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The Jewish Calendar’s “Forbidden Days”
and the Messianic Passover Challenge

Hannah Weiss & Arye Powlison, 02/2015


As our regular readers know, for several years RZ has been tracking the dating errors in the rabbinic calendar. 
At first glance this seems like a trivial matter, something of interest only to scholars and those obsessed with the technical side of “Jewish roots”.

We propose the opposite:
The situation is part of the larger spiritual battle to restore Yeshua's identity as the Messiah of Israel,
true Torah obedience to those in the Jewish covenant,
and the recognition of Torah commands by the worldwide Body of Messiah as illustrations of spiritual realities.
The violence done to the second-Temple calendar has removed some of this wealth from our inheritance.

Four weeks from now, Messianic believers around the world will be faced with a manifestation of that loss which affects Passover.
The error not only leads people to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread on the wrong days,
it also destroys a component of Yeshua’s “Sign of Jonah”.

The purpose of this article is to show how the calendar was changed,
how its real goal was hidden from the Jewish people,
and what the Body of Messiah can do about it as part of our Restoration mandate.


What did we find? A quick overview

The Jewish calendar is fixed in advance to prevent Passover from ever beginning on one of three “forbidden days”. These days are avoided by postponing the new moon for the First Month (Nisan). The rabbinic community teaches that this situation has no significance in Jewish tradition; the “forbidden days” for Pesach are only necessary in order to avoid the real “forbidden days” which apply to the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Tru’ah, also called Rosh Hashanah) at the opposite side of the year.

Yet in second Temple times, there was no such thing as “forbidden days” for either Yom Tru’ah or Pesach. We know this from the Talmud, and also because Yeshua’s death took place just before one of those days. So one purpose of this article is to trace the history of how the rabbinic community developed these two sets of “forbidden days”, why they were said to be necessary, and how those claims are undermined by Jewish sources.

The history of the fixed calendar contains a surprising amount of turmoil over the postponements, which sometimes led to outright splits in the rabbinic community. Then, as now, the gap between the calculated new month and the new moon sometimes became unbearable for Torah-faithful Jews. Yet to hear it from the rabbinic establishment, this system has had the unified backing of the sages since the 4th century.

Although the calendar is acknowledged to be flawed, no rabbinic authority is willing to correct it or return to direct observation of the moon. Some sages went so far as to give it a sacred, untouchable status as “revelation from Sinai”. Such blind, irrational and factually challenged defenses of a dysfunctional calendar prompted us to hunt for explanations.

We found evidence that changing the Temple-approved calendar and disregarding eyewitnesses of the new moon was never about Rosh Hashanah after all. We show historical and rabbinic evidence that the weekday of the start of Passover was the real reason. Two more questions then came up: Why should the post-Temple rabbis care which weekday Passover started on? And how do we account for the odd timing? If it had to do with Yeshua’s death, why would the “emergency” (as the Talmud calls it) arise only after the Temple’s destruction, and not right after Yeshua’s death? If it had to do with a hostile Gentile church, why did rabbinic control of the calendar become urgent more than a century before the Christian church started the Easter controversy?

What did we conclude? The Messianic challenge

The most plausible theory is that the rabbinic "emergency" was with the Nazarenes, whose influence after 70 CE was threatening to overshadow that of Yavne. Specifically, one of the “forbidden days” was deliberately chosen to block the weekday sequence of Passover in the year Yeshua gave His life, which was a multi-layered fulfillment of prophecy.

Our theory is that Yeshua’s “Sign of Jonah”, combined with the days of the week (Thursday afternoon to pre-dawn Sunday), became such a powerful part of the Jewish gospel, the Yavne leadership decided on drastic measures in order to remove the calendar support for Yeshua’s Messianic claim. (The new-moon postponement was only one of several anti-Yeshua steps instituted at Yavne.)

This year, the new moon for the First Month (Nisan) falls naturally on 20/march/15. The Passover feast is commanded by God (Lev.23:5, Num.28:16) to begin the 14th-15th day of that month, with the slaughter of the lambs taking place on the afternoon of the 14th. Going by the new moon, the Day of Preparation and the first day of Passover ought to fall on 2-3/april (Thursday-Friday).

A Thursday-night Passover occurs statistically every few years, but each time it is prevented by “postponing” the Nisan 1 a day later. This year, the Jewish calendar does it again, pushing the start of Passover to 3-4/april (Friday-Shabbat).

Rarely discussed is the early rabbinic teaching that the fixed calendar was temporary until a new Sanhedrin is established in Israel, or alternately until the Messiah comes. There is a new self-declared Sanhedrin in Israel, but they have stopped short of returning to Temple customs.  As for the Messiah…is He among us, or not?

The Spirit-filled Body of Messiah was competent to make decisions about Torah observance (Halacha) when the rabbinic community fell short of “the Seat of Moses” (i.e. rendering judgments in submission to God, as Moses did). If we are truly the heirs of the apostles, then we have the calling to institute or correct observance of Torah commands to reflect the spiritual truths which those commands illustrate (Acts 15, Gal.4:28-30, 1 Cor.5:7-8, 9:8-10).

By releasing the Jewish calendar from its anti-Messianic restrictions, we will restore faithfulness in observing the LORD’s Feasts on the days He commanded. With regard to Passover, we will be able restore the memory of Yeshua’s vital “Sign of Jonah”, which reaches its fullest clarity in a Thursday-night Passover.

A disclaimer:

Our comments rely partly on findings by Israeli mathematician Dr. Ari Belenkiy of Bar Ilan University, author of several papers on the historical development of the Jewish calendar: Jewish Calendar in the Roman Period , A Unique Feature of the Jewish Calendar - Dekhiyot , Talmudic Puzzle and the Jewish Calendar in the Late 3rd Century (co-authored with Dr. Brandan McKay) and 'Shana Meuberet' and the 'Theory of Others' . But we should point out that Dr. Belenkiy saw no significance in the postponements of the weekdays for Passover (Dekhiyot, p.5). The conclusions we drew from his research are our own.


1. Today’s Jewish Calendar: A Firm Tradition with a Flimsy History

2. A Temporary Calendar that Cannot Be Cancelled?

3. The Calendar System which the Rabbis Fought to Replace

4. The Fight for Control Begins…but Why?

5. Reasonable Questions, Irrational Answers

6. A Brief Tour of a Brilliantly Designed Mess

7. Contradictions Met with Complacency

8. Micro-Management of Calendar Days: The Expressed Reasons

9. Micro-Management of Calendar Days: Probing for the Real Reasons

10. A Detour to Eliminate the Easter Controversy as a Reason

11. The Probe Continues: Some Rabbinic Hints

12. A Torah View of Yeshua’s Command to “Obey the Rabbis”

....Now Entering Uncharted Territory.

13. The Message in the Sixth-Day Passover

14. The Message in These Particular Three Days

15. The Message in the First-Day Resurrection

16. Messages in the Other “Forbidden Days” for Passover

17. Messages Beyond Passover

18. The Secret (Perhaps) of “Lo ADU Rosh”



1. Today’s Jewish Calendar: A Firm Tradition with a Flimsy History

The rabbinic custom of predicting new moons by calculations, to the point of disregarding direct observation of the moon, first surfaced some time after the destruction of the second Temple, in the Yavne (Jabneh, Jamnia) rabbinic school. The prediction process was carried out behind closed doors, and the system of complex calculation rules was a closely guarded secret. The Yavne calculations were made public in the 4th century CE only because the Sanhedrin (the Supreme Court for Jewish law) in Israel realized that their influence over Diaspora Jews was waning.

The official (Talmudic) reason for replacing visual sightings of the moon with fixed calculations was that Roman persecution, fraudulent witnesses, and/or Samaritan interference had damaged Jewish unity in observing the new-moon tradition handed down from the Temple era. But both Jewish and Christian sources reported clashes within the rabbinic community over Yavne’s new-moon announcements. The friction extended outside Israel and caused a break between the Jews of Alexandria and Israel in 327 CE.  Trying to avoid a permanent split, Hillel II (the Sanhedrin president at that time) made the Yavne calculation system public in 359. He commanded all the rabbinic communities to use it from 360 onward. 

