News Letter 5851-001
1st day of the 1st month 5851 years after the creation of Adam
The 1st Month in the Sixth year of the Third Sabbatical Cycle
The Third Sabbatical Cycle of the 119th Jubilee Cycle
The Sabbatical Cycle of Earthquakes, Famines and Pestilence
The Year of the Tithe for the Widows, Orphans & Levites
March 22, 2015
“The New Moon Has Been Sighted”
The New Moon of the Aviv from the Eilat Mountains in southern Israel on March 21, 2015. The moon was sighted from this location by Nehemia Gordon at 5:53pm and by Tim Arndt at 6:01pm. The sky over the Eilat Mountains was perfectly clear. The moon was still clearly visible to both observers from the Eilat Mountains at 6:50 pm.
I was able to sight the moon from the Haifa area at 6:38pm together with my wife and two older sons who sighted at 6:46
Shanah Tova Brethren
“The Sanhedrin Inspecting witnesses who have sighted the moon.”
Many people eagerly await the setting up of the Temple. They are almost ready to do that very thing. Most are excited about this. With it comes the Sanhedrin council of 70 Elders.
All of those who currently hold to the Hebrew calendar and the conjunction moon are going to have to change to the sighted moon method. Why?
Read what the Sanhedrin is doing. They know which is the proper calendar and the proper method of determining the holy days. Do you?
Here is what the Sanhedrin themselves are saying.
A special court has been established to accept evidence concerning the sighting of the New Moon, as required by Jewish Law. This court is made up of various justices who are assembled to hear evidence as the opportunity permits. The purpose of the court is to increase awareness, develop skills, and resolve halachic issues that arise when determining the Jewish Calendar according to testimony by witnesses. At this point there is no intention to supersede the mathematical calendar currently in use and fix the calendar on the basis of the testimony, such a step should be unacceptable to the public and spiritual leadership. Nevertheless, witnesses appear before the court and are investigated with precision according to what they saw. Sometimes the witnesses may also bring photographic evidence to support their testimony. Evidence is already being collected by the yiresh shomaim volunteers throughout the Land of Israel, with the intention that testimony can be presented before the court in a full legal fashion when the peoples’ hearts are ready for it.
Mathematical Calendar of Hillel II
It should be noted that the mathematical calendar of Hillel II has been in use since the year 4119 (359 CE), and it has functioned for approximately 1600 years without difficultly. However, in recent years, a situation has been created where more and more frequently the onset of spring does not coincide with calendar currently in use. This means that the calendar is beginning to drift noticeably. Albeit, the rate of drift is very slow, much slower than other lunar calendars (such as the Islamic calendar). However, if continued unchecked, we will be celebrating Pesach in the summer, rather than the spring. Our current calendar will exceed halachically acceptable limits and we will be celebrating Biblically commanded holidays at times other than when Scripture requires them to be celebrated. One could argue that if a change is necessary in any event, it would be most correct according to Biblical and Jewish Law to once again use the system of witnesses. But it is certain that we will not longer be permitted to use the mathematical calendar of Hillel II in the near future.
There is a requirement from the Torah (deOraisa) that Pesach come out two weeks after the first new moon of spring. The first day of spring according to the Solar Calendar is always March 21. The Jewish Calendar has a discrepancy of about one day every century. This means that by the year 6000, Pesach will come out two news moons (Sivan) after the first day of spring. The Natziv was one of the first poskim to bring up this question about a hundred and fifty years ago. Some poskim replied that Mashiach would come by the year 6000, so there was nothing to worry about. Others said this would become an halachic question that will eventually require the re-establishment of the Sanhedrin to universally authorize a change in the calendar.
Whoever sees the New Moon is invited to come to give their report at 8 Beer Sheva St., Jerusalem. Please call the court secretary on 025661962 or 0506733831 or send a fax to 025664137 to confirm that you are coming.
This committee is made up of various justices who are assembled to hear evidence as the opportunity permits. The justices are drawn from the list of Rabbonim with Semicha, but has not permanent members.
