan lived 70 years, and he gave birth to Mahalaleil. And Keinan lived 840 years after giving birth to Mahalaleil, and he gave birth to many children. And all the days of Keinan were 910 years, and he died.”
The only relevant information for us in this paragraph is how long Keinan lived before the birth of his son; everything afterwards is overlap and therefore does not help to create a contiguous timeline.
Such Pesukim are repeated almost verbatim for the entire line of Adam to Noach, ten generations in all (plus the birth of Noach’s children, the eleventh generation). The result of this timeline is a simple calculation of dates for when each person was born:
Father’s age at time of birth
Year of birth

A very similar list exists in Perek 11, after the Mabul and Migdal Bavel stories, listing the generations from Sheim to Avraham:
Father’s age at time of birth
Year of birth
After Avraham’s birth, the points of reference in the Torah are more spread out, and often these references describe large blocks of time rather than individual lifespans. The Torah informs us that Avraham was 100 years old when Yitzchak was born (21:5). After Yitzchak’s birth, there are 400 years until Yetziat Mitzrayim. This is based on Seder Olam’s derivation from the Berit Bein HaBetarim that the 400 years of Avraham’s descendants dwelling in a foreign country begin with the birth of Yitzchak[6]. Thus, Yetziat Mitzrayim took place in year 2448 of Seder Olam.
The next block of time is from Yetziat Mitzrayim until the start of construction of the first Beit HaMikdash, a period Sefer Melachim informs us was 480 years (Melachim I 6:1). We can therefore establish that the Beit HaMikdash began its time in year 2928 of Seder Olam.
In order to calculate the duration of the first Beit HaMikdash, Sefer Melachim records the length of each king’s reign. Adding up the reigns of the kings from Shlomo – in whose fourth year as king the Beit HaMikdash’s existence began – to Tzidkiyahu – in whose reign it was destroyed – we have a total of 433 years[7]. However, because the dating system then was focused on the king and not on an absolute, continuous calendar (as we mentioned above), the final partial year of a king’s rule was counted as a full year, and the rest of that year was also considered to be a full year for the next king. Therefore, we can conclude that there was an extra year of overlap recorded for each king. Accounting for the 19 rulers7 and therefore 19 years of overlap, our total reduces to 414 years. We also need to remember that construction began in the fourth year of Shlomo’s reign. We therefore remove four years to give the final count of 410 years for which the first Beit HaMikdash stood. Thus, the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed in year 3338.
Length of Reign
Start of Reign[8]
Binyan Bayit Rishon 2928
3 months
3 months
433 (including overlap)
II-B. Galut Bavel and the Second Beit HaMikdash
After the Beit HaMikdash’s destruction, the records become much less comprehensive. There is no book that details a continuous history or provides dates in a larger context. All of the post-Churban Sifrei Tanach (like many of their earlier counterparts) give exclusively regnal dates. Nothing informs us how long a king ruled, or even who directly succeeded him.
When the second Beit HaMikdash begins to be built in the second year of the Persian king Daryavesh, Zecharyah retrospectively references a period of 70 years (Zecharyah 1:12). This refers to the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash and Yerushalayim and the subsequent exile (with no mention of Babylonian rule, as this prophecy comes many years after the Babylonian empire fell)[9]. Therefore, the second year of Daryavesh and the beginning of the construction of the second Beit HaMikdash was in year 3338+70=3408 of Seder Olam. Construction took four years (Ezra 6:15), finishing in Daryavesh’s sixth year, year 3412.
From this point on everything becomes much murkier. There are no “anchor dates” like in Yirmiyahu 25[10]. The few dates mentioned after the construction of the second Beit HaMikdash are only in reference to the king of the time, and we do not even know for sure the order of succession, much less for how long each Persian king ruled.
The latest date recorded in Tanach about Daryavesh is his sixth year, the year in which the second Beit HaMikdash was completed. The next date we have is that of Ezra’s Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, in the seventh year of king Artachshasta (Ezra 7:7). Seder Olam assumes that these two names refer to the same king, so these two events are only one year apart[11]. The last reference we have to Daryavesh/Artachshasta is during the governorship of Nechemyah, in his 32nd year (Nechemyah Perek 12). This can be calculated to be year 3438 of Seder Olam.
This is the latest concrete date that can be found in Tanach. However, a hint to later events can be found in a vision of Daniel. In Perakim 10 and 11, in the third year of Koresh[12], Daniel receives a long, prophetic, colorful, and obscure description of much of the future political history from an angel. At the beginning of the history the angel states, “Hinei Od Sheloshah Melachim Omedim LeParas,” “Behold, three more kings will stand for Persia” (Daniel 11:2); the fourth of the line[13] will be tremendously rich, and he will be conquered by an extremely powerful king of Greece[14]. Seder Olam assumes this king to be Alexander the Great, and thus the king succeeding Daryavesh/Artachshasta is Alexander. In addition, Seder Olam twice references that the Persians ruled over Israel for 52 years, which leads to the deduction that Daryavesh/Artachshasta ruled for 36 years. (This extra time is hinted at in Sefer Nechemyah, where Nechemyah mentions that he was in Persia during Artachshasta’s 32nd year, and he took leave to return to Israel after a long period of time (Nechemyah 13:6).) Koresh took control in 3390; hence, Alexander’s reign over the Persian Empire begins in year 3442 of Seder Olam.
Seder Olam follows Alexander’s reign with a summary of the rulership until the Second Beit HaMikdash’s destruction (and then to the Bar Kochba (alt. Ben Koziba) Revolt) in a succinct teaching of Rabi Yosi[15]: 34 years of Persian rule during the existence of the Beit HaMikdash, 180 years of Greek rule, 103 years of the Chashmona’i dynasty, and 103 years of the Herodian dynasty – totaling 420 years. Bar Kochba’s rebellion was 52 years later.
In the second installment of this essay, we will bring light to issues that arise when comparing Seder Olam’s account of Bayit Sheini chronology with the conventional account of history. We will then hopefully explain how Seder Olam’s account consistently employs the methodology of Chazal to successfully arrive at its conclusions, regardless of outside chronologies.