Even this didn't end the controversy, which continued into the Middle Ages. In a rare case of alignment, the Karaite Jews (who by then outnumbered the rabbinic Jews) and the rabbinic school in Israel led by its president Aaron ben-Meir challenged the authority of the fixed calendar which we follow today. The year was 921 CE, and the issue was major, resulting in a three-day difference in the start of Passover. Some historians saw the dispute as a bid by the influential ben-Meir to return Jewish authority to the Land of Israel, at a time when the Babylonian leadership was faltering. Other more math-minded observers concluded that ben-Meir’s purpose was to return to a simpler calculation, using only the moon-related postponement rule (“Dechiyah Zaken” – explained below).

In 922, Saadia Gaon, a leader in the rabbinic school of Baghdad, rallied the supporters of the fixed calendar by declaring that all Hillel’s calculations had been passed down intact from the LORD’s revelation at Sinai. Despite Rambam’s (Maimonides’) rejection of this tradition (Mishnei Torah, Kiddush Ha-Hodesh 17:24, written around 1180), Saadia’s teaching became accepted by later rabbinic communities. Ben-Meir’s calendar reform survived for 2 or 3 years, but it was unknown until the 19th or 20th century, when fragments were discovered in the Cairo Geniza that described the rabbinic tug-of-war.

That’s how the standard Jewish history reads. Certain scholars, however, argue that the pedigree of today’s Jewish calendar is even more clouded and controversial than this.

Both non-Jewish and Jewish sources (including the Jerusalem Talmud) hint that before/during the Yavne era, there were other calendar systems favored by the Jewish people. The 19-year cycle was competing for acceptance with an 8-year cycle and/or a 30-year cycle (Belenkiy and McKay, Talmudic Puzzle, p.8-11).

The Mishnaic sages themselves did not agree on some points in their own system. The Babylonian Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 19b) recorded disputes about whether and when to prolong Elul, Adar and Adar Bet. By the time of Rambam, the ruled for prolonging these were regarded as fixed (Kiddush Ha-Hodesh, Chapter 8). Rambam also noted that “the sages of Israel” – like the Greek astronomers in their times – were not settled on the exact length of the solar year (Kiddush Ha-Hodesh 9:1), which determines the number of years that can go by before “intercalation” (adding time for a leap-year).

What’s more, the Jewish calendar we use contradicts certain rules accepted in past centuries.

Today, the 8th and 9th Months (Heshvan and Kislev) are used as the “flexible months” to control the length of the year; one or both can be varied from 29 (a “defective” month) to 30 days (a “full” month). In Talmudic times (Rosh Hashanah 20a), this flexing was done in the 6th Month (Elul), whereas our calendar forbids a change in the number of days between the 1st and 7th Months. And surprisingly, Hillel II was not recognized as the source of the worldwide Jewish calendar until 992 CE, when Hai Gaon of Baghdad credited that 4th century leader with either formulating or publishing the fixed system.

Anyway, the calendar credited to Hillel II has remained unchanged from the 10th century CE until today. The 19-year cycle, plus a unique set of “postponement rules”, is used to fix the start of the Jewish months, and by extension the Feasts of the LORD, which we are commanded to observe on a specific day in a certain month. The resulting calendar is accepted by the Jewish community worldwide, except for the Karaites. It is likewise followed unquestioningly by most Messianic believers and Feast-keeping Christians (with the notable exception of Herbert W. Armstrong’s cult, known as “Worldwide Church of God”).  

Over time, however, the 4th century (or 10th century) system "drifted" away from the actual new-moon rhythm. The resulting errors nevertheless had to be honored, due to the unconditional obedience which is built into rabbinic Torah observance in general, and calendar observance in particular (see RH 25b, which demanded submission to both accidental and deliberate errors).

There are even cases when the errors exceed the rabbinic limits, and they are honored.  In 2013, the calendar twice fixed the new moon a day too soon. The reverse-postponement was obeyed by rabbis worldwide without comment. We covered the phenomenon as it occurred that year, in another article found at the RZ site.


2. A Temporary Calendar that Cannot Be Cancelled?

Rambam taught (Kiddush Ha-Hodesh 5:1) that the fixed calendar system was a temporary measure, to be used only until a Sanhedrin is re-established in the Land of Israel to oversee eyewitnesses of the new moon. A new self-proclaimed Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, which dared in 2008 to reinstate blowing the shofar on a Yom Tru’ah that fell on a Shabbat, established a committee to announce the new moons. But even they felt unqualified to “supersede the mathematical calendar” which they confessed is dysfunctional.

Nevertheless, the above undated statement was contradicted (or perhaps preceded) by a list of new-moon announcements over several years. The most recent declaration in the list was on 6/jan/2011, duly carried out on the Temple Mount as did the Sanhedrin in Temple times. Even though the announcement supported the rabbinic calculation as opposed to the moon's appearance (a two-day difference), their action met with disapproval - even from advocates of restored new-moon testimony. It appears that since 2011 the new Sanhedrin dropped the idea.

In Chabad teaching, the calendar is temporary until the Messiah comes and re-establishes the natural calendar under the supervision of His own court. But although many in Chabad declared their rebbe to be Moshiach as early as 1991, and some claim to be able to communicate with him since his death in 1994, there has been no move by Chabad over the last 20-plus years to restore the eyewitness-based sanctification of the Jewish months.

That an increasingly unreliable tradition with a questionable pedigree could withstand even the conditions accepted by the rabbis themselves should invite protests, particularly in Israel. If there are dissenters, they are keeping a low profile.

Meanwhile, Torah-obedient Messianic believers, who have both the calling and the freedom to correct the errors of blind orthodoxy, seem reluctant to discuss the issue. Perhaps it’s assumed that an errant Jewish calendar is a marginal problem having little to do with our faith or spiritual truth. Perhaps the view is that to challenge this long-standing system will undermine our Jewish identity and interfere with bringing the Good News of Messiah to our people.

We will show that in both cases the opposite is true.


3. The Calendar System which the Rabbis Fought to Replace

The time-honored method used for thousands of years in Israel was to declare the new Month by physically viewing the new moon’s first appearance. This is referred to in Jewish tradition as the “Molad” or “birth” of the month, but the term is slightly confusing. The actual birth of the Month is the conjunction of earth, moon and sun, called in Hebrew the “Kesei” (Ps.81:3, mistranslated as “full moon”). Loosely translated, it means the “covered” or “concealed” moon, which is called that because its illuminated face is completely turned toward the sun, presenting a dark face to the earth. As this site demonstrates, the “newborn” moon becomes visible a few hours after conjunction, but only at sunset because it closely follows the sun. (These are rich spiritual pictures, but we’ll explore them another time.)

Although there is some debate on whether or not ancient Israel equated the Kesei with the Molad, we believe that the Hebrew of Psalm 81:3 does connect the new month with the conjunction, as well as its importance in setting the time “for our festivals”. We rely on Scripture for our position rather than rabbinic support, but some readers might be interested in the fact that Rambam also defined the Molad as the moment of conjunction rather than the visible crescent. (Kiddush Ha-Hodesh, Chapter 6)

In ancient Israel, the drawbacks of visual observation were supplemented by an advance calculation of the moon’s phases, which tracked the moon’s position since the previous Molad. The visual sighting would be expected during one of two possible days: the 29th or the 30th day. This simple method was quite reliable. (The moon’s average cycle is today known to be 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds; its variations never go beyond 29d/6h/30m at the low end, and 29d/20h at the high end.)

The predictions solved the occasional problem of poor visibility at the needed hour of sunset, or a lack of eyewitnesses arriving before the day’s end (sundown). If there was no witness confirmation on the 29th day, the Molad was assumed to be on the 30th day. This helps explain the Biblical account (1 Sam.20) of the two-day feast in honor of the new moon. As we can see, David, Jonathan and (presumably) all Israel knew ahead of time when those two days would be.

The Babylonian Talmud (BT Rosh Hashanah 23b) describes the great honor given at the Temple to eyewitnesses of the Molad. They were even allowed to violate Shabbat laws in order to travel and testify of this important event (RH 20a, 21b, 22a). The declaration would be delayed only if the Molad was “too young” (i.e. “born” too late in the day to be visible in Israel by sunset), or if the witnesses could not be confirmed in time for the required new-moon sacrifice to be offered (RH 24a, referring to Num.29:6, 1 Chron.23:31).