Legal Rulings & Opinions
- New Moon of Iyyar 5768 sighted (1 Iyyar 5768, 6 May 2008)
- Court hears testimony on New Moon of Iyyar 5768 (2 Iyyar 5768, 7 May 2008)
- Ruling on New Moon of Iyyar 5768 (2 Iyyar 5768, 7 May 2008)
- New Moon of Sivan 5768 sighted (1 Sivan 5768, 4 June 2009)
- New Moon of Tamuz 5768 sighted (1 Tamuz 5768, 4 July 2009)
- New Moon of Av 5768 sighted (1 Av 5768, 2 August 2009)
- New Moon of Ellul 5768 sighted (1 Ellul 5768, 1 September 2009)
- New Moon of Tishrei 5769 (1 Tishrei 5769, 30 September 2009)
- New Moon of Cheshvan NOT sighted 5769 (2 Cheshvan 5769, 30 October 2009)
- New Moon of Kislev sighted 5769 (2 Kislev 5769, 29 November 2009)
- New Moon of Tevet NOT sighted 5769 (1 Tevet 5769, 28 December 2009)
- New Moon of Shevat 5769 sighted (2 Shevat 5769, 27 January 2009)
- Ruling on New Moon of Shevat 5769 (3 Shevat 5769, 28 January 2009)
- New Moon of Adar 5769 sighted (2 Adar 5769, 26 February 2009)
- New Moon of Adar 5769 sighted (2 Adar 5769, 26 February 2009)
- New Moon of Nissan 5769 sighted] (2 Nissan 5769, 27 March 2009)
- New Moon of Iyyar 5769 sighted] (2 Iyyar 5769, 26 April 2009)
- Additional sightings
Relationship to the Nascent Sanhedrin
The “Committee concerning the fixing of the Calendar” functions under the auspices of the nascent Sanhedrin.
It functions within the charter it has been given by the “Special Court for the Executive Oversight of the Sanhedrin”. Views expressed by this committee, have not necessarily been reviewed by the nascent Sanhedrin.
The committee is expected to develop “expert legal opinions” and halachic “legal briefs” that may be used at a future date when the calendar may be determined by witnesses. The committee also hosts re-enactments of a beis din accepting testimony. Lastly it supports all efforts to develop scientific and logistics techniques to enable reporting of the new moon by witnesses in a timely and verifiably accurate fashion.
At this time, no change in the calendar is expressed or implied.
- The Israeli New Moon Society
- The Hebrew Calendar by Dr. Irv Bromberg, University of Toronto, Canada
- The Seasonal Drift of the Traditional (Fixed Arithmetic) Hebrew Calendar (???? ????? ?????)
This court in the news
- Rav Binaymin Tabory – Birkat HaChodesh and Kiddush Levana – Re-enactment of Sanhedrin declaring new month (Ravyah/R’YBS) or early version of twitter? Sources on how long must one wait and other details.
“The Holy Day Dates can now be determined”
Now that the New Moon has been sighted we can now determine when each of the Holy Days are. We have already learned that the Barley was Aviv making this the first month of the Sacred Calendar.
The first day of the year is Saturday March 21 evening to Sunday March 22 Sunset.
Praying on the 7th Day of the First Month
Friday Sunset to Saturday Sunset March 28,2015 We are told to pray on the 7th day of Aviv. Here is an article about this.
The Foot Washing Ceremony
Yehshua washed the disciples feet the night before He was killed as the Passover lamb. We read of this in the following scriptures.
1 Cor 11:23 & Matthew 26:26
For those who are new you can read the whole account in this article, in the proper order so you can understand the significance of these events.
The Foot Washing takes place Friday April 3, 2015, after sunset. It is a somber time.
Yehshua would be arrested about midnight Friday.
Saturday April 4 (Nisan 14) Yehshua is nailed to the tree at 9 AM.
Saturday April 4 (Nisan 14) Yehshua dies at 3 PM and is hastily placed in the tomb before the High Sabbath of Passover begin.
3 PM Saturday is the time when the Passover Lambs were killed. After they had been killed then the blood was smeared on the doors during the Exodus. And then after that the Passover meal was eaten.