[1] Lit: Year After Creation. This title is slightly misleading, as Seder Olam begins its chronology with Adam HaRishon and makes no mention of Beri’at HaOlam.
[2] The Gregorian calendar does not include a year 0; year 1 BCE is succeeded immediately by year 1 CE.
[3] Though this would be an apt title for the work, its real title does not denote any connection. The “Rabbah” suffix merely means “big,” distinguishing it from a later chronological work also titled Seder Olam (Zuta).
[4] The Pesukim are not entirely clear here, stating only that Noach was 500 years old when he gave birth to Sheim, Cham, and Yefet. However, in the list from Sheim to Avraham, Arpachshad is stated as being born when Sheim was 100 years old, two years after the Mabul (11:10); therefore, we can deduce that Sheim was born 98 years before the Mabul. The Mabul is said to have been when Noach was 600 years old (7:6), in year 1656; thus, Sheim was born in year 1558.
[5] BeReishit 11:27 states that Terach was 70 years old when he gave birth to Avraham, Nachor, and Haran. It is assumed that Avraham was the oldest brother.
[6] This Derashah is based on the usage of the word “Zera,” offspring, in the Berit (15:13): “Yado’a Teida Ki Geir Yihyeh Zar’acha BeEretz Lo Lahem VaAvadum VeInu Otam Arba Mei’ot Shanah,” “Know well that your offspring will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and torture them four hundred years.” This “Zera” is identified by Seder Olam to match with the Pasuk (21:12), “Ki VeYitzchak Yikarei Lecha Zara,” “For in Yitzchak offspring will be called for you.”
[7] Yeho’achaz and Yehoyachin each ruled for three months, and are not even given credit for an entire year.
[8] The chronology in this table is based on a simple read of Sefer Melachim. The chronology is actually more complicated, but this is beyond the scope of this paper. For further reading, see Edwin Thiele’s The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951).
[9] Zecharyah’s reference is not explicitly about the Beit HaMikdash’s destruction, but from context it is clear that he is referring to the destruction of the Temple, Yerushalayim, and all of Yehudah.
[10] See section IV (Editor’s Note: This will appear in next week’s installment).
[11] Seder Olam uses the ambiguous language of “Hu Koresh Hu Daryavesh Hu Artachshasta” to show that sometimes multiple names refer to the same king. The Gra explains this specific reference to be that Daryavesh is named as Koresh, the “Meshiach Hashem,” by Yeshayahu; Daryavesh is awarded these extra titles because he rebuilt the Beit HaMikdash. (This association of Koresh and Daryavesh might be another element of Chazal’s “hiding” of the disappointing Shivat Tziyon-era Navi at the end of Sefer Yeshayahu. By identifying “Koresh,” who is prophesied to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash, as Daryavesh, who actually did, the author removes the problem of a false prophecy. See section V-B for a further explanation of the “hidden Navi.”)
Interestingly, the Gra writes that there were three separate kings of Persia: Koresh, Daryavesh, and Artachshasta. However, he makes no mention of Achashveirosh, whom Seder Olam explicitly includes, and makes no attempt to identify him with one of the three aforementioned kings! Perhaps the Gra means only that all three of these kings, though Midrashically identified as one by Seder Olam, are separate rulers in their own right, in addition to Achashveirosh. This would pose a problem, though, with Daniel’s vision (found in Perakim 10-11 of Sefer Daniel) of the four Persian kings (including Daryavesh HaMadi).
[12] The vision begins in Perek 10 and continues in Perek 11, according to the explanation of Da’at Mikra.
[13] Presumably this includes a king before Koresh, so the fourth king in total is the third remaining. Perhaps this earlier king refers to Daryavesh HaMadi, who conquered Bavel for Persia. (Daryavesh HaMadi’s identity itself is very unclear; perhaps this is a reference to the general Gobryas who governed over Bavel for a few weeks after conquering it.) The result is that the four kings are Daryavesh HaMadi, Koresh, Achashveirosh, and Daryavesh/Artachshasta.
[14] A similar vision, though less detailed, can be found in Perek 8 of Daniel. Seder Olam cites Pesukim from both visions.
[15] The fact that this history is entirely Tannaitic and not derived from Tanach is incredibly significant. After the mention of Alexander, Seder Olam writes, “Ad Kan Hayu Nevi’im Mitnab’im BeRuach HaKodesh; MiKan VeEilach Hat Oznecha UShma Divrei Chachamim,” “Until here Nevi’im would prophesize with Divine spirit; from here and onward listen to the words of the Sages.” This marks the end of the period of Nevu’ah and a monumental transition in the nature of Judaism. The short section following even has the feel of an appendix to the primary history, that which is relevant to Tanach.