4. The Fight for Control Begins…but Why?

When Jerusalem was destroyed, the Yavne Sanhedrin took responsibility for receiving the new-moon witnesses.  They had inherited a perfectly good process for doing that. Why abandon it? Even more curious: When they decided it was necessary to delegate the calendar declarations directly to Jewish communities abroad, why didn’t they simply coach them on how to validate a sighting of the new moon?

Although the Talmud (RH 25a) describes the mathematical tracking of the lunar month as a difficult skill entrusted only to elite families, identifying the Molad was not rocket science, nor was it a Jewish secret.

Scholars point to ancient Babylonian and Greek sources which calculated the moon’s travels with admirable accuracy, and the same calendar (19 years, consisting of 12 common years and 7 leap-years) was in use before and during Talmudic times. This non-Jewish system is known as the Metonic Cycle, and no “secret” exists there. As far as identifying the Molad correctly, a “New Moon Society” in Israel, which is training people to be witnesses, claims that someone can learn to visually spot the Molad after a few months of practice. Rambam wrote (Kiddush Ha-Hodesh 11:4) that the basics could be understood by a schoolchild in a few days.

Therefore, to describe the Sanhedrin calculations as a “secret” is to imply that there were additional undisclosed rules that guided the rabbinic declaration of the new months.

These secrets were presumably what emboldened Gamaliel II (Yavne’s Sanhedrin president from roughly 80-100 CE) to accept false new-moon witnesses for the all-important 7th Month; their testimony was illogical but it matched his calculations. However, his colleagues in the Sanhedrin were also skilled in evaluating witnesses; they challenged the decision (RH 25a). Gamaliel took things personally, and his defense of a predetermined “molad” against the true Molad became an undisguised power play.

Upon discovering that his own teacher, Rabbi Yehoshua ben-Haninah, intended to follow his own conscience and observe Yom Kippur on the correct day, Gamaliel humiliated him by forcing him to go along with the program. He was ordered to publicly violate his day of Yom Kippur (BT-RH 25a-b, Mishna RH 2:8-9). The rabbinic resentment over that incident caused Gamaliel to lose his presidential position the following year (BT Berachot 27b). Probably fearing further mutiny, the Sanhedrin eventually decided to suspend the custom of receiving witnesses altogether, and just use the calculations.


5. Reasonable Questions, Irrational Answers

These developments were not reported in the Talmud with any sense of shame but rather of achievement. It appears that insider control of the Jewish calendar had by then taken priority over faithfulness to the truth, obedience to previously established Jewish law, and even honor due to one’s own teacher.  What could have been that urgent?

Perhaps we will never find a clear answer among the sages. But rabbis today are still going along with the program. Since it’s common knowledge that the ancient calculations are becoming increasingly dysfunctional, why don't Jewish leaders instruct the 21st century community to return to reliance on the moon phases? It would be easier now than ever before, thanks to NASA astronomical data. 

This is not a radical or even a new idea. The NASA predictions for sundown are already the accepted source for the exact to-the-minute beginnings and ends of the weekly Shabbat and holidays (with 18-minute margins added for an extra safeguard). You will find these times listed on all printed Jewish calendars and on countless Jewish websites. In fact, Torah communities around the world often publish customized Shabbat times adapted from NASA data to their own longitude and latitude – an innovation unique to our time.

Reliance on the objective precision of modern science has provided absolute certainty, universal accessibility and unprecedented unity in Jewish observance of the Shabbat. Why not do the same for the Molad of the Jewish months?

The modern rabbinic answer is vague and variable, but it amounts to this:  Announcing the new moon is not that simple.


6. A Brief Tour of a Brilliantly Designed Mess

The main obstacle to a return to eyewitness testimony of the Molad is the “Dechiyot”, an inseparable set of four “postponement rules”. Together they transform the relatively simple rhythm of 29-day and 30-day months over a 19-year period into a tangle of competing exceptions. The result is 14 different calendar scenarios… along with new problems that don’t need to be there.

Of the four postponements, three rules have nothing to do with the new moon. They have but one arbitrary purpose: to delay the start of the 7th month (Tishrei) by one or two days. This priority in turn has but one stated goal: to prevent some of the fall Feasts of the LORD from landing on certain days of the week. (More details later.)

Rambam, ever the rationalist, tried to justify the Dechiyot as an attempt to bring the astronomical Molad (conjunction) closer to the eyewitness sighting of the first crescent (phasis). But his reasoning (Kiddush Ha-Hodesh 7:7-8) is peculiar in that it makes no mention of the Halachic dilemmas recorded in the Talmud and universally cited today as “the” reasons. An attempt to resolve this added “difficulty” is offered in footnote 12 of the above edition of Kiddush Ha-Hodesh, but the outcome is not very convincing.

The strongest objection to the Dechiyot is found in the calendar itself. If these “forbidden days” were ignored, the 19-year system would easily synchronize with the celestial bodies that were created to govern the Moadim (“the appointed times” - Gen.1:14, Ps.104:19).

Most of the necessary adjustments were already part of the 19-year Metonic system which the Jewish people had adopted (see above). The adjustments were given an honorable name in Hebrew, “Hochmat Ha-Ibbur” (or sometimes “Sod Ha-Ibbur”), meaning the “wisdom/secret of impregnation”, i.e. inserting extra days and months into the normal cycle.

In one of these ancient adjustments, the yearly moon circuit (exactly 354.37 days) was accommodated by adding an extra day to a month (“Ibbur Hodesh”) once every 3 or 4 years, to keep the year either 354 or 355 days long. In the Jewish system, this is done in the two “flexible months” following the fall Feasts, Heshvan and Kislev.

But here we see the intrusion of the “forbidden days” rule (see “Lo ADU Roshbelow). If you’re wondering why two months were needed to insert one day, the addition was actually done in Heshvan; but if this led to the following RH falling on one of the “forbidden days”, Kislev was also used to avert the disaster. That this was a later addition is shown by the Talmud (RH 20a), where only one month was used for the Ibbur Hodesh , and the day was either added or not. Oddly enough, that designated month was Elul (RH 21a-22b), altering the time period which today is said to be unalterable due to the “necessary” day-of-week synchronization between the spring and fall Feasts.

A second Metonic adjustment regularly refits the shorter lunar year to the longer solar year (365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 46 seconds) by declaring a "leap-year month". In the Jewish system of Ibbur Shanah, this 13th month is inserted at the end of winter (a second Adar), so that Passover will continue to fall in the spring (after the solar equinox on 20/march). The rationale is both logical and Biblical: Israel was commanded in Exod.34:18 to observe Passover "at the appointed time in the month of Aviv [spring]." In combination with the previous rule, these leap-years worked out to either 384 or 385 days.

Only one more adaptation was needed to enable Jewish observance of the new moon. This resulted in “Dechiyah Zaken”, the “old” postponement. It is supremely logical: if the Molad took place after the noon hour, it would be too “young” to be seen by sundown that day. Therefore, the sighting of a relatively “old” Molad is assured for the following day. It is the only postponement rule that applies to all months.

In short, today’s system would be simple, user-friendly and stable… were it not for the other three required Dechiyot.
Following is a very condensed explanation of each. (Their names are Hebrew abbreviations given as aids to remember their formulas.)

The most commonly used Dechiyah is designed to avoid the “forbidden days” for the fall Feasts. Its name, “Lo ADU Rosh”, means “no Rosh” [Hashanah] on Day “1” (Sunday), Day “4” (Wednesday) or Day “6” (Friday). But this rule doesn’t just delay RH for one day; it has the power to override all the other Dechiyot, and the two following Dechiyot are built to serve this one. Although only 3 out of 7 days are affected, “Lo ADU” interacts with the others to fix the Feasts of the 7th Month a day late more than 60% of the time… and 1 out of 7 times they are delayed for 2 days.

