Nazarene Space


by James Trimm

Part of the Oral Law that is the secret of the intercalation of YHWH's calendar.

"They shall not be in the council (sod/secret) of my people,"
(Ezek. 13:9) which refers to the council (secret) for intercalation.
(b.Kettubot 112a)

The Midrash tells us that Moses receive the rules for the Hebrew calendar at Mount Sinai:

YHWH said to Moshe and Aaron... "This month shall
mark for you the beginning of the months..." (Ex. 12:1-2)
At the moment when Moshe received this commandment,
the Holy One blessed be He, transmitted to him the precise
rules of calculating the new moon. He made known to him
the way to intercalate the year and establish the months,
in order to fulfill the verse "Observe the spring month and
offer a Passover sacrifice..." (Deut. 16:1)
(Midrash Sod Ha'Ibbur)

For example, although the new moon must be sited, YHWH gave Moses on Mount
Siani the length of time between one new moon and the next as part of the Oral Torah. Maimonides records this information as follows:

The day and the night consist of 24 hours, 12 for the day
and 12 for the night, in any season. The hour is divided
into 1,080 parts. The reason for dividing the hour into this
number of parts is that this number may be divided without
a remainder by two, four, eight, three, six, nine, five and ten,
and with these denominations the fractions may again be
divided into many other parts.
By these figures, the interval between two conjunctions
of moon and sun according to their mean motion is 29
days and 12 hours of the 30th day, beginning with the
night of this day, and 793 parts of the 13th hour. That
is the time which elapses between one (mean) conjunction
and the other, and that is the duration of the lunar month.
(Maimonides Laws of Sanctifying the Moon 6:2-3)

793/1080 = .734529 hours = .03059 days

Therefore Maimonides says that a lunar month as preserved in the Oral Torah from Saini and preserved by the Jews is:

29 days + 12 hours (.5 days) + .03059 days = 29.53059 days

This is EXACTLY the figure understood by modern astronomers in the FACTS ON FILE DICTIONARY OF ASTRONOMY by Ellingsworth; New York; 1985 p. 241

Now how did YHWH tell Moses in the Oral Torah to intercalate the year?
The Oral Torah tells us the following rule:

Passover must occur on or after the Spring Equinox.
If calculations show that Passover would otherwise
occur before the spring equinox then the additional
month of Adar II is to be added to that year.

This Oral Law is preserved in various Oral Law sources:

A year may be made embolismic on three grounds:
on account of the state of the green ears of corn
or that of fruit growing on the trees
or the lateness of the t'kufah (equinox).

Any two of these reasons may justify an embolismic year.
Everyone is glad when the state of green ears of corn is one of them.

Rabban Simeon ben Gamliel says,
On account of the lateness of the t'kufah.
b.San. 11b

In reading Talmud it is important to realize that the minority opinion is
usually given on a given issue as well as the actual halachah. The key to
this passage is that Rabban Simeon ben Gamliel was the Nasi (president) of
the Sanhedrin and thus the final statement reflects the correct halachah.
This is even clearer in another Talmud passage which makes it clear that
calculations and not agricultural data were used to intercalate the year.
Agricultural data only confirmed the accuracy of the calculations:

Three cowherds were standing and overheard by some Rabbis.
One said, "If the early and late sowing sprout together, then the
month is Adar; if not, then it is not Adar." The second said,
"If in the morning the frost is severe enough then it is not Adar.
The second said, "If in the morning the frost is severe enough
to kill an ox, and at midday the ox slumbers in the shade of a tree
and scratches its hide, then it is Adar; if not, then it is not Adar".
The third said, "When a strong east wind is blowing and your breath
cannot prevail against it, then the month is Adar; if not it is not
Thereupon the Rabbis made the year embolismic. Is it, then,
logical to assume that the Rabbis (intercalated a month simply)
by relying on cowherds? On the contrary, they relied on their
own computations, and the cowherds (merely) confirmed their
action." (b.San. 18b)

(This story was known to R. Simeon ben Lakish in the 3rd cent.;
b.San. 26a)

Again Our rule is stated in the Talmud:

When you see that the t'kufah will extend to the 16th day of Nisan,
declared that year embolismic without hesitation.
(Rabbi Huna ben Avin early 4th Cent. in b.Rosh Hash. 21a)

And again in the Talmud by Judah ha Nasi who was Nasi of the Sanhedrin as
well as editer of the Mishnah:

Rabbi Judah said in the name of Samuel,
A year is not to be made embolismic unless the t'kufah
is short of completion by the greater part of the month.
(around 250 CE; b.San. 12b)

(this text goes on to discuss whether the greater part
is 16 days or 21 days)

ANd again by R. Jose around 150 C.E.:

if there are 16 days short in the case of the t'kufah before
Passover, then a month is intercalated; this is not so in the
case of the t'kufah before Sukkot.
(R. Jose c. 150 C.E. b.San. 12b)

Finally Aristobulus one of the 70 Jewish translators of the LXX records
this Oral Law as early as 250 B.C.E.:

... the famous Aristobulus, who was chosen among the
seventy interpreters of the sacred and divine Hebrew
Scriptures by Ptolemy Philadelphus and his father, and
who also dedicated his exegetical books on the law of
Moses to the same kings. These writers, explaining
questions in regard to the Exodus, say that all alike should
sacrifice the passover offerings after the vernal equinox, in
the middle of the first month. But this occurs while the sun
is passing through the first segment of the solar, or as some
of them have styled it, the zodiacal circle. Aristobulus adds
that it is necessary for the feast of the Passover, that not
only the sun should pass through the equinoctial
segment, but the moon also. For as there are two
equinoctial segments, the vernal and the autumnal, directly
opposite each other, and as the day of the passover was
appointed on the fourteenth of the month, beginning with the
evening, the moon will hold a position diametrically opposite
the sun, as may be seen in full moons; and the sun will
be in the segment of the vernal equinox, and of necessity
the moon in that of the autumnal. I know that many
other things have been said by them, some of them probable,
and some approaching absolute demonstration, by which they
endeavor to prove that it is altogether necessary to keep the
passover and the feast of unleavened bread after the equinox.
(Eusebius; Eccl. Hist. 7:32 quoting Aristobulus who lived in the 3rd Cent. BCE)

Thus the rule for intercalation of the year is that Passover must fall on or after the T’kufa [Spring] Equinox. If Passover is going to otherwise occur before the Equinox, we add the additional month of Adar II to push Passover out past the Equinox.

This rule is in keeping with a number of Scriptures. For example Genesis 1:14 tells us that the Moedim (set times) are determined by the sun, moon and stars. If one adopts the Karite calendar, intercalating the year based upon the ripeness of grain, then the stars are no where involved in determining the Moedim. (Also note that Gen. 1:14 says nothing about grain).

Secondly Ex. 34:22-23 substantiates this rule:

And you shall observe the feast of weeks,
of the firstfruits of wheat harvest,
and the feast of ingathering at the year's end (T’KUFA, “equinox”).
Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear
before Adonai YHWH, the Elohim of Israel.
(Ex. 34:22-23)

The term T’KUFA here refers to the Autumn equinox,, which occurs around Sukkot. This term makes it clear that “year” in Ex. 34:22-23 refers to the solar year. This means Ex. 34:23 requires each of the three pilgrimage festivals to be observed only once in a solar year. Thus Passover must not occur before the Spring Equinox.

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Views: 353

Comment by Wayne Ingalls on December 24, 2008 at 10:06pm
Therefore, the practical conclusion is that (based upon last year's equinox) if traditional rabbinic Judaism had actually used the Oral Torah halakhah to intercalculate the calendar, it would not have added a month last year -- there would not have been an Adar II; Passover would have taken place in "March" and Sukkot in "September" (using the names of the months on the common solar-based calendar).
Comment by James Trimm on December 25, 2008 at 2:40am
The equinox was early in the morning March 20th... does anyone know when the sited new moon over Jerusalem was? The Kaarites are right about the sited new moon.

In the fourth century under Hillel II the Rabbinic authorities disposed of the original Hebrew calendar and instituted what is known as the Hillel II calendar. The Hillel II calendar is the "Jewish Calendar" used today in Rabbinic Judaism. Certain changes were made to the calendar to create the Hillel II calendar. The first is that the use of a viable sited New Moon was substituted with a calculated invisible Dark Moon for the beginning of the month.

Another was the addition of postponement rules designed to prevent back to back sabbaths. For example with the Hillel II calendar the 15th of Nisan can never fall on a Friday since this would cause two consecutive Sabbaths. This was designed to solve the problems caused by back to back sabbaths.

However since the Hillel II calendar was not created until the fourth century it is not reflected in the Mishnah (which was edited in the third century) but is reflected in the Gemara/Talmud (which was edited in the sixth century).

Fortunately then the Mishnah and Talmud preserve the original pre-Hillel II Hebrew calendar for us.

Let us examine this:

read m.Besah 2:1-2

This passage deals with halachah surrounding what to do when back-to-back
sabbaths occur. A situation which can only occur with the pre-Hillel II calendar
since the postponemant rules of the Hillel II calendar prevent this from ever
happening in the Hillel II calendar used by Rabbinic Judaism today. The Mishnah
however was editted in the third century before the Hillel II calendar replaced
the original Hebrew calendar.

Now read m.Rosh Hashshana 1:4

How could they witness an invisible dark new moon?

Now read m.Rosh Hash. 1:5

How can an invisible dark New Moon "appear clearly" or
"not appear clearly"?

Now read 1:7; 1:9 "saw the new moon"?

an invisible dark new moon? How could he see that?

Now read 2:6

How could the witness tell which way an invisible dark
new moon was facing?

It is clear that the Original Hebrew calendar of the Mishnah differed from the later Hillel II calendar on another issue as well. The Original Hebrew calendar as preserved in the Mishnah
clearly used VISIBLE CRESCENTS for the first APPEARANCE of the New Moon as sighted over Jerusalem for ROSH CHODESH (head of the month).