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The Hebrew Calendar and its Missing Years- Part Two
by Reuven Herzog (‘13) and Benjy Koslowe (‘13)
Last week we presented the work of Seder Olam Rabbah and went through its chronology from Adam HaRishon until Alexander the Great, highlighting important events along the way. This week we will bring light to issues that arise when comparing Seder Olam’s account of Bayit Sheini chronology with theconventional [BK1] account of history. We will then hopefully explain how Seder Olam’s account consistently employs the methodology of Chazal to successfully arrive at its conclusions, regardless of outside chronologies.
III. Addressing Problems with Gaps
The calendric calculation of Seder Olam, which we have seen, becomes dubious when compared to the accepted conventional history. These historic accounts are supported by the vast majority of historians. Steles and other archaeological findings from both Persia and Greece, who were classically enemy empires, as well as works from Ptolemy and other Egyptian sources, all support the following account of history:
Start of Reign
End of Reign
Cyrus II the Great
550 BCE
530 BCE
Conquest of Babylonia and Cyrus Proclamation 539 BCE
Cambyses II
530 BCE
522 BCE
Darius I the Great
522 BCE
486 BCE
Xerxes I
485 BCE
465 BCE
Artaxerxes I
465 BCE
424 BCE
Xerxes II
424 BCE
424 BCE
424 BCE
423 BCE
Darius II
423 BCE
404 BCE
Artaxerxes II
404 BCE
358 BCE
Artaxerxes III Ochus
358 BCE
338 BCE
Artaxerxes IV
338 BCE
336 BCE
Darius III
336 BCE
330 BCE
There are three main points of disagreement between Seder Olam and the accepted conventional history. These variances, taken all together, generate forSeder Olam roughly 165 “missing years” during the Second Temple period.
1. Seder Olam describes the chronological order of kings as Koresh, followed by Achashveirosh, followed by Daryavesh. In fact, Daryavesh is said to be the son of Achashveirosh and Esther. Secular sources disagree, instead placing Darius chronologically before Xerxes[1] (as well as recording a king, unnamed in Tanach, between Cyrus and Darius).
Historians believe that the Persian king who took control over the Babylonian empire was Cyrus. After him ruled Cambyses, then Darius, and then Xerxes. Cyrus is consistent with Koresh from Tanach, both narratively – the Cyrus Cylinder is clear evidence for the Biblical Koresh’s proclamation – and linguistically – the names are very similar. Likewise, Darius is naturally identified to be Daryavesh. Pinpointing the character of Achashveirosh is trickier.Seder Olam describes that Achashveirosh was king in between Cyrus (Koresh) and Darius (Daryavesh). However, the name Achashveirosh sounds nothing like Cambyses, whom historians say was the second king of this Persian line.
Of all the kings mentioned, Xerxes is the likeliest candidate to be Achashveirosh. The name “Xerxes” is a Greek translation of the Persian name “Chashyarsha” (“חשיארש)[BK2] . Interestingly, at the end of Megilat Esther (10:1), Achashveirosh’s name is spelled with a Keri UKetiv (a word that is spelled differently than it is read) that is written as though it should be read like “Chashirash” (“אחשרש)[BK3] .
There is additional evidence from Sefer Ezra as to Achashveirosh and Xerxes being one and the same. In Ezra 4:5-6 we have a list of Persian monarchal genealogy. Pasuk 5 mentions Koresh and Daryavesh, after which Pasuk 6 mentions Achashveirosh. The simple read of the Pesukim indicates that Achashveirosh was king after Daryavesh. This also suggests that Achashveirosh is Chashirash/Xerxes.
Thus, while conventional history places Achashveirosh as king after Daryavesh, Seder Olam places Achashveirosh as king before Daryavesh. This is one discrepancy.
2. Seder Olam writes that Daryavesh and Artachshasta are the same person. This claim is based on Sefer Ezra. In Perakim 1-6 the king is Daryavesh, whose role in the story ends during his sixth year when the Second Temple is built (Ezra 6:15). In the next Perek the Persian king is called by the name “Artachshasta,” and it is his seventh year as king (Ezra 7:7). It is in this year that Ezra arrives in Israel and emerges as the leader of his generation. Seder Olam claims that Daryavesh and Artachshasta are the same person – this king sees the completion of the Temple construction in his sixth year, and then Ezra arrives in Israel in his seventh.
Seder Olam’s account differs very much from conventional history. Conventional history shows that Artaxerxes (i.e. Artachshasta) was crowned king more than 20 years after the death of Darius. In between Darius and Artaxerxes is the king Xerxes (whom we identified above as Achashveirosh). This is another discrepancy between the two calendars.