Dechiyah Betutkafot” is only half-logical. Its purpose is to hold a day back in a leap year that fell short of the minimum required days, but it is applied only in the rare case of Tishrei 1 following a too-short leap year (less than 383 days) – and also falling on a Monday morning. This rule simply delays that specific RH from Monday (a day permitted by “Lo ADU”) to Tuesday (another permitted day). Since lengthening of short years is already provided by the “Ibbur Hodesh” in Heshvan (see above), the real reason for “Betutkafot” must be to regain control of the weekdays when a 13-month year (an extra 30 days) starts a chain reaction that would sometime in the future make a fall Feast land on a “forbidden day”.

Dechiyah Gatarad” is even more obscure and rare. Its purpose is to take care of any Tishrei 1 that falls on a Tuesday morning and also makes the coming year one day too long. That technical description skates over the fact that this rule solves one problem caused by "Lo ADU", and creates several new problems that must be solved by "Lo ADU". Why move RH from Tuesday, an acceptable day for "Lo ADU"? This is triggered by “Lo ADU” looking into the future: if the next RH (a year from now) works out to Shabbat afternoon, the “Zaken” rule (see above) will delay it till Sunday… which “Lo ADU” has declared a “forbidden day”… so it will move to Monday. But now the 2 extra days will make the coming year too long – artificially growing it from 354 to 356 days. The “Gatarad” rule pulls the offending Tuesday that would have been RH back into the end of the old year, and it pushes the start of the coming year over to Wednesday, thus shaving off the unwanted day. But that action (Wednesday is a"forbidden day") automatically triggers the “Lo ADU” rule a second time, bumping the Molad of this coming year ultimately to Thursday.

The calculations that juggle these four Dechiyot along with the Metonic adjustments are not for the mathematically challenged. A simplified explanation is found here, and an “intermediate” version is here.  

This non-negotiable package of postponements is agreed to be a relatively late development in the Jewish calendar. Scholars date its introduction to between the 5th and 8th centuries after the Temple’s destruction. But based on rabbinic use of the Talmud to defend the three “forbidden” RH days, it’s also possible that they were known much earlier and not so well accepted. According to Belenkiy (Dekhiyot, p.5), the especially disruptive “Lo ADU” was not accepted until around 776 CE. Even after that, we saw one attempt to return to a simpler calendar method under an Israeli Sanhedrin (922). Given that such a major rabbinic clash over the calendar was only accidentally discovered in the “trash bin” of the Cairo Geniza, there may have been other clashes erased from history by the winning side.


7. Contradictions Met with Complacency

To make things messier, there are times when even today’s non-negotiable calendar package is abandoned in favor of some higher, unexplained law. 

Two years ago (2013 CE), the rabbinic calendar negated the very meaning of “Dechiyot” and announced the ‘molads’ of the 5th and 7th Months a day before the moon had entered conjunction. To declare the 7th Molad (Rosh Hashanah) prematurely is so undesirable for the rabbinic community that measures are taken the previous year to prevent it, by adding days to Heshvan and/or Kislev. (Scroll down in the linked page to the paragraph that begins, “Now then: …”)  And yet in the year before this premature Rosh Hashanah, neither Heshvan nor Kislev was given an additional day to avert the situation.

Something else must have taken higher priority.

Significantly, it was a premature announcement of the 7th Molad by Gamaliel II that provoked opposition from his colleagues, who complained (RH 25a): “They are false witnesses. How can men testify that a woman has borne a child, when on the next day we see her belly still swollen?” Rambam considered a premature Molad sighting to be physically impossible (Kiddush Ha-Hodesh 18:9). But in 2013, this anomaly that transgressed both Halacha and logic was not publicly discussed by the rabbinic community, as far as we could determine.

The problems will not go away. Premature announcements of Jewish months are destined to happen again (the 1st and 3rd Moladot in 2018 for example). In a few years (2016 and 2019), we will begin to see months that are announced 3 days late – the same dilemma that sparked ben-Meir’s opposition in the 10th century.

But these growing clashes with the new moon – and even the self-contradictions of the calendar – are taken in stride by world Jewry.

There have been proposals for a “rectified Hebrew calendar”, but this refers to a streamlined math calculation which automatically incorporates the Dechiyot.

The above-mentioned “Israeli New Moon Society” noted that the “gap” between the moon and the Jewish calendar “continues to increase”, impacting some 60 different Torah commandments. But the group emphatically does not intend to challenge that discrepancy by standing up for the true Molad; they are merely practicing their sighting skills in order “to be ready” for a call from a future Sanhedrin to testify.

One wonders why any witness would bother sharpening this skill while knowing that “Lo ADU Roshoverrules at least 60% of the Molad appearances. Loyalty to the Dechiyot would require either redefining the Molad in opposition to Rambam (as the self-proclaimed new Sanhedrin did in 2011), or a return to Yavne’s practice of “intimidating” witnesses to change their story (more about that later).


8. Micro-Management of Calendar Days: The Expressed Reasons

Certain Halachic problems caused by allowing Tishrei 1 to fall on the "forbidden days" are spelled out in many orthodox sources. Some say that RH falling on a Wednesday or Friday would fix Yom Kippur on a Friday or Sunday, causing unspecified observance difficulties resulting from two different holy days side by side (ending the one to start the other). Or alternately, it was to avoid the hardship of observing two consecutive days of full Shabbat restrictions. RH falling on a Sunday would fix Hoshana Rabbah on a Shabbat (the 7th day of Sukkot, when the willow leaves in the lulav are ceremonially beaten off the stem), and the action of beating the willows is forbidden on the Shabbat. The Talmudic sources cited are Rosh Hashanah 20b, Sukkah 43b, and sometimes Sukkah 54b.

Why are all of these answers suspect? Because in Temple times, the "Halachic dilemmas" had been worked out, and there were no “forbidden days”. Ironically, these solutions are also recorded in the Talmud: see Shabbat 114b, Menachot 99b, Sukkah 43b (which reveals that the problem on Shabbat was with carrying the lulav, whereas beating the willow actually took priority over Shabbat), and Sukkah 54b (which presents the two contradictory rulings together). 

The hardship of a two-day ban on burying the dead deserves special scrutiny, since it is usually cited as the heaviest burden of a Yom Kippur-Shabbat stretch, which is relieved by the merciful “Lo ADU Rosh”.

In reality, the same Halachic prohibition against burial applies to every major holiday. As we know from the story of Yeshua’s hasty burial before the onset of Passover (Luke 23:54-56), the ruling dates back to Temple times and was obeyed by the Lord’s disciples. But this two-day burial dilemma is not prevented today on a consistent basis. In fact, it occurs rather often in today’s Jewish calendar (every time Passover begins on a Sunday, or ends on a Friday; or Shavuot falls on a Friday or Sunday).

Yet more curious, in the above teaching Chabad recommends that it’s “preferable” to postpone a burial for both days of a two-day holiday such as Rosh Hashanah. Thanks to “Lo ADU”, Rosh Hashanah most often begins on a Thursday, becoming a two-day holiday that runs up against the weekly Shabbat. In short, that advice will often delay a burial for not two but three days!

At the other extreme, the deceased Chabad rebbe-cum-messiah reportedly taught that “Lo ADU Rosh” was instituted for reasons that have nothing to do with the Halachic dilemmas described in the Talmud. It’s because “the inner workings of Rosh Hashanah just don't jibe with the spiritual energies of these three days.”

Since none of the expressed reasons stand up to scrutiny, we need to look for more plausible possibilities.


9. Micro-Management of Calendar Days: Probing for the Real Reasons

What are the implications so far? The first is that these “forbidden days” must be hugely important, since Halachic consistency is sacrificed to avoid them. The second is that the “forbidden days” for RH do not merit such a drastic measure, since the reasons given to avoid these days are transparently baseless and were unknown in Temple times.

Thus, we turn to the other “forbidden days”, about which nothing at all is said.

The “Lo ADU” of Rosh Hashanah, for no apparent reason, just happens to be hard-wired to three particular days of the week for the first day of Passover. One Halachic site even mentioned the much easier alternative of postponing RH by adding a day to Elul, but the author didn’t try to explain why the sages instead went to the opposite end of the year, and drafted Passover to take on three “forbidden days” of its own.

