Chaim wonders: How did they decide that the world was created exactly 5781 years ago?
"The Khazari said: Do you have a clear source from the creation of the world?
The friend said: Indeed, we only count for this number and there is no dispute about it between the Jews from the land of the Khazars to the land of Kush.
The Khazari said: How many do you count today for the creation of the world?
The friend said: Four thousand five hundred years... we count the years of the ancients according to what was given to us in the Torah of Moses and we know what happened from Moses until this day.
The Khazari said: Such a penny removes the evil doubt from the heart lest there be a lie or a conspiracy in it, something which is impossible because ten people will agree on it without being confused..." (R. Yehuda Halevi, the Khazari)
Apparently, the answer is clear: today is 5781 years since the creation of the world, because that is how it is written in the Bible. So it's not; The Bible is not extended by even one event in the method known to us from the creation of the world. The historical events are reported according to the years of the reign of the king of Israel or Judah "in the third year of Osa, the king of Judah, Baasha ben Ahijah, king over all Israel." And with the destruction of the house, the Bible switches to dating according to the years of the reign of foreign rulers "and it will be in the year of Arba, to Darius the king was Yahweh's word to Zechariah...
Apparently, it is possible to add up the years in a column from the creation to the well-known historical events mentioned in the Bible (such as the victory of the Persians led by Cyrus over the Babylonian Empire) and find the number of years from the creation of the world. But we are once again disappointed: the numbers refuse to add up. Thus, for example, it is reported that Solomon's temple was dedicated 480 years after the Exodus from Egypt "and it was eighty years and four hundred years until the children of Israel left the land of Egypt in the fourth year of the month, this is the second month Solomon reigned over Israel, and he built the house of Jehovah" (40 Kings chapter 580 ') except that the XNUMX years of wanderings in the desert plus the years of Joshua's leadership and the summation of the periods of the judges and of David's kingdom yield at least XNUMX years (without considering the unspecified period of time between Joshua's death and the appearance of Koshan XNUMX hours that opens the book of Judges).
A critical reading will reveal no less than 7 suspiciously round time periods. 6 times a judge succeeds in quieting the country for exactly 40 years and once (under Judge Gideon) for 80 years. It is difficult, in view of this table, not to become a follower of judicial activism and it is also difficult not to wonder how people were not attacked by panic every time 39 years of peace passed. It is likely that the sentence "and the land was quiet for forty years" simply indicates a period of peace.
An attempt to read the book of Genesis as it is simply yields strange results: when he is reunited with Joseph after 22 years of absence, our father Jacob proudly declares his age in Pharaoh's ears: 130. A backward calculation of the events reveals that he married Leah at the age of 84 and that Shimon and Levi were children aged 12 and 11 When they fought the people of Nablus and destroyed their city. Judaism pays a lot of attention to circular time cycles: from the week, and the month through the year on its holidays and legs, the 7-year cycle of the Shemita to the Jubilee at the end of seven cycles of Shemita, but she treats the linear timeline, which is the one-way path from the past to the future, with equanimity.
The Torah does not seek to teach us history but to legislate, the narrated events are nothing more than examples or warnings and for this purpose the exact dating is unnecessary. Thus, for example, Sages describe the rise of Rome as a chain of God's actions in response to the sins of the people of Israel "Rabbi Levi said: The day Solomon married the crippled Pharaoh, king of Egypt...a great grove was made and this is a great volume in Rome. The day that Jeroboam set up two golden calves, Romes and Romiles came and built two barracks in Rome. The day we depart, Elijah will be made king in Rome. The day when Romus and Romulus built "two huts in Rome" is a date that was well known to those who lived under the rule of this empire because it is the zero date for the Roman system of counting years from the foundation of the city (Ab Urbe Condita). In a modern formulation, Rabbi Levi dates Jeroboam's rebellion to April 753 BC. Jeroboam divided Solomon's kingdom about 200 years before, but Rabbi Levi and his friends lived in a world where the grammar in the details of time and place was much less important than the moral lesson in the story.