3. Both Seder Olam and conventional history agree that Alexander the Great defeated a Persian king named Darius. However, Seder Olam and conventional history disagree as to which Darius this was. According to Seder Olam, this king was the Darius who saw the construction of the Second Temple (and who was alternatively called “Artachshasta”). According to conventional history, this king is identified as Darius III, who lived 150 years after Darius I (the character in Tanach). Conventional history identifies several Persian kings in between Darius I and Alexander’s defeat of Darius III. Seder Olam skips them all.
Because Seder Olam moves Xerxes, morphs Darius with Artaxerxes, and equates Darius I with the king who was killed by Alexander the Great, Seder Olam winds up with roughly 165 fewer years of history than the conventional account.
Another challenge with Seder Olam is that the Chanukat HaBayit-Ezra jump (achieved by identifying Daryavesh with Artachshasta) seems to clash with the narrative of Sefer Ezra. When Ezra arrives in Israel, the entire Jewish population is intermarried with the local idol-worshipers. This would be a truly stunning turn of events only a year after the dedication of the second Beit HaMikdash. Furthermore, Chaggai and Zecharyah, the two central Nevi’im during the construction of the Beit HaMikdash, are nowhere to be found during Ezra’s time; if this is only a year later, as Seder Olam claims, what happened to them? Furthermore, would they have not stopped the people from intermarrying? It seems clear that there must have been a long period without leaders between the two events.
In summary, as we see from the timeline of conventional history, it is commonly deduced that the [BK4] Persian kings ruled for a total of 220 years. This contradicts the Seder Olam account, which assumes 52 years of Persian rule under only three (or four) kings. This is a discrepancy of approximately 165years (this approximation is due to slight differences in calculations, which can be explained based on overlapping kings’ years). These are the missingyears.
IV. How Seder Olam is Internally Consistent
We will attempt to resolve this conflict by showing how Seder Olam, a Midrashic adaptation of history, is internally consistent. By following its own rules,Seder Olam creates an inclusive and precise, if not externally accurate, calendar.
Tanach is not always crystal clear about chronology. Seder Olam, though, uses exact dates to chronicle the Jewish story[2]. Seder Olam’s modus operandi for deciding a date when there is ambiguity is minimalism. We see this minimalist tendency of Chazal as well regarding character identification. For example, in Shemot Perek 2 we encounter two anonymous Jewish men who witness Moshe killing an Egyptian, forcing Moshe to flee (Shemot 2:13-14). TheMidrash Tanchuma identifies these men as Datan and Aviram, two men who appear in Parashat Korach as leaders of an insurgency against the leadership. Chazal make this identification so as to minimize the amount of characters in the grand story (as well as to teach a lesson about long-time rivalries and their origins).
Similarly, and more relevant to our topic, Seder Olam is minimalist regarding chronology. For example, Avraham is told that his descendants will be slaves for 400 years (BeReishit 15:13). However, the Chumash never explicitly identifies when these years begin. Being minimalist and decisive, Seder Olamidentifies the 400 years of slavery as beginning from the birth of Yitzchak. This minimalism is evident as well by Seder Olam’s morphing of Daryavesh and Artachshasta. The text of Sefer Ezra is not absolutely clear as to what happens between the sixth year of Daryavesh and the seventh year of Artachshasta, so Seder Olam makes an absolute decision and says that Daryavesh and Artachshasta are the same person. Seder Olam makes a similar decision by skipping from Darius I to Darius III – instead of having two separate characters, it is possible to say that they were the same person. While these decisions are not consistent with conventional history, they work within the methodology of Seder Olam.
Like Seder Olam’s alterations with Darius, we can show as well how its misplacement of Xerxes is internally consistent within its methodology.
The Perek that unlocks much of the post-Churban calendar actually precedes the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. Yirmiyahu Perek 25 is important in that it contains two critical details that together allow for an explanation of the timeline of Galut Bavel and the return to Israel. First, the Perek opens with a double date. The Nevu’ah is introduced, “HaDavar Asher Hayah El Yirmiyahu Al Kol Am Yehudah BaShanah HaRevi’it LiYhoyakim [BK5] Ben Yoshiyahu Melech Yehudah, Hi HaShanah HaRishonit LiNvuchadretzar Melech Bavel,” “The word which came to Yirmiyahu concerning all the people of Yehudah, in the fourth year of Yehoyakim son of Yoshiyahu, king of Yehudah, which was the first year of Nevuchadretzar, king of Bavel” (Yirmiyahu 25:1). Since all reference points from the Babylonian exile and onward are dated to foreign kings, the synchronization found here between the Judean years and the Babylonian yearsallows for the shift.