Today, Passover is prevented from ever beginning on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday – sometimes referred to as “Lo BaDU” - "not Day 2, Day 4, or Day 6." But there is no rabbinic discussion about “Lo BaDU Pesach”; the restrictions are viewed as a meaningless by-product of the absolute need to control the “forbidden days” of RH.

Or is it meaningless after all?

Consider that the starting point for mapping the calendar is not Rosh Hashanah. It’s Passover.

The days between any given Passover and the Rosh Hashanah that follows are fixed (163 days), while the days between one RH and the following Passover are variable. Therefore chronologically, and even visually (see the chart of the “four gates” on the linked page), the day-fixing starts with Passover... which suggests it as the higher priority.

Even in the case of that illegal premature Molad in 2013, Passover fell on 26/mar/13, and Rosh Hashanah fell on 5/sep/13… 163 days apart... showing that the day-count connecting Passover was more important than an appropriate day for Rosh Hashanah.

For comparison, the varying numbers on the other side of the year refute the claim that the day for Rosh Hashanah influences the day for Passover: from RH 2012 to Ps 2013 was 190 days, RH 2013 to Ps 2014 was 192 days, RH 2014 to (upcoming) Ps 2015 is 191 days.


10. A Detour to Eliminate the Easter Controversy as a Reason

Only two calendars in the world today have day-of-the-week postponement rules which are unconnected to the moon: the Jewish calendar as described above… and the Christian calendar in setting Easter.

Among the earliest Christians (exclusively non-Jewish believers), Easter was actually a remembrance of the Lord’s death, not His Resurrection. It was observed according to the Jewish calendar. At first the ceremony was on Passover Eve (Nisan 14); later it was on the Sunday during Passover week. But after the Bar Kochba rebellion (135 CE), the Jewish calendar became temporarily chaotic, to the point where Christians reported that clueless Jewish communities were observing Passover in the winter. Knowing that Passover ought to be in the spring, the Gentile Christians decided to go it alone.

That report is supported by the Jewish admission that during the Sanhedrin of Simon III, son of Gamaliel II (140-163 CE), “a great quarrel arose concerning the feast-days and the leap-year, which threatened to cause a permanent schism between the Babylonian and the Palestinian communities.” (Jewish Encyclopedia)

The Talmud (BT Berachot 63a) gives us a bit more about the infighting. After the Romans crushed the Bar Kochba revolt and executed its ringleaders (including nearly all the Yavne rabbis and a great many of their disciples), the leadership vacuum caused some rabbis in the Diaspora to work out the calendar on their own. Within a few years that independence was challenged rather aggressively by rabbis in Israel trying to reassert their authority.

All this disarray encouraged the western church to abandon the Jewish calendar sometime around 142 CE. They opted to fix their Easter observance on a Sunday in spring. The churches in Asia Minor remained connected to Passover and held that the day of the week was secondary.

At first there was mutual respect between the dissenting leaders, until western hostility over the Jewish elements emerged around 190. Finally at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, the western churches broke away from all things Jewish, and thus from the eastern churches with Jewish roots. The Nazarenes (Jewish believers), already persecuted by Yavne for their loyalty to Yeshua, were then persecuted by church fathers in Rome for their loyalty to Jewish laws and customs. The calendar controversy became another blunt instrument with which to pound them.

Thus far goes the church-church-synagogue fight for the spring calendar, which not surprisingly revolved around Passover as the relevant holiday.

But the tradition of Yeshua’s death being fixed by the church as “Good Friday” is often assumed to be the catalyst that prompted the rabbinic community to zero in on Friday as a “forbidden day” for the start of Passover. We believe this is a misunderstanding.

No sources provide the exact year when the rabbinic establishment first introduced the “Lo ADU Rosh” postponement. We saw rationalizations for these “forbidden days” in the Talmud, which was redacted in Israel between 200 and 300 CE. This was indeed around the time that anti-Jewish edicts were building on the Christian side, but we already saw that the rabbinic fight for control of the Jewish calendar started several generations earlier.

The mismatched timing is a clue: The rabbinic break from the Temple-approved new-moon observations began at least 100 years before the church would try to compete with them. With whom was the Yavne school competing so aggressively?


11. The Probe Continues: Some Rabbinic Hints

As the Talmud itself testifies (see above), the Feasts in the 1st century CE were allowed to land naturally on any day, governed by the arrival of the new moon. In other words, the weekday for Passover was not controlled, nor that of Yom Tru'ah (it wasn't yet called "Rosh Hashanah"), for as long as the Temple stood.

Starting from the fall of Jerusalem, controlling the Molad announcements without challenge became such a pressing need that the pre-determined calendar at Yavne required enforcement. This was accomplished at times by “intimidating” witnesses to change their testimony (RH 20a, 25a). The rather shocking custom was attributed (RH 20a) to the rabbi who had escaped from the doomed Jerusalem in 70 CE and founded the Yavne school, Yohanan ben-Zakkai. In that Talmudic passage, there are repeated references to an unspecified “emergency” that justified the regular coercion of witnesses to say what they were told to say about the Molad.

The usual clarification of this “emergency” is that enemies of the rabbis, either the Sadducees or a priestly family called the "Boethusians", sent false witnesses to undermine the sanctification of the new moon (RH 22b); from that point on, the Sanhedrin would only accept testimony from people they knew and trusted.

This tradition is repeated by Rambam (Kiddush Ha-Hodesh 2:2), but the footnote in that edition reveals that “Boethusians” was used interchangeably in the Talmud with “Minim, a label applied to Jewish heretics but most frequently to the Nazarenes. The Mishna passage that survives until today (RH 2:1) faults the Minim outright for undermining Yavne’s announcements of the Molad. Interestingly, the accusation does not explain exactly what they “ruined” ( ÷ì÷ìå ) or how. The Gemara (BT-RH 22b) later supplies the idea that these “Boethusians” [sic] had sent false witnesses. But given the pressure exerted on honest witnesses through “intimidation” – from which even Sanhedrin members were not exempt – a witness made stubborn by truthfulness would have been deemed just as offensive as a liar.

To add intrigue, the Soncino edition of the Talmud (note 15 on RH 20a) suggests that the “emergency” was not connected to the date of Rosh Hashanah at all, but rather to the 1st Molad and the beginning of Passover. Thus we have hints of an unexplained but urgent need for the Yavne rabbis to control the weekday of Passover, and it was credited to Yohanan ben-Zakkai, which places it around or shortly after 70 CE.

That time period likely coincided with an explosive growth of the Nazarene community.

Yeshua’s prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem was prominent in the apostles’ witness (Matt.24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, Luke 19:41-44). Its fulfillment in 70 CE, down to the detail of the Temple stones being toppled, would have added fuel to the gospel – at the same time casting suspicion on the surviving rabbis who continued to reject His claims. It’s no wonder that Gamaliel II, the Sanhedrin president who succeeded Yohanan ben-Zakkai, invested so much to oppose and vilify this Jewish sect.

Ignoring the advice of his grandfather Gamaliel I to “leave these men alone” and see whether the Nazarene faction would die out on its own (Acts 5:38), Gamaliel II distinguished himself as their adversary. Around the same time that he seized control of the Jewish calendar, he also instituted “Birchat Ha-Minim”, an extra “blessing” inserted in the Amidah (standing prayer) which cursed the Nazarenes as heretics (BT Berachot 28b-29a). He required public recitation of it three times a day, and anyone who couldn't or wouldn't recite it completely was to be expelled from the synagogue.

Still more potent fuel was supplied later by the Bar Kochba rebellion (131-135 CE), disowned by the Nazarenes and avidly supported by the Yavne Sanhedrin under Akiva. When that adventure ended with a false messiah and an unqualified disaster – again vindicating the Nazarenes and implicating Akiva and company as blind guides – the hostility of the Yavne disciples could only find an outlet in stronger vilification.

There is scholarly speculation that the announcement of the Molad became part of this struggle with the Nazarenes, but that their identity was hidden under other labels (See RH 22b, Soncino notes 9, 13). Why would the rabbis not name their opponents openly? The answer may be found in the custom of “denaming” (my word) as a rabbinic expression of contempt.