Saturday Evening April 4 Is when the Passover meal is eaten.
Saturday Evening will be the Blood Moon over North America, a warning of the coming war.
First Day of Unleavened Bread
Saturday Evening April 4 and Sunday April 5th is the First day of Unleavened Bread.
You are commanded to eat Unleavened Bread for 7 days. And you are commanded to eat Unleavened Bread with the Passover meal which began Saturday Evening.
Wave Sheaf Day
Sunday April 5th at 9 AM is the wave Sheaf offering. You must have Barley to do this. This is the First Fruit Offering.
This is day one of the Omer count.
Sunday April 5th 9 AM is when Yehshua ascended to Heaven and took those Saints with Him.
Last Day of Unleavened Bread
Friday April 10 after Sunset to Saturday April 11 at Sunset is the last Day of Unleavened Bread. It is also the 7th day of the Counting of the Omer.
In the back of the book Remembering the Sabbatical year of 2016 are the Psalm readings for each of the days as you count the Omer to the 50th day of Pentecost.
Pentecost or Shavuot is then on Sunday May 24th
“The Blood Moon April 4, 2015”
The area in dark will not be able to see the Blood moon, but they will be able to see the dark moon. The Dark moon is a sign of a coming famine.
“Proving the Sabbatical Year”
Here are all the known Sabbatical Years from your bible and history. From this you can now prove the next Sabbatical year in 2016. Just count by 7 from 701 BC and you will land on every Sabbatical year.
This year of 2015 is the year to store up and prepare for the Sabbatical year.
Those who do not keep it subject themselves and their family to the the curses of Lev 26 for those who rebel against Yehovah authority. Make sure you are not found in rebellion.
“Why we use the Crescent moon to start the month”
The Biblical month begins with the crescent New Moon, also called First Visible Sliver. The Hebrew word for month (Hodesh) literally means New Moon and only by extension the period between one New Moon and the next.
The Rabbanite Midrash relates that when God said to Moses “This month (HODESH) shall be for you the beginning of months” (Ex 12,2) the Almighty pointed up into the heavens at the crescent New Moon and said “When you see like this, sanctify! [=declare New Moon day]”. This Rabbinic fairy-tale highlights an important point, namely that the Bible never comes out and says we should determine the beginning of months based on the New Moon. The reason for this is that the term for “Month” (Hodesh) itself implies that the month begins with the crescent New Moon. As will be seen, this would have been obvious to any ancient Israelite present when Moses recited the prophecies of YHWH to the Children of Israel and therefore there was no need to elucidate this concept any more than such terms as “light” or “dark”. However, due to the long exile, we have lost the use of Biblical Hebrew in day to day speech. Therefore, we will have to reconstruct the meaning of Hodesh from the usage of the word in the Biblical text using sound linguistic principles.
He Created the Moon for Holidays
There can be no doubt that the biblical Holidays are dependent on the moon. The strongest proof of this is the passage in Ps 104,19 which declares:
“He created the moon for Mo’adim [appointed times]”
The Hebrew term Mo’adim [appointed times] is the same word used to describe the Biblical Holidays. Leviticus 23, which contains a catalogue of the Biblical Holidays opens with the statement: “These are the Mo’adim [appointed times] of YHWH, holy convocations which you shall proclaim in their appointed times [Mo’adam].”. So when the Psalmist tells us that God created the moon for Mo’adim [appointed times] he means that the moon was created to determine the time of the Mo’adim of YHWH, that is, the Biblical Holidays.
“Hodesh” Is Related To the Moon
The above verse clearly teaches us that the holidays are related to the moon. But when the Torah was given Ps 104 had not yet been written by the Levitical prophets, and the question still remains of how the ancient Israelites could have known this. The answer is that the Hebrew word for month (Hodesh) itself indicates a connection to the moon. We can see this connection in a number of instances in which Hodesh (month) is used interchangeably with the word “Yerah”, the common Biblical Hebrew word for moon, which by extension also means “month”. For example:
“…in the month (Yerah) of Ziv,
which is the Second month (Hodesh)…” (1Kings 6,1)
“…in the month (Yerah) of Ethanim… which is the Seventh month (Hodesh)…” (1Kings 8,2)
Another proof that Hodesh is related to the moon (Yerah) is the phrase “A Hodesh (month) of days” (Gen 29,14; Nu 11,20-21) [meaning a period of 29 or 30 days] which is equivalent to the phrase “A Yerah (month/ moon) of days” (Dt 21,13; 2Ki 15,13). Clearly then Hodesh is related to “Yerah”, which itself literally means “moon”.