The other key found in this Perek is the message of the Nevu’ah itself, the famous 70 years of Babylonian rule. Yirmiyahu here tells Bnei Yisrael that as a result of the people’s refusal to change its evil ways and serve Hashem properly, Hashem will bring Bavel to rule over them for 70 years. After this time is up, Bnei Yisrael will return to independence. (This refers to a period of subservience to Bavel, and does not mean a period of exile. Exile ensues as a punishment and a message since Bnei Yisrael rebel against Bavel and do not accept their lighter punishment of subservience.)
Sefer Ezra begins with the Persian king Koresh’s proclamation allowing the Jews to return to Eretz Yisrael and to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash. This is dated,“UViShnat Achat LeChoresh Melech Paras Lichlot Devar Hashem MiPi Yirmiyahu,” “In the first year of Koresh, king of Persia, at the conclusion of the word of Hashem spoken by Yirmiyahu.” The only relevant speech of Yirmiyahu is Perek 25. Seventy years of Babylonian rule have expired[BK6]  and, as prophesied, Bavel is no longer controlling anyone; Persia is now in charge.
Yirmiyahu 25 occurs in the fourth year of Yehoyakim’s reign. Working backwards from the Beit HaMikdash’s destruction (year 3338), Tzidkiyahu ruled for 11 years, and Yehoyakim also ruled for 11 years[3]. Accounting for a year of overlap, Yehoyakim’s first year was 21 years before the Churban HaBayit. Thus, his fourth year (i.e. the first year of Babylonian rule) was 18 years before the destruction, which comes out to be year 3338-18=3320 of Seder Olam. Seventy years later, the first year of Koresh’s rule, was in year 3390 of Seder Olam.
In fact, there are two different periods of 70 years relating to the end of Bayit Rishon. The first is prophesied by Yirmiyahu as 70 years of Babylonian rule with no mention of exile. The second, which we previously discussed[4], is a retrospective reference by Zecharyah to the time between the destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash and the construction of the second Beit HaMikdash.
The difference in time between the first 70 years and the second is easily calculable. The Babylonian conquest of Israel, the beginning of Yirmiyahu’s 70years, occurred in the fourth year of Yehoyakim’s reign. We have already established that this was 18 years before the Churban Beit HaMikdash, the start of Zecharyah’s 70 years. Logically, this difference between the beginnings of the two blocks holds for the ends of the two blocks as well. The first year of Koresh’s reign – the end of Yirmiyahu’s prophecy – would therefore precede the second year of Daryavesh’s reign – the end of Zecharyah’s 70 years – by 18years.
As just demonstrated, there are 18 years between Koresh’s declaration, in the first year after his conquest of Babylonia, and the construction of the Beit HaMikdash, in Daryavesh’s second year. Historical sources point to a nine-year reign of Cyrus over Babylonia, and then another king ruling for eight or nineyears, followed by Darius. However, the latest mention of Koresh in the Tanach is his third year (Daniel 10:1). This leaves a large gap until the next date, the second year of Daryavesh – a gap of fourteen years. According to Megilat[BK7]  Esther, Achashveirosh ruled for at least 12 years – the primary events all occur then (Esther 3:7). Preferring not to leave a gap in the timeline, Seder Olam moves the reign of Achashveirosh/Xerxes into the gap following Koresh, fitting him snugly between Koresh and Daryavesh.
Interim Conclusion
In[BK8]  the final installment of this essay, we hope to suggest two reasons for Seder Olam’s intentional deviation from conventional chronology, one looking toward the past and one looking toward the future.
Footnotes [1] Who are equated with Daryavesh and Achashveirosh, respectively, as will be explained. [2] Despite Seder Olam’s interpretation as such, it is possible that numbers in Tanach (and particularly lengths of time) are not entirely precise. Certain repetitions of number in short spans give an impression of rounding and usage of more typological numbers. As an example, five Shofetim and kings in Sifrei Shofetim and Shmuel are said to have each ruled for 40 years, with another Shofeit ruling for 80 years, twice 40. The number four symbolizing completeness (encompassing all directions), 40 years can simply connote “a long period of time.”
We can therefore also suggest that the dates mentioned in Tanach are not intended to be completely exact, but rather are sometimes meant to carry meaning. Due to this, some imprecision of numbers can be allowed. [3] Yehoyachin, in between these two, did not rule for a significant period of time. [4] See section II-B.