The best-known example is Yeshua Himself. Religious Jews often refuse to say or write the name “Jesus” in English or “Yeshua” in Hebrew. Popular alternatives include incomplete spellings with small letters (e.g “j-sus” or just “j”), the euphemism “that man”, and in Hebrew the use of “Yeshu” as an acronym for “ éîç÷ ùîå åæëøåðå ” – “may his name and memory be erased”. There is debate on the origin of "Minim" for the Nazarenes; as we said, the terms were interchanged, but "minim" literally means "various kinds".

The example relevant for our exploration is found in the Jewish calendar war. A competing calendar system was mentioned in the Talmud (Arachin 9b) only as "the theory of the Others". Without getting into its technical details, it’s enough for our purpose that the Soncino edition (note 25 in RH 20a) concludes it was a calendar in which “the months would have to follow the moon strictly.” Thus we see an unidentified faction taking a stand against witness manipulation while Yavne was still trying to implant the custom into Judaism. But we propose that the missing identity was less likely due to forgetfulness than to hostility.

This vague title, “the Others”, was a label used elsewhere for authoritative rabbis who were nevertheless rejected by Yavne. Belenkiy (“The Theory of Others”, p.3-4) suggested three intriguing possibilities: Elisha ben-Abuya, and two of his students, Nathan and Meir. The latter two were expelled from the Usha rabbinic school after opposing a plan to abolish equality among the sages; thereafter their rulings (admittedly brilliant) were preserved but denamed, credited to “some” and “others”. Their teacher, ben-Abuya, was suspected of having actually become a Nazarene. The Talmud (BT Hagigah 15a-b) accused him of subscribing to the idea of two Thrones in Heaven, and of getting caught with “books of the Minim” hidden in his robes. “After his apostasy” he was judged by Heaven as being unworthy of being called to repentance. He was henceforth denamed as “Aher”, literally "some other”, and derogatory stories were told about him.

Regarding the calendar attributed to “the Others”, Belenkiy placed its origin in the time period between 70 and 359, which he connected with the "Jewish-Christian competition for the best calendar system." (“Jewish Calendar in the Roman Period”, p.1) That time period, however, is too wide to pin to the Easter controversy. It more accurately fits the effort by Yavne over several generations to root out the Nazarenes from their midst. Previously unknown "forbidden days of the week" for Jewish holidays was just one new element introduced during these formative centuries, which would have offended Torah-obedient followers of Yeshua.

Post-Temple generations of Nazarenes left no surviving records that tell how they responded to this one-upmanship. But we can assume that as a Jewish community, they would have imitated the apostles in establishing their own courts (Acts 15:6) and Torah traditions (Act 3:1). They might have had no choice after Gamaliel II institutedBirchat Ha-Minim” to expel them from the rabbinic community. They certainly parted ways with Yavne by 130 CE, after Akiva hailed Bar Kochba as the Messiah and encouraged a revolt against Rome.

The Nazarenes had priests (Acts 6:7) and Pharisees (Acts 15:5) among them, who knew how to identify the Molad and guide their flock in observing the Feasts. It’s a good bet that the calendar of “the Others” was either formulated or used by the Nazarenes, in protest to the violence being done to the true, Torah-based calendar.


12. A Torah View of Yeshua’s Command to “Obey the Rabbis”

At this point, a significant segment of the Messianic community will be asking an important question about Matthew 23:2-3. Didn’t Messiah command His disciples to obey the rulings of the rabbis in Torah observance, because they had “seated themselves in the Seat of Moses”?

The key here is the understanding that “the Seat of Moses” included Moses’ custom of inquiring of the LORD for new Halacha (Num. 9:7-8, 15:32-36, 27:1-5). The second-Temple Pharisees, for all their blind spots, still respected words of revelation from Heaven (Acts 23:9). They were capable of sometimes understanding the spiritual treasures in the physical Torah commands, which painted pictures of God’s Kingdom (Matt.13:52). In response, Yeshua pronounced some of their statements worthy of the Seat of Moses (Mark 12) and others unworthy (Matt.23).

When the Sanhedrin under Gamaliel II (around 90-100 CE) announced their landmark ruling known as “the Oven of Achnai” (BT Baba Mezi’a 59b), they cut themselves off from this Pharisaic line by declaring, “We pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice.” The Seat of Moses cannot operate apart from interaction with God.

The Law was given first as a tutor to bring Jews to Messiah (Gal.3:23-25), then as a weapon for all men to kill the flesh and live by the Spirit (Rom.7-8), and for effective “training in righteousness” (1 Tim.4:16). Ultimately, we are to study the Torah precepts as “copies of the things in the heavens” and “a shadow of the good things to come” (Heb.9:23, 10:1).

Cut off from its Source of Life, the Law lost all these functions, becoming a dead, wooden collection of legal rules. Attempts to satisfy that kind of “law” could produce only fleshly results: despair, pride, fear, cynicism or other responses that drive people away from God.

Once Yavne barred God from directing Halachic decisions, the Nazarenes would have restricted their contact to individual rabbis who still honored the Heavenly Voice. One such rabbi was Eliezer ben-Hyrcanus, who stood against the “Achnai” ruling and was excommunicated for it. Indeed, the Talmud records – with obvious disapproval – friendly exchanges between ben-Hyrcanus and Yeshua’s disciples (Avodah Zarah 16b-17a).

When these honest rabbis disappeared as well, the Nazarenes would have needed to occupy the Seat of Moses with their own Halachic authorities – scribes and sages called and sent by Yeshua, but rejected by the rebellious Pharisees (Matt.23:34). The exit from Yavne of those who loved the truth was accelerated with the help of Akiva (80-135 CE). Having served the Molad postponement agenda by hindering more than 80 new-moon witnesses at once (BT-RH 21b-22a), Akiva helped convince Rabbi Yehoshua to violate his conscience concerning the true day of Yom Kippur (RH 25a). Akiva later led the Sanhedrin in supporting the false messiah Bar Koseva (Bar Kochba), for which he was executed by the Romans.

It's unthinkable that the 2nd century Nazarenes would have honored Akiva as someone "seated in the Seat of Moses", simply because he was next in line to claim the title. Yeshua was not impressed with lineage claims of even the most lofty kind (Jn.8:39). He never meant us to follow men who claimed to be the heirs of Moshe Rebbenu and proved themselves otherwise (Jn.5:45-47).


....Now Entering Uncharted Territory….

We have seen evidence from history and rabbinic sources that the so-called postponement rules for Rosh Hashanah are actually “the tail wagging the dog”. It’s all about postponing Passover. We have proposed that the unspoken priority, decided many centuries ago, was to prevent a calendar re-enactment of the year when Yeshua gave His life for our redemption. But we haven’t yet explored why that occasional occurrence would be so threatening that the entire Jewish calendar needed to be subjected to painful gymnastics of math, logic and social pressure.

There is no research available (that we know of) to answer this question. So from here on, we confess to offering speculation – with the hope that others in the Body might discover solid ground for either confirming our ideas or offering better ones.


13. The Message in the Sixth-Day Passover

In the year Yeshua died and rose again, the days of the week teamed up with the Festival of Freedom to paint a richly detailed - and long-awaited - message across the face of the Jewish calendar: "Behold, this is our God, for whom we have waited that He might save us!" (Isa.25:9, a Messianic passage also applied to the Lubavitcher rebbe

How was that message communicated to Jewish minds through the calendar? As we answer that question, we include some corrective background that might be needed for Christian readers to appreciate the impact.

Contrary to the standard Christian concept of “Good Friday” as the day Yeshua was crucified, His suffering actually took place on Thursday afternoon. If it hadn’t, there would have been no “three days and three nightsin the grave – which is hugely important for establishing the truth of the gospel. This “Sign of Jonah” was the only sign Yeshua gave to His generation as proof of His identity (Matt.12:39, Matt.16:4, Luke 11:29). His enemies remembered it well, and they did their best on the physical level to prevent it (Matt.27:63-64).