This differs greatly from the Hillel II calendar which uses "astronomical invisible dark new moons" for ROSH CHODESH. This means that often times the Rabbinic Hillel II calendar will have ROSH CHODESH as well as every other day of the month A DAY EARLY.

Moreover the postponement rules added to the Hillel II calendar which were no part of the Original Hebrew calendar of the Mishnah can also throw days off.

Since the wrong day being one day off can throw off the determination as to whether to add the month Adar II that year, these differences can throw the Hillel II calendar as far as a month off from the Original Hebrew calendar.
Comment by Petro on December 25, 2008 at 5:30am
Then New moon according to the sighting of the new moon was on 7th April 2008.
Comment by Wayne Ingalls on December 25, 2008 at 10:58am
Here is what Nehemia Gordon wrote about the New Moon prior to the equinox last yr:

On Saturday March 8, 2008 observers across Israel looked for the New Moon but it was not sighted due to heavy cloud coverage. Had there been no clouds the moon would have been visible and according to potential visibility March 9 is New Moon Day.

That would have been 29 days from the previous new moon sighting on "Feb 8, 2008." So, whether one would have said "March 9" or "March 10" was Rosh Chodesh, the equinox on the 20th would be prior to the 14th day after the moon sighting......and thus Passover would be after the equinox without adding an additional month. The conclusion is that last year, using the fixed Hillel II exile calendar, the month was incorrectly intercalated based on the "secret of the calendar" halakhah established by the sages.

Of course, even on the fixed Hillel II calendar the 14th day (March 21st) after the "Rosh Chodesh" printed there (March 8th) was after equinox on March 20th.

Comment by Barzillai dov Ganya on December 25, 2008 at 11:11am
Oy vey, this article made me dizzy...but it is interesting, what I understand of it, anyway...I particularly liked the commmentary of the three rabbis..As for me, when the sun comes up, it's day, when it goes down, it's night...shut the window and put on a hat when cold, open it and shed some layers when overly warm...I've learned enough right there...:)

Psa 131:1 LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
Comment by Mikha El on December 25, 2008 at 4:02pm
I can't help but to consider that perhaps the Karaite new year, which requires "barley" that is ripe to mark the beginning of a new year, may be correct if we consider the also seemingly proper Judaism requirement for, "Thus Passover must not occur before the Spring Equinox" and attempt to make them both a requirement. Could this be the correct method? Let's examine the following:

Lev 23:9 And יהוה spoke to Mosheh, saying,
Lev 23:10 “Speak to the children of Yisra’ĕl, and you shall say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I give you, and shall reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest.
Lev 23:11 ‘And he shall wave the sheaf before יהוה, for your acceptance. On the morrow after the Sabbath the priest waves it.
Lev 23:12 ‘And on that day when you wave the sheaf, you shall prepare a male lamb a year old, a perfect one, as a burnt offering to יהוה,
Lev 23:13 and its grain offering: two-tenths of an ĕphah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to יהוה, a sweet fragrance, and its drink offering: one-fourth of a hin of wine.
Lev 23:14 ‘And you do not eat bread or roasted grain or fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your Elohim – a law forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

Know that a, "sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest" is required to properly observe Passover, how could we ignore this requirement?

One of the above citations of Oral law appears to also consider these 2 requirements, 1)Ripe harvest, 2)Spring equinox. While another Talmud citation seems to ignore it. It's no wonder this subject makes us dizzy!

Is it possible to have a new moon and days past a spring equinox and still not have a "sheaf of the first-fruits" available? Would this constitute the proper timing of "adar bet" regulation instead of calculating it?
Comment by Mikha El on December 25, 2008 at 6:42pm

3rd paragraph, 1st word should be: Knowing
Comment by Wayne Ingalls on December 25, 2008 at 11:54pm
This year there was a small amount of barley available that would have been ready enough for "first fruits." It doesn't have to be much, just enough for the first fruits offering. Vayyiqra 23:13 says it is 2/10 of an ephah, or in modern weight about 13.5 lbs. Devarim 16:9 indicates that you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain on "first fruits" (as that begins the count to Shavuot). You count the seven weeks after "first fruits." Thus, one can neither eat the barley (Vayyiqra 23:14) NOR even begin to harvest the barley by putting the sickle to the grain until "first fruits." If you wait a month too long, some crops may mature to the point of being lost in the field. I don't need to tell anyone that in an agrarian society, this is extremely important.
Comment by roger anderson on December 27, 2008 at 6:52pm
Shalom all; this was very revealing and insightful. It is clear to me that the spring equinox and the barley in Israel are naturally connected. If we just open our minds and think, Yah's laws are not hard to understand. Its when people start overthinking with human reasoning that trouble pops up. thank you all for the instruction. Roger aka Gideon
Comment by Phillip Hawley on June 30, 2010 at 11:07am
I find it hysterically funny that the original instruction of Yah concerning the calendar were easily understood by the farmers, the herdsmen and shepherds that regularly observed the skies in this agrarian society, but it took 'sages' and 'secrets' to really screw it up. Laughter doeth good like medicine. Just be careful at whom you direct your laughter, lest they see to it that you be in need of medicine. :)


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