from: Kol Torah Webmaster to: Kol Torah date: Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 8:40 PM subject: Kol Torah Parashiyot Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 2015
The Hebrew Calendar and its Missing Years – Part Three by Reuven Herzog (‘13) and Benjy Koslowe (‘13)  
       In the last two weeks we presented Seder Olam Rabbah and its chronology. We showed how its approach to texts and history reveals a consistent methodology, if it does not match conventional dating. With all that we mentioned above, there still must be a reason why Seder Olam skipped so much. While it is a minimalist work, there still should be justification for this course of action. Several suggestions are given, and we will present two that seem to be the most compelling. V. Purpose of Seder Olam V-A. 1,000 Years since Yetziat Mitzrayim
          The first answer has to do with Minyan Shetarot, also known as the Seleucid era or the Anno Graecorum (“Greek year”). This is the dating system that Jews accepted in the latter half of the Second Temple period. This count began in what we today refer to as 312 BCE. During this year was fought the Battle of Gaza, leading to Seleucus’s successful conquering of Babylonia. The Greeks decided that this year would be “Year One.” Along with the Seleucid Empire and other Hellenistic civilizations, the Jews adopted the system. Throughout the Talmud there is evidence of documents being dated with respect to this year.
          At first glance the year 312 BCE is not especially significant for Jewish history. The Vilna Gaon points out, though, that as per the Seder Olamcalculation, 313 BCE (the effective “Year Zero”) is found to be exactly 1,000 years after Yetziat Mitzrayim (2448)! Because of Seder Olam, the Seleucid year was effectively sanctified. A document dated with this count to the 45th year, for example, suddenly became synonymous with 1,045 years since Yetziat Mitzrayim. Support for this can be found in the line at the end of Seder Olam“UVeGolah Kotevin BiShtarot LeMinyan Yevanim ‘Alfa,’” “And in the exile they write on Shetarot of the Greek count (Minyan Shetarot) ‘One Thousand.’”
          One may notice that even so, a slight gap exists in Seder Olam’s chronology. The Macedonian conquest is calculated to have occurred in 3442[1], yet Minyan Shetarot begins in year 3448!
          This can be explained by a Gemara in Mesechet Avodah Zarah (10a), discussing Minyan Shetarot and its inherent connection to Yetziat Mitzrayim:
  ההוא שטרא דהוה כתיב ביה שית שנין יתירתא, סבור רבנן קמיה דרבא למימר: האי שטר מאוחר הוא, ניעכביה עד דמטיא זמניה ולא טריף, אמר רב נחמן: האי ספרא דוקנא כתביה, והנך שית שנין דמלכו בעילם דאנן לא חשבינן להו, הוא קחשיב ליה, ובזמניה כתביה; דתניא, ר' יוסי אומר: שש שנים מלכו בעילם, ואח"כ פשטה מלכותן בכל העולם כולו.   מתקיף לה רב אחא בר יעקב: ממאי דלמלכות יונים מנינן? דלמא ליציאת מצרים מנינן, ושבקיה לאלפא קמא ונקטיה אלפא בתרא, והאי מאוחר הוא! אמר רב נחמן: בגולה אין מונין אלא למלכי יונים בלבד.  
There was [produced in court] a document which was dated six years ahead. The Rabbis who were sitting before Rava were of opinion that it should be pronounced a post-dated document, which is to be deferred and not executed until the date which it bears. Whereupon Rav Nachman said: This document must have been written by a scribe who was very particular and took into account the six years of the Greek Reign in Eilam which we do not reckon. The dating is therefore correct, for we have learnt: Rabi Yosi said, Six years did the Greeks reign in Eilam and thereafter their dominion extended universally.   Rav Acha b. Ya’akov then put this question: How do we know that our Era [of Documents] is connected with the Kingdom of Greece at all? Why not say that it is reckoned from the Exodus from Egypt, omitting the first thousand years and giving the years of the next thousand? In that case, the document is really post-dated! — Said Rabi Nachman: In the Diaspora the Greek Era alone is used.[2]             Seder Olam mentions that Alexander ruled for 12 years. However, it is unclear if this refers to his complete rule or only to his rule over the former-Persian Empire. Though historically inaccurate, this Gemara implies that those 12 years are his total reign, of which six were only in Greece and six were following the conquest of Persia. These six years are from 3442 to 3448 of Seder Olam, achieving the desired goal of 1000 years after Yetziat Mitzrayim.
          So how did Seder Olam achieve this desired date? Seder Olam’s biggest jump is the Darius skip, which we have demonstrated is achieved by equating Daryavesh with Artachshasta, and by skipping from Darius I to Darius III. This jump accounts for the vast majority of the missing years. It was well known that Alexander the Great came to power by killing a Persian ruler named Darius. This fact, coupled with the motivation of giving significance to the date of Minyan Shetarot, was good reason to make this skip and shorten an inconveniently-long history[3]. V-B. No Progress is No History
          Another apparent justification for Seder Olam’s skipping over 165 years is the assumption that years without Jewish progress, particularly in the context of the second Beit HaMikdash, are effectively removed from Jewish history, as they are not worthy to have existed. This notion can explain the three sets of years which we have shown to be skipped over by Seder Olam.
          Before demonstrating how Seder Olam approaches this nadir of Jewish performance, it is worth discussing Sefer Yeshayahu tangentially. Modern academic and a growing number of Jewish scholars suggest a theory that after Perek 39 of Sefer Yeshayahu, a new author takes over. This claim has several bases, including the dramatic shift after Perek 39 from rebuke and destruction to visions of comfort (see Yeshayahu 40:1), the explicit mention of King Koresh (44:28 and 45:1), and the explicit call for Bnei Yisrael to leave Bavel (48:20). Additionally, Yeshayahu is named in the first half of the book 15 times, whereas in the second half he is not mentioned even once. The conclusion is that this anonymous second author, referred to as Yeshayahu HaSheini or Deutero-Isaiah, was a prophet hundreds of years after the Yeshayahu of middle-late Bayit Rishon.