Moreover, the Lord was not crucified on the first day of Passover (the 15th), but on Passover Eve of that year (the 14th). The New Testament writers were unanimous that the impending "Sabbath" was the onset of Passover, and that the Crucifixion took place on "the day of preparation" for the feast (Matt.27:16, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 19:31). This was emphasized because it was also hugely important that the scriptures concerning the Pesach (lamb offering) were fulfilled by Messiah on the same day - and even the same time of day - when these lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple. The Torah command prophetically referred to a single Lamb to be killed by all Israel: “You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.” (Exod.12:6)

While Yeshua was dying, the lambs sacrificed on the Temple Mount were brought home to be roasted and eaten that evening. As Jews were preparing to sit down at the Feast and retell the story of their "deliverance from the house of bondage", Yeshua announced, "It is finished!" (Jn.19:30 - literally, "paid in full”) This means that, contrary to some Messianic teaching, the evening of the Last Supper was not Passover Eve but the day before that. This is also crucial for the Sign of Jonah. (For those who have related to the Last Supper as a Passover Seder, see our article on the RZ site, “Bread, Jewish Law and the Sign of Jonah”.)


14. The Message in These Particular Three Days

Day 1/Night 1: Matthew (Matt.27:46-50) testifies that Yeshua died around 3 pm, and John tells us that He was in the grave by sundown Thursday (the onset of the first day of Pesach). John points to the incoming holiday as the reason for His being hurriedly buried during that window of 2 or 3 hours in a "nearby" tomb (Jn.19:42).

We should note that in Jewish reckoning a portion of a day counts as a day. The chief priests themselves counted parts of days in calculating Yeshua’s promised three days; they asked Pilate (Matt.27:64) to “give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day.” If three complete days were required, they would have said, “until the fourth day”. So Thursday afternoon and night were one day and one night.

Day 2/Night 2/Day 3: Messiah was left in the grave during a two-day rest extending through Friday, Friday night, and Shabbat day. John 19:31 describes the upcoming Passover in an unusual way: "...for the day of that Shabbat was great.” He gives this as the reason why the Jews asked the Romans to speed up the execution, so that the victims could be buried before that “great Shabbat”.

It’s not likely that “great” meant extra holiness, due to a holiday falling on a weekly Shabbat. The ban on burials was the same for holidays as for the Shabbat, and the “greatness” of that rest-time would not be relevant to the problem of a one-day delay. It was totally relevant, however, if “great” meant extended or doubly long. This would result in not burying the bodies for two days… which even today’s rabbinic authorities consider an intolerable burden. (Remember that this is their strongest reason for preventing Yom Kippur from falling before or after a weekly Shabbat.)

But are we justified in thinking that John was calling a two-day rest period one “great day” of Shabbat?

Indeed we are, and the rabbis provide evidence of the custom. Their Halachic solution for requiring the two-day Rosh Hashanah, despite the explicit Divine command to observe only one day, was to call it “yoma arichta”, Aramaic for one “long day” of 48 hours. The same rest restrictions apply to the entire 48 hours, which have “kedushah achat” (one level of sanctity). Although this is usually presented as a unique designation for Rosh Hashanah, the Talmud (Eiruvin 38a-b) records an existing opinion that a two-day combination of any holiday and weekly Shabbat is “one entity of holiness”. The passage goes on to tell that the argument was resisted by other rabbis, but that it was strong enough to cause uncertainty and some attempt to accommodate it.

Last but not least, a longer-than-normal Shabbat has Messianic meaning in itself, which survives to this day in rabbinic tradition. The greatest Shabbat of all is understood to be never-ending: “the day that will be all Sabbath and rest for everlasting life.” (BT Tamid 33b). This “Sabbath” is also understood to be the time when the Messiah reigns on the earth.

Night 3: Yeshua rose at or before dawn on "the first day of the week" (John 20:1)... fulfilling the promised "Sign of Jonah" (Matt.12:40).


15. The Message in the First-Day Resurrection

The Lord rising on the first day of the week, at or before sunrise, was pointed out in all four gospels (Matt.28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1, Jn.20:4). While this earth-changing event could have taken place on any day of the week, God’s choice of the First Day pointed back to the spiritual illustration of the first day of Creation, when God said, “Let there be Light” (Gen.1:3-4).

This Light, which preceded the physical lights (created on the fourth day), is widely interpreted by the Jewish sages as referring to the Messiah. Midrash Genesis Rabbah considers this supernatural Light to be the visible manifestation of the invisible Creator (based on Ps.104:2, “He wears Light as a garment.”) So when Yeshua called Himself "the Light" (Jn.8:12, 9:5, 12:35), it was equivalent to “God made visible”. Paul drew on this rabbinic imagery in his description of Yeshua (Col.1:15) as "the image of the invisible GOD, the firstborn of all creation." A Talmudic Midrash (BT Hagigah 12a) also says that after the world was shown that pure Light, God hid it from the wicked and kept it in store for the righteous; this in turn supports the sages’ teaching of a Messiah revealed to the world and then hidden.

Another obvious symbol in the First Day of the week is the idea of the New Creation, and also the circumcision of the heart on the eighth day, which would be reflected in the following Sunday. Early Christian traditions emphasized the first day of the week to the point where it became known as “the Lord’s day”.

On the other hand, the Nazarenes with their Torah background would have paid attention to a priestly ritual performed in the Temple during that Passover week, which perhaps meant nothing to Christians who had never visited Jerusalem. Called “Waving of the First-Fruits” (Lev.23:9-11), it marked the beginning of the Omer (counting seven Shabbats until Shavuot).

This prophetic picture was fulfilled by Yeshua’s Resurrection. For this He received another title from Paul: the “first fruits of those who sleep” (1 Cor.15:20). Best of all, the Resurrection took place “on the day after the Shabbat”, the very day of the ritual (if the Sadducee custom of the weekly Shabbat during Passover was in force), or the day right after it (if the Pharisee custom of the Passover holiday Shabbat was being followed).

The Nazarenes would have also cherished the three-day-three-night Sign of Jonah – Messiah being in the grave from Thursday afternoon until Sunday dawn. Whenever Passover landed on the same days of the week as in the year He died, once again bringing First-Fruits and the third day of Pesach in line with Resurrection Sunday, it was a powerful witness for both Jews and Christians.

That would make it a thorn in the side of the Yavne Sanhedrin. This Passover configuration could have constituted an "emergency" because its strong Jewish base for interpretation could not be denied.

It was imperative to undermine the 3-days-3-nights in the grave, which was Yeshua’s only proof-sign. Messiah "risen on the third day" was central to the gospel message – mentioned 8 times in Matthew, 5 times in Mark, 6 times in Luke, once in John and twice in Acts. If the Jewish people in future centuries could be made to think that Passover could never fall on a Friday, then the New Testament report of a Sunday resurrection could be discredited. 

The Yavne rabbis couldn’t have known that after 325 CE, the Gentile church would do the job for them. Rejecting all things Jewish ended the church's awareness of the different kinds of Jewish rest-days. As a result, they misread the day following the Crucifixion as the weekly "Sabbath" rather than the Passover "Sabbath" (Num.28:16-18), and created the tradition of a “Good Friday” crucifixion.

Today, Jews who want to discredit Yeshua’s claim to be Messiah only need to point out that His “sign failed” because Friday-to-Sunday does not add up to three days and three nights. See for example this confident rebuttal at the anti-missionary site “Jews for Judaism”.  


16. Messages in the Other “Forbidden Days” for Passover

Regarding the other two “forbidden days” for the start of Passover, we might speculate further that they held similar mirrors of Yeshua’s Resurrection on the third day of the Feast.

Banning Monday would eliminate a Wednesday celebration – the Fourth Day, when the sun, moon and stars were created (symbolizing Yeshua as the rising “Sun of Righteousness” – Mal.4:2, the emerging “Star from Jacob” – Num.24:17, and the growing moon which was greeted as a picture of God’s presence – BT Sanhedrin 42a).

Preventing Wednesday would eliminate a Friday celebration – the Sixth Day, when Adam/man was created (symbolizing Yeshua as "the Last Adam" – 1 Cor.15:45, Rom.5:14; and the Son of Man who "comes in the clouds" – Dan.7:13, Mk.13:26).