“Hodesh” Means New Moon (Day)
The primary meaning of Hodesh (month) is actually “New Moon” or “New Moon Day” and it is only by extension that it came to mean “month”, that is, the period between one New Moon and the next. This primary meaning is preserved in a number of passages such as 1Sam 20,5 in which Jonathan says to David “Tomorrow is the New Moon (Hodesh)”. Clearly, in this verse Hodesh is used to refer to the specific day on which the month begins and not the entire month. Another passage which uses Hodesh in its primary sense is Ez 46,1 which talks about “The Day (Yom) of the New Moon (Ha-Hodesh)”. Clearly in this verse Hodesh (New Moon) is a specific event and the beginning of the month is the day on which this event (New Moon) occurs.
The Biblical New Moon is the “First Crescent”
“Hodesh” (New Moon), is derived from the root H.D.SH. meaning “new” or “to make new/ renew”. The Crescent New Moon is called Hodesh because it is the first time the moon is seen anew after being concealed for several days at the end of the lunar cycle. At the end of the lunar month the moon is close to the sun 1 and eventually reaches the point of “conjunction” when it passes between the Sun and the Earth.2 As a result, around the time of conjunction very little of the moon’s illuminated surface faces the Earth and it is not visible through the infinitely brighter glare of the sun. After the moon moves past the sun it continues towards the opposite side of the Earth. As it gets farther away from the sun the percentage of its illuminated surface facing the Earth increases and one evening shortly after sunset the moon is seen anew after being invisible for 1.5-3.5 days. Because the moon is seen anew after a period of invisibility the ancients called it a “New Moon” or “Hodesh” (from Hadash meaning “new”).
Crescent New Moon vs. Astronomical New Moon
Many people have been led astray by the inaccurate use in modern languages of the term “New Moon”. Modern astronomers adopted this otherwise unused term, which had always referred to the first visible sliver, and used it to refer to conjunction (when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, at which time it is not visible). The astronomers soon realized that the inaccurate use of “New Moon” to refer to conjunction would lead to confusion so to be more accurate scientists now distinguish between “Astronomical New Moon” and “Crescent New Moon”. “Astronomical New Moon” means New Moon as the term is used by astronomers, i.e. conjunction. In contrast, “Crescent New Moon” uses the term in the original meaning of the first visible sliver. A good English dictionary should reflect both meanings. For example, the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged Edition defines New Moon as: “The moon either when in conjunction with the sun or soon after being either invisible [Astronomical New Moon] or visible [Crescent New Moon] only as a slender crescent.” (square brackets added by NG).
The Supposed Evidence For “Concealed Moon”
Having been confused by the use of the term New Moon in modern astronomy some people have sought Biblical support for this incorrect meaning of the term. Ps 81,3 [Heb. 81,4] is usually cited which says:
“Blow on a horn for the Hodesh (New Moon)
On the Keseh (Full Moon) for the Day of our Hag (Feast).”
According to the “Concealed Moon Theory”, the term “Keseh” is derived from the root K.S.Y. meaning “to cover” and thus means “covered moon” or “concealed moon”. According to this interpretation, when the verse says to blow on a horn on the day of Keseh it actually means “[blow on a horn] on the day of Concealed Moon”. However, the language does not support this argument for the second half of the verse also refers to the day of Keseh as “the day of our Feast (Hag)”. In the Bible, Feast (Hag) is a technical term which always refers to the three annual pilgrimage-feasts (Matzot, Shavuot, Sukkot; see Ex 23; Ex 34).3 New Moon Day (Hodesh) is never classified as a “Pilgrimage-Feast” so Keseh/ Hag can not possibly be synonymous with New Moon Day (Hodesh). It has further been suggested that Keseh refers to the Biblical holiday of Yom Teruah (Day of Shouting), which always falls out on New Moon Day. However, the Bible describes Yom Teruah as a Moed (appointed time) and never as a Hag (Pilgrimage-Feast) so Keseh/ Hag can not refer to Yom Teruah either.