          According to this theory, Deutero-Isaiah was a prophet for Bnei Yisrael when Koresh announced that the Jews could return to Israel. This Navi, alongside the leadership of Zerubavel, called on the people to return and to not give up hope (see 40:9 and 40:29). He tried to show how Hashem still desired the nation and had not abandoned them (see 41:8-10), and how He was willing to give the people a new start (44:22). But, as is clear from Sefer Ezra, the Jews at large fail to answer the call.
          Shivat Tziyon was a period of tremendous hope and excitement in Jewish history, yet it ended in utter disappointment. The feeling of the time, as presented by the Nevi’im, was that this is the ultimate Redemption and Renewal. This time, the Jewish people would properly serve God as an entire Nation in the Land of Israel; they would correct the mistakes and sins of Bayit Rishon. Zecharyah prophesizes a reversal of Yirmiyahu’s prophecies of torture, of God returning to His people, and telling Bnei Yisrael that they should finally fulfill the destiny of the Jewish people, to be a nation of Tzedek and Mishpat, of Emet and Shalom. Malachi consistently makes allusions to Moshe, implying that the Covenant is being renewed and Bnei Yisrael are starting again on their journey to God. However, as is tragically depicted in Sefer Ezra, this does not occur. The return to Israel is miniscule and the Beit HaMikdash itself is much smaller. Furthermore, for the vast majority of the time the Jews are leaderless, both politically and spiritually, and they assimilate into the surrounding society. Not until Shimon HaTzaddik, during the period of Alexander the Great, do we learn of a religious revolution, and even then it was a different approach of scholar-based Judaism and not a fulfillment of the original path of Bayit Rishon. Politically, too, Bayit Sheini did not achieve its potential. For two and a half centuries, the Jews were ruled by a foreign power with no known strong leader. The Chashmona’im’s revolution did not last, and the last stand against the Romans was doomed by sectarian splits and infighting. Bayit Sheini was the great hope of the Jewish people, but ended as a failure.
          We have stated that years of the second Beit HaMikdash without Jewish progress are effectively removed from Jewish history. This explains why Deutero-Isaiah was hidden, as it were. Although an ambitious Navi, Deutero-Isaiah was unable to convince Bnei Yisrael to return to Israel. The result? Deutero-Isaiah was made to be an appendix to Sefer Yeshayahu. Like his local message, Deutero-Isaiah’s real name is forever lost in the annals of history[4].           This brings us back to our discussion of Seder Olam and the missing years. Modern historians tells us that Cyrus II the Great allowed the Jews to return to Israel in 539 BCE and that the Second Beit HaMikdash was completed in 516 BCE. As we have shown, these two decades marked a low-point in Jewish history. A mere 42,360 Jews heeded the call to return to Israel (Ezra 2:64), and internal strife led to a “building freeze” (4:24). Chazal therefore hid the prophet Deutero-Isaiah.  
        Moving slightly forward in history, modern history reveals that the Purim story probably took place after the Second Beit HaMikdash was already built. The main events of the Megilah take place in the 12th year of Achashveirosh’s reign. Though this fits in Seder Olam’s count, assuming Koresh ruled only three years after his conquest of Bavel, if we assume that Koresh ruled for nine, and that the construction of the Beit HaMikdash took place 18 years after Koresh’s proclamation, even a 12-year reign of Achashveirosh cannot possibly occur between Koresh and Daryavesh.
          Rather than leaving the exile even after the Beit HaMikdash’s construction, Jews were living and thriving in Shushan HaBirah. The Pasuk “Ish Yehudi Hayah BeShushan HaBirah UShemo Mordechai,” “There was a certain Jew in Shushan the capital, whose name was Mordechai” (Esther 2:5), should be read with shock rather than with pride. Mordechai is a leader in Persian politics when his nation has the ability to return to Israel. Even his name is derived from the Persian deity Marduk![5]  
        For the same reasons why Chazal hid Deutero-Isaiah, Chazal adjusted the years of Achashveirosh’s reign. By moving Achashveirosh from after Daryavesh to before Daryavesh (see previous installments to understand how this was possible), the years of Jewish history when the Jews failed to return to Israel were effectively erased from the count.
          Even well after the Mikdash was built, though, Jewish history failed to significantly progress toward the Divine goal. The Mikdash is completed in Year 6 of Daryavesh (Ezra 6:15), after which Jewish life was weak and leaderless for several decades until Ezra’s ascent in Year 7 of Artachshasta (Ezra 7:7). For thematic reasons, the book of Ezra closes the gap on these years in which there was no progress. Seder Olam takes the next step and makes it that these years never existed. Seder Olam puts these two dates immediately next to each other, thus skipping nearly 60 years of history. Again, the purpose of this skip was to demonstrate that years in which Jewish history stalemated are not worthy to have existed. According to Seder Olam, they effectively did not.[6] VI. Conclusion
          Seder Olam’s goal may not be primarily to give a comprehensive and precise history of all time, but rather to use history as a tool for teaching. The book assumes that its readers were aware of history. Likely, they knew when exactly the Purim story happened. Given this, it does not need to match up with secular dating. On the contrary, its adjusting of chronology not only remains loyal to the literal sense of the canonized texts, it also yields two tremendous benefits – making Yetziat Mitzrayim be the point of reference for all Jewish dating, and (on a more subtle level) teaching an important lesson about Ge’ulah and the goals of the Jewish future, what needs to happen next. Appendix  
Calculation of Years According to Seder Olam:
Time Elapsed
Total Years
Birth of Adam
Birth of Avraham
Birth of Yitzchak
Yetziat Mitzrayim
Binyan Bayit Rishon
Churban Bayit Rishon
Binyan Bayit Sheini
Macedonian Conquest
Begin Minyan Shetarot
Churban Bayit Sheini
Present Day