Similarly, the traditionally accepted date for the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, deviates by no less than 165 years from the historical date and places the event in 421 BC, long after the final destruction of the Babylonian kingdom and the rise of Persia. The lost years are, apparently, the result of the desire to adjust the time of the destruction of the first verse to an accepted interpretation of Daniel's prophecy that measures 490 years (70 times seven-year cycles) between the first destruction and the second.
And yet how did he, in a world with a flexible timeline, come up with such a rigid date for the creation of the world? Next year is actually Tashfa thanks to a book attributed to Rabbi Yossi ben Halfta of the second century AD "Seder Olam Rabbah". The book literally takes the periods of time indicated in the Torah and builds an unambiguous sequence of events. The result is a timeline that has no doubts, contradictions and missing sections and the price is a complete loss of internal logic in the story.
For example, the verse "And the children of Israel dwelled in Egypt thirty years and four hundred years." Creates an interpretive problem that the way to solve is to start the counting of the 430 years from the covenant of Ben Batyr so that the prophecy given there to Abraham "Your seed will live in a land not theirs, and their servitude, and torture them - four hundred years" will fit into a timeline in which the 400 years are counted from the birth of Isaac. Isaac was born to Abraham when he was 100 years old, so Abraham had to be 70 years old in the covenant between the Batyrs. What to do and the Bible specifically states that the commandment "Go away from your country and your homeland..." Abraham receives at the age of 75 and the covenant between the Bathers was made when he was already in Canaan? "Seder Olam" does not shy away from problems of this kind: after Abraham makes the covenant in Canaan, he returns to Haran so that, 5 years later, he can receive there the well-known command "Go, go," and arrive in Israel as a returning resident and not as a new immigrant. The schedule of times faced by the author (or authors) of Seder Olam obliges them to a tight schedule in the lives of the ancestors. Rebekah Imno marries Isaac when she is three years old, all the tribes are born within 7 years - all after only 7 months of pregnancy, Judah's sons (Er and Onan) carry a wife at the age of 7. The contradictions in the scriptures when the sum of the number of years of different periods (eg regnal years) is large From the length of the entire period, "Seder Olam" reconciles the discrepancy in the manner described in the Rosh Hashanah tractate in the Jerusalem Talmud, "A multiple account swallows up a limited account" meaning that it creates an overlap between periods of judgment or monarchy of different personalities. A difficult problem faced by the author of Seder Olam is the period of Persian rule. In order to create an interval of exactly one thousand years from the exodus from Egypt to the beginning of the rule of the Seleucid Kingdom, which is also the beginning of the common "number of banknotes", the author had to shrink the period of the Persian Empire from 190 years to only 34 and he does this by merging 3 different kings: Darwish the First, Darwish the Third and Artaxerxes became one king. In this way, the reader receives a schedule for all biblical events that can easily be adapted to the common counting of years in everyday life.
The abundance of dates described in the Bible allows different determinations of the date of creation. Christians have found evidence in the scriptures for a variety of dates between 3483 and 6934 BC and our calendar that places creation in 3760 BC is one possibility among many.
The acceptance of the number of years from the creation of the world was not quick. Although Yehuda Halevi proudly declares that "only to this number are we counted" but for hundreds of years most Jews continued to note dates according to the reigns of the local emperors and kings. The popular dating method was the "number of bills" which starts the number of years from the establishment of the Seleucid dynasty (that of Antiochus and his friends) in 312 BC and this is how the year of death of tombstones is dated and this is how legal documents are dated deep into the Middle Ages. "Recording dates in the years known to us from the creation of the world" was not established until the 13th century and in Yemen the number of banknotes was used until the very twentieth century. It is interesting to note that even in the "Seder Olam" there is no dating of events from the creation of the world and in the Talmud this method is only mentioned twice and in both cases it is not a question of past or present events but of apocalyptic visions predicting the war of Gog and Magog and the redemption in the years 531 and 541 (according to the Christian calendar) . The number of years, just like the shemitah week or the jubilee, is a human creation that helps us tell history as we choose to interpret it and as a bonus we get an opportunity to formulate clever holiday greetings in acronyms or in gematria.