What Does Keseh Really Mean?
It is likely that Keseh is related to the Aramaic word “Kista” and the Assyrian word “Kuseu” which mean “full moon” (see Brown-Driver-Briggs p.490b) [Hebrew, Aramaic, and Assyrian are all Semitic languages and often share common roots]. This fits in perfectly with the description of Keseh as the day of the Hag since two of the three Pilgrimage-Feasts (Hag HaMatzot and Hag HaSukkot) are on the 15th of the month, which is about the time of the Full Moon!
More on “Concealed Moon”
Another point to consider is that there is no actual “day” of concealed moon. In fact the moon stays concealed anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 days in the Middle East. It has been proposed that the “day” of concealed moon is actually the day of conjunction (when the moon passes between the Earth and Sun). However, it was only 1000 years after Moses that the Babylonian astronomers discovered how to calculate the moment of conjunction. Therefore, the ancient Israelites would have had no way of knowing when the moment of conjunction takes place and would not have known on which day to observe “Concealed Moon Day”.
It has been suggested that the ancient Israelites could have looked at the “Old Moon” and determined the Day of Conjunction by when the Old Moon was no longer visible in the morning sky. However, such a method would not work in the Middle East where the so-called “concealed moon” can remain concealed for as many as 3.5 days! It is in fact common for the moon to stay concealed for 2.5 days and in such instances how would the ancient Israelites have known which day was the Day of Conjunction?
In contrast, the ancient Israelites would have been well aware of the Crescent New Moon. In ancient societies people worked from dawn to dusk and they would have noticed the Old Moon getting smaller and smaller in the morning sky. When the morning moon had disappeared the ancient Israelites would have anxiously awaited its reappearance 1.5-3.5 days later in the evening sky. Having disappeared for several days and then appearing anew in the early evening sky they would have called it the “New Moon” or “Hodesh” (from Hadash meaning “New”).
“WWDD: How did David Know when the New Moon was”
WWDD: What Would David Do?
On March 2, 2014 the barley was not Aviv in the Land of Israel. As a result, the Feast of Unleavened Bread (commonly called “Passover”) will be in mid-April, on the 15th day of the First Hebrew Month. But when exactly is the 15th Day of the First Hebrew Month in the Biblical calendar this year? This is where things get a little complicated. I have mentioned in the past two systems for beginning the Hebrew month: “Potential Visibility” and “Actual Visibility with 30 Day Maximum”. I talked about this years ago in this newsletter:
In a nutshell, Potential Visibility means beginning the Hebrew month when the moon “should be” visible even if it is not sighted due to clouds. This past new moon was a great example of Potential Visibility. The moon SHOULD HAVE BEEN easily visible from Israel on Sunday March 2, 2014. However, there was a thick haze over Israel that night and therefore no one sighted the moon that evening. Based on Potential Visibility, the Thirteenth Hebrew Month began on March 2, even though no one saw it. In contrast, according to Actual Visibility with 30 Day Maximum, the month began on Monday March 3 by default. I should point out that the haze lasted for a few days, so no one saw the moon on March 3 either. Let me summarize the two results:
Thirteenth Hebrew Month
Potential Visibility: March 2, 2014 (no sighting due to haze)
Actual Visibility with 30 Day Maximum: March 3, 2014 (by default)
Potential Visibility has a major limitation, specifically in certain months when it is impossible to predict that a moon will be “easily visible” based on the most advance science. This usually happens once or twice a year, although only rarely does that affect the feast days. In the rare occurrences that “Potential Visibility” encounters a new moon that can’t be calculated, it reverts to “Actual Visibility with 30 Day Maximum.” For example, the new moon for Yom Teruah in 2012 could not be predicted using even the most advanced calculations known to science. On that occasion, Keith Johnson and I traveled to southern Israel where we sighted the new moon from a mountaintop northwest of Eilat. Had no one sighted the moon that evening, the festival of Yom Teruah would have been the following evening based on both “Potential Visibility” and “Actual Visibility with 30 Day Maximum.”