Seder Olam’s Timeline of Galut Bavel and Shivat Tziyon
Year of Bavel
Regnal Year
Year of Persia
Nevuchadnetzar’s conquest of Middle East
4 Yehoyakim

Galut Yehoyachin
11 Yehoyakim

Churban HaBayit
11 Tzidkiyahu

Cyrus Proclamation
1 Koresh

Achashveirosh’s Party (Esther Perek 1)
3 Achashveirosh

Miracle of Purim
12 Achashveirosh

Binyan Bayit Sheini
2 Daryavesh

Aliyat Ezra
7 Artachshasta

Aliyat Nechemyah
20-36 Artachshasta

Closing of Tanach
1 Alexander the Great

[1] See end of section II-B. [2] Translation by Soncino. [3] Additionally, Seder Olam’s skip allowed for a simple explanation of a rather esoteric prophecy in Sefer Daniel, which we described in last week’s installment. By combining Artachshasta with Daryavesh and skipping from Darius I to Darius III, Seder Olam is able to present a history that indeed involves three Persian kings and then an even greater Greek king, as per the prophecy. [4] It is worth explaining that Deutero-Isaiah is not merely “hidden” in a random book of Tanach. Rather, his Nevu’ot form a perfect second half to the earlier Nevu’ot of Yeshayahu, and the book certainly should be read as a single, unified work. Though the majority of Yeshayahu’s prophecies discuss Pur’anut, suffering and destruction, the general structure of the book reveals that this suffering will always be followed by Nechamah, comfort and reconstruction of Bnei Yisrael’s relationship with Hashem. In this vein, Deutero-Isaiah could not be a more appropriate conclusion to Yeshayahu, his Nevu’ot discussing the Nechamah that was so long waited for after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. [5] Much more can be said about the ironic undercurrent of Megilat Esther, as a harsh criticism to the Jews who stayed in Bavel at the time. [6] It is worth mentioning Mitchell First’s Jewish History in Conflict: A Study of the Major Discrepancy between Rabbinic and Conventional Chronology(1st ed.; New Jersey: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1997). The bulk of the work presents several lists of Jewish figures and how they addressed the discrepancy in calendars. His lists begin chronologically with Azariah de Rossi who, in 1574, accepted conventional history both because of the many testimonies from different historians, as well because of inconsistencies between Tanach and Seder Olam. For example, he points to Nechemyah 12:10-11, a list of succession of high priests that spans many more years than prescribed by Seder Olam’s chronology. First’s research is full and informative and can serve as useful further reading for those who want to continue learning about the topic of our essay and how it was addressed over the years. Most relevant to our essay is First’s evaluation of the responses that he details, as well as his conclusion. While he raises the “1,000 Years since Yetziat Mitzrayim” explanation and the general tendency of Chazal toward minimalism, Mr. First, for reasons that he elucidates, prefers another answer to the dilemma. Daniel 9:24-27 vaguely describes a period of 490 years, and the author of Seder Olam was interested in presenting this prediction as having come true. Thsse author of Seder Olam assumed that the beginning of the first exile and the end of the Second Temple, respectively, began and ended this period (much can be said about this interesting assumption, which is reasonable but certainly not self-evident). Additionally, he knew that there were 380 years from the onset of Minyan Shetarot until Churban Bayit Sheini. Left with only 40 years for the beginning of the Bayit Sheini under Persian rule, as well as sufficient room to use the text as support, Seder Olam recorded a significantly altered version of Persian history. For more details, see Part IV (pp. 113-137) of Jewish History in Conflict.

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