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14 Reasons Not to Fast on September 14

(posted August 22, 2013)


“Yom Kippur / Day of Atonement: September 14, 2013 (beginning sundown Friday Sept.13).”

So say calendars all over the world. But it’s not true.

If you have taken the Jewish calendar at face value for many years as I have, you might be shocked. How could there be a mistake? The truth is that such mistakes occur rather often.

This year we at RZ present an opportunity for followers of Yeshua who are committed to keeping the Holy Days of the LORD to make an informed choice and observe Yom Kippur on its proper day. Following are reasons why you should.

Reason No. 1: The real Yom Kippur is Sunday, September 15 (beginning Saturday evening Sept.14).

The error is actually due to the calendar declaring the wrong day as the Rosh Hodesh or New Moon (the first of the Seventh Month, designated in Judaism as Tishrei 1). The ancient method of using eyewitnesses who literally saw the Molad (the “reborn” moon, the first visible crescent) was gradually discontinued between 90 and 400 CE, and the pre-calculated calendar took over (first kept secret, but made public domain by R. Hillel II around 350 CE).

This year, the seventh Rosh Hodesh is set by those calculations to fall on Thursday Sept.5 (beginning Wednesday evening, Sept.4). This is marked on calendars as "Tishrei 1", also designated in Torah as Yom Tru’ah, the Feast of Trumpets.[1]

In reality, however, the Molad for the Seventh Month will not appear until the following day – as we show below. Therefore, Yom Kippur (the tenth day of that month – Lev.23:27) is also declared one day too early… along with all the other Holy Days commanded by G-d in this important month.[2]

Reason No. 2: According to the Torah-based method of determining the New Month, the day marked on the Jewish calendar is not sufficient evidence in itself.

The Talmud records that in second Temple times, a new month was established by witnesses who saw the Molad with their own eyes (unless weather conditions prevented it). This testimony was so vital that Molad witnesses were even allowed to break Shabbat (see Talmud Rosh Hashana 21b) in order to reach the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem as quickly as possible. They would traditionally come in pairs, because of the Torah requirement of at least two witnesses for a matter to be confirmed (Deut.19:15).

Since the two-witness principle was widely applied in the New Testament as well (Matt.18:16, 2 Cor.13:1, 1 Tim.5:19), and since we are commanded to “keep and observe” the halachic practice of the second-Temple Pharisees (Matt.23:1-3),[3] Yeshua’s disciples should also require two witnesses to confirm the New Moon, especially in months that contain the LORD’s appointed Holy Convocations.

In fact, all Torah-faithful Jews – Messianic or otherwise – should require a second witness to confirm the testimony of the Jewish calendar.

Reason No. 3: The day marked on the Jewish calendar for Tishrei 1 this year is disqualified ahead of time, based on the second-Temple method of verifying the Molad.

The announcement of the “reborn” moon in ancient times was always retroactive, because of the time it took for the witnesses to see, travel and testify… which had to take place in time for the priests to offer the designated sacrifices to sanctify the Day before the Day was finished (sundown). The moment they declared the Day “sanctified”, the news went out to all the Jewish communities. By that time it was night, which in Jewish terms began a new day – so the “sanctified Day” was actually the one just ended. This time delay was the original reason for the two-day celebration of Yom Ha-Tru’ah (the only Holy Day that occurs on the first day of a month); residents living far from Jerusalem might not even hear that Day 1 had been declared until the morning of Day 2.

Thanks to the benefits of instant information and global connectivity, we no longer have to wait for the news, and in fact we can know far in advance. While that eliminates delays in preparing to celebrate the Molad, it does not change the retroactive effect of sighting it. The first day of this year’s Seventh Month, Yom Ha-Tru’ah will be the day that ends with a visible new crescent.

This can be verified by a simple test used in second Temple times. When eyewitnesses of the Molad were questioned separately by the Sanhedrin (Rosh Hashana 23b), one question to validate their testimonies was: “Did you see the moon in front of the sun, or behind the sun?” Answering “in front” would have disqualified the sighting, since that is the position of the old moon. The judges knew from experience that the new crescent always rises and sets slightly behind the sun. (If you have difficulty following the logic, go here for a full description.)

This fact of astronomy is accompanied by another known to the Sanhedrin (Rosh Hashanah 20b): if the moon passed its “dark” phase before noon, by sunset it would be visible and behind the sun. If the “dark” phase occurred after noon, it would still be invisible by sunset – and also still very slightly ahead of the sun. There were other questions posed to the witnesses, but this twin test of position and timing will suffice.

In examining the Molad for the Seventh Month as “witnessed” by the rabbinic calendar (naming Sept.5, beginning the Day the evening before, Sept.4), we should ask, “By sunset on Sept.5, will the moon be in front of the sun or behind it?” We know the answer in advance, thanks to computer-generated data from NASA, which is based on the moon’s actual movement and is extremely precise. Moreover, NASA is ideal for our purposes as a disinterested witness, since they don’t care which day the New Month begins.

On Thursday Sept.5, the moon passes from “old” to “dark” at 11:36 Thursday morning GMT. This being 1:36 PM Jerusalem time, we have a hint that by sunset that day, the new crescent will not yet be visible and the moon will still be ahead of the sun. Sure enough, NASA confirms it: Jerusalem sunset and moonset will be 18:58 and 18:43 respectively, and the moon will still be invisible as it passes below the horizon. The new crescent will show only the following morning (Friday) with moonrise at 7:02, now 45 minutes behind the sun (6:18). Thus, the correct day for the New Month is Friday, Sept.6.

If you want to cross-check the data for yourself, go here and follow the instructions.

Torah commands us to mark the first of the month by the moon’s renewal. Torah (as applied by the rabbis of Yeshua’s day) also requires two witnesses to confirm the reappearance of the New Moon. The Jewish calendar’s testimony, which sets Tishrei 1 at Sept.4-5, is disqualified by other witnesses who answered the above questions correctly. Counting 10 days from Sept.6 makes the Day of Atonement Sunday Sept.15, starting at the close of Shabbat the 14th.

Reason No. 4: G-d’s word is emphatic that Yom Kippur is to be celebrated exactly on the ordained day.

"Every person who is not afflicted on this very day will be cut off from his people, and any person who does any work on this very day I [the L-RD] will destroy that soul from among his people." (Lev.23:29-30)

This explicit command is one of those which Yeshua said (Matt.5:18) would remain as long as heaven and earth. Any departure from it should disturb those seeking to obey Torah and/or Yeshua.

Reason No. 5: Despite G-d’s command, the rabbinic error in dating Yom Kippur is deliberate.

It would be tempting to dismiss this whole matter as a sin of ignorance on the part of our leaders. Unfortunately, the rabbinic establishment knows that Yom Kippur is being called on the wrong day, and that it is a frequent occurrence (see Reason No.7). The Jewish calendar is dictated by several rules which have the declared purpose of preventing Yom Kippur from ever falling on a Friday or Sunday. (Another forbidden day is Wednesday, for a different reason which we will skip for now.) One such rule extends a full six