I have personally vacillated between these two systems over the years. “Potential Visibility” has the advantage of convenience. It also resonates to the modern scientific way of thinking. The problem is when I ask myself WWDD: “What Would David Do?” It just so happens the Tanakh records the answer to that question in 1 Samuel, Chapter 20. Back then, the future-king of Israel was afraid of King Saul, who he was convinced wanted him dead. King Saul’s son, Jonathan, was David’s BFF (“best friend forever,” for you old folks). David decided to test King Saul by seeing how he would react to David’s absence from a royal feast scheduled to celebrate the New Moon. In this context, the Tanakh records the following conversation between David and Jonathan:
“And David said to Jonathan, ‘Indeed tomorrow is the New Moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king to eat. But let me go, that I may hide in the field until the third day at evening.'” 1 Samuel 20:5
When I read this story, I ask myself how David could have known that “tomorrow is the New Moon”? The natural explanation for most people who don’t know history is that David used the calculations of the “Jewish Calendar.” Those calculations determine the time of the conjunction of the Moon with the Earth and the Sun and they are the basis of the Hillel II calendar established in 359 CE and still used by most Jews today. Unfortunately, that would be an “anachronism.” The mathematical values of that calendar were worked out by the Alexandrian Greek astronomer Ptolemy around 150 CE and later adopted by Hillel II around 359 CE. Both Ptolemy and Hillel II postdate David by more than 1,000 years.
As a side-note, Hillel II’s calculations do not actually calculate conjunction, but rather “average conjunction,” which could be off by as much as 12 hours from the true conjunction. The calculation of true conjunction was way beyond Hillel II’s mathematical abilities or astronomical knowledge. For example, this month, Hillel II puts conjunction on March 31, 2014 at 3:53am, but true conjunction according to NASA is March 30 at 8:45pm (Jerusalem time = UT+2). That’s an error of 7+ hours! Check the sources for yourself!
Maimonides would later provide a more accurate calculation, which he adopted from the Muslim astronomer al-Batani… but I digress. The bottom line is that David could not have known the timing of the New Moon using a calculation worked out by a Greek astronomer 1,200 years after he was born. And even if David travelled in time and learned that calculation from Hillel II, he still would not know the time of true conjunction.
So how did David know that “tomorrow is the New Moon”? Anyone who observes the new moon for a couple of years will immediately see that every lunar month is either 29 or 30 days long. There is no such thing as a 28-day or 31-day lunar month. If the atmosphere is clear, the new moon will always be visible after either 29 or 30 days. There is no need to project Hillel II’s calculations over 1,000 years back into the time of David. All David had to do was know that a lunar month can only be 29 or 30 days. The Hebrew language also clearly reflects this knowledge. A 30-day month is called a “full month” and a 29-day month is called “deficient month.” There is no such thing as a 28-day or 31-day month in Hebrew terminology or thought. If the moon were not sighted after the 29th day, David could say with 100% certainty: “tomorrow is the new moon”! There was nothing unusual or extraordinary about this statement. Such a straightforward prediction could be made for about half the months in any given lunar year.
So What Would David Do? David would without doubt follow Actual Visibility with 30 Day Maximum! Obviously Potential Visibility is a product of the 20th Century. No question about it. We could argue that it is really a product of the 9th Century CE with some later fine-tuning. Either way, Potential Visibility could not have been known to King David anymore than he knew about airplanes or telephones.
What does all of this have to do with the timing of Passover this year? First of all, it is impossible even with the most advanced science to predict visibility this month. On March 31, 2014 the moon will have 1.01% illumination and 52 minutes of lagtime (the time between sunset and moonset). This is just enough to say the moon might be visible, but more likely might not be. We simply can’t say with any certainty one way or another. So this month, no question about it, “Potential Visibility” must revert to “Actual Visibility with 30 Day Maximum.”
Where things get really complicated is that last month no one sighted the new moon on the evening of March 2, when it should have been easily visible. As I mentioned above, there was haze all over Israel on Sunday March 2, 2014 making it impossible to sight the moon. If you follow Potential Visibility, the haze didn’t matter; you began the month on March 2 anyway. If you follow “Actual Visibility with 30 Day Maximum,” then you began the month on March 3 by default.
Those who accept Potential Visibility, can stop reading. Things are very simple. Well, relatively simple. Using Potential-Visibility-reverting-to-an-Actual-Visibility-with-30-Day-Maximum, here are the possible dates of the upcoming Feast:
If the new moon is sighted on March 31, 2014, the Feast of Unleavened Bread will be Sunset Monday April 14 through Sunset Monday April 21.
If the new moon is not sighted on March 31, 2014, the Feast of Unleavened Bread will be Sunset Tuesday April 15 through Sunset Tuesday April 22.
However… if you ask “What Would David Do?”, then you must KEEP READING! Using Actual Visibility with 30 Day Maximum, the Thirteenth Hebrew Month began on March 3, 2014 (remember the haze). If we count 29 days, this month should end on either April 1 or April 2, depending on when the moon is sighted. The moon should be easily visible on April 1, unless there are clouds or haze. Israel gets regular dust storms this time of year, so a natural haze is entirely possible.
In David’s time, this would not be complicated at all. They would look at the sky on April 1 and decide when to keep the feast based on what they saw or didn’t see. Very simple, unless… witnesses sighted the moon on March 31! Then they would accept that the moon should have been visible on March 2, but was not sighted due to haze. This creates three possible dates for the Feast of Unleavened Bread this coming month:
Actual Visibility with 30 Day Maximum:
If the new moon is sighted on March 31, 2014, the Feast of Unleavened Bread will be Sunset Monday April 14 through Sunset Monday April 21.
If the new moon is sighted on April 1, 2014, the Feast of Unleavened Bread will be Sunset Tuesday April 15 through Sunset Tuesday April 22.
If the new moon is not sighted on March 31 or April 1, 2014, the Feast of Unleavened Bread will be Sunset Wednesday April 16 through Sunset Wednesday April 23.
Three thousand years ago, David would not have known that the moon might be visible on March 31, 2014. However, if witnesses sighted the new moon, he would have accepted their testimony knowing that there had been clouds on March 2. Incidentally, the Rabbinical dates of the Feast of Unleavened Bread this year are sunset April 14 through sunset April 21, based on the Hillel II calculations of 359 CE.
I have personally been following the Biblical calendar based on the sighting of the new moon in Israel since 1990 and am not aware of a previous situation like this. What all this means is that the observation on March 31 is super-important not to mention extremely difficult. Only a careful observation will determine when the Feast of Unleavened Bread will begin and this is true whether you are following Potential Visibility or Actual Visibility with 30 Day Maximum. If we are lazy and don’t do our utmost to try and sight the moon on March 31, we might be in for a Heavenly April Fool’s joke! It is truly humbling that with all our modern technology and science, we must still rely on the Creator of the universe to let us know His appointed times and holy feasts.
Update: After writing this letter, I read it over several times and prayed about it. I then came to the unequivocal conviction that I must get on an airplane and fly to Israel to try and sight this month’s new moon. I called up Keith Johnson on his American cell phone only to discover that he was already in Israel waiting for the new moon sighting. There was my second witness! So on Sunday I am saying “Zàijiàn” to China and embarking on the excruciatingly long journey to Israel. I have stepped out on faith and told my Chinese employer that I am taking an unanticipated 2-week absence. The ticket was purchased earlier today with borrowed funds. Please consider supporting this “New Moon Mission to Israel 2014” through prayer and/or by making a tax-deductible donation to Makor Hebrew Foundation at:
(on the right-hand side of the page where it says “New Moon Mission to Israel 2014”)
The Wandering Jew Packing My Bags in Changsha, China