Those are only some of the gems that might have been associated with Yeshua's Resurrection, in which the days of the week played a magnifying role. For generations, the prophets and righteous teachers of Israel had primed the Jewish people to connect the dots when they would appear. No wonder that within a few weeks of that event, thousands and ten-thousands (Acts 2:41, 4:4, 21:20) of the people of Israel began embracing Him as the Holy One of God. 

If you had lived in those days and were blessed with a Torah background, there was not much chance for neutrality. You would have eventually either received the message and taught it to others, or rejected the message and hid it from others.


17. Messages Beyond Passover

The Sanhedrin in Jerusalem was unsuccessful in hiding the apostles’ message (Acts 4:16-18), so they drove most of Yeshua’s followers out of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1) – only to see thousands more choose to receive the message (21:20). The next generation of judges, led by Yochanan ben-Zakkai, was more resolute. They decided to remove the power of choice from future generations of Jews.

On orders from Gamaliel II, the leaders distorted the Amidah (no longer "18 Benedictions") to expel these dangerous messengers from the synagogues. No longer would they be invited to speak words of Torah instruction, as Paul and his companions were (Acts 13:14-15).

At an unknown date, the rabbis removed the memorial of the Akedah (the Sacrifice of Isaac) from its traditional place on Passover Eve, and they transferred it to the opposite side of the year. See the documentation in “Torah Reading as a Weapon: Rosh Hashanah and the Akedah” by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, (an Israeli teacher who considered the switch a brilliant rabbinic response to the Nazarene threat). No longer would Isaac serve as a foreshadow of the Divine Son of Abraham who was sacrificed on the same day in the Jewish calendar.

A second Israeli historian, Rabbi Nathan Laufer, has proposed that due to the same “grave threat” (his words) from Nazarene teaching that linked Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks) with Yeshua, the rabbis also “emptied Shavuot of its [previous] association with bread and the manna.” No longer would the Feast be used to remind Israel of Yeshua's claim to be "the bread of God who comes down from heaven" (Jn.6:33).

It may eventually come to light that no Jewish holiday remained untouched by the rabbinic war against Yeshua’s “name and memory”.

Still, we propose that the greatest threat remained the powerful picture which had formed around Yeshua during Passover. The decision to tweak the new-moon announcements for the entire year was aimed at controlling the first day of Pesach.

But since the whole idea was to keep the Jewish people from talking about the Nazarene and Passover in the same breath, the Sanhedrin couldn't risk drawing attention to such a drastic manipulation of this holiday. Questions would naturally arise. The grumbling over the use of false witnesses to change the months was already eroding confidence in their decisions – especially when it involved the month of Nisan. So the Council focused community attention on the fall Feasts, manufacturing new "forbidden days" made necessary by new Halachic “dilemmas”.


18. The Secret (Perhaps) of “Lo ADU Rosh”

And now that we’ve come full circle back to the fall Feasts, we might find we already have the answer for how the “ADU” in “Lo ADU Rosh” was chosen.

The days that so powerfully illustrate Yeshua’s role as the Heavenly Light (Sunday), the Rising Sun/Moon/Star (Wednesday) and the Last Adam (Friday) just happen to be the same days that were “forbidden” for Rosh Hashanah. The Nazarenes might have made use of the rabbinic teachings that linked both Rosh Hashanah and Passover with the Messianic Redemption (BT-RH 11b).

Was this the “secret” so closely held by the family of Gamaliel II? Those who know won’t tell.

Is the modern Sanhedrin aware that the stated reasons for “Lo ADU Rosh” are a smokescreen for something else? Is their refusal to return to a moon-based calendar an admission that the same unspoken "emergency" still exists today?

The sad irony is that the Torah itself – the very treasure these modern teachers are claiming to protect – has been defaced by men, with the approval of many generations. The rebellious leaders at Yavne, who left "the Seat of Moses" (Matt.23:2-3) to build their own seat, have been glorified by their disciples to a position sometimes even above Moses (particularly Akiva – BT-Menachot 29b).

Yet the Voice they rejected will not be silenced. Anyone who agrees with the saying, “We pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice” (BT Baba Metzi’a 59b), is worthy of God’s wrath (Ps.95:7-11); and by reciting this Psalm every Shabbat, that person unwittingly pronounces a curse on himself.

“Today, if you would hear His Voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me;
they tried Me, though they had seen My work.

For forty years I loathed [that] generation, and said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest.”


Conclusion: A Timely Opportunity to Reclaim and Restore

In 2015, the Body of Messiah - both Jewish and Gentile - has a good reason to liberate the date of Passover from its artificial, anti-Messiah restriction. It’s a time to reclaim and proclaim all the amazing Jewish parallels in the Thursday-to-Sunday Sign of Jonah. 

This year, the new moon for the First Month (the real Rosh Hashanah, or as the LORD called it, "Rosh Ha-Hodashim") falls on 20/march, a Friday (beginning Thursday night). This can be confirmed by NASA or Time-and-Date data, which are scientifically accurate and objective. This year, the truth is powerfully illustrated by a total solar eclipse, which can only occur during a Molad (conjunction of moon, earth and sun). In fact, it’s the only time this otherwise-invisible event can be visually witnessed as it happens.

Passover, which always begins on the same day of the week as the first Molad (the 14th-15th of the  month), likewise falls on a Friday: 3/april, beginning Thursday night 2/apr.

The rabbinic calendar, using the “Lo ADU Rosh” postponement rule, marks the Nisan new-moon a day later, in order to push Passover onto Friday-Shabbat (3-4/ april).

We have a short time to consider the challenge and make a choice.  

We can let this opportunity pass us by. As individuals, we can ponder the violence that was done to the Jewish calendar in order to weaken its witness of Yeshua as Messiah… and do nothing. As congregations, we can give our silent agreement to the rabbinic principle established at Yavne – that unity with the Jewish people is more important than standing for Torah truth. As leaders, we can leave the opportunity to some future shepherds who might be willing to pay the price (and reap the rewards) of restoring this lost witness to Israel. 

Or, we can reclaim our calling as Restorers. Bearing the banner of authentic Torah learned in the Spirit at the feet of the Messiah, we the Remnant can "rebuild the ancient ruins" (Isa.58:12, 61:4) of our righteous forefathers, and restore the dating of the Feast as God ordained it – through the witness of the moon.

For perhaps the first time in 1600 years, the Messianic community can unite to celebrate our Festival of Freedom on the same day of the week as its spiritual fulfillment - revisiting the "Sign of Jonah" on their original days. And we can use our (re)discovered Torah-based illustrations to enrich our testimony of Yeshua as the Resurrected Messiah, causing Israel to see Him in new ways through the Friday Passover.

NOTE: This is a huge area for restoration, which cannot be entered lightly.

It will take many participants. Just as Moses himself discovered while judging the LORD's people, it was necessary to appoint others to share the burden of the Seat of Moses (Exod.18:13-26). We have to think of this calendar challenge as a first step in restoring a lost facet of corporate Body life. It relates to the LORD's promise to Israel to "restore your judges as in the beginning" (Isa.1:26). According to that famous chapter, this restoration is a by-product of being spiritually cleansed and purged. The promise is therefore given to a redeemed Israel. In all cases, it will be a community effort.

It will take holiness. If you are called to this rebuilding task, you will need to examine yourself. Moses loved the wayward people he was teaching and judging, to the point where he was willing to take on their punishment (Exod.32:31-32). We cannot be worthy of the Seat of Moses unless we have a heart like Moses. We need to model our character after that humble servant of the LORD who was "faithful in all My house" (Num.12:7, referred to in Heb.3:2,5) Take special note of Moses' everyday intimacy with the Holy One, which enabled him to render righteous decisions for Israel.

It will take spiritual protection. You will need prayer support and Spirit-led feedback. We all know of well-meaning believers who have gone into error by handling the Spiritual Torah in fleshly ways, coming up with exotic, elitist teachings that do not give Life. The apostles also knew such "Torah teachers" (1 Tim.1:3-7), but that didn't stop them from handling the Law "lawfully" (v.8).

It will take time. Passover 2015 is a chance to revive this Jewish apostolic principle in a small way. But small or not, no one should embark on it without first seeking the LORD, to see if He will confirm their readiness for that move.  Please pray about this opportunity. If you are unsure of His answer, take your time: another chance will come in 2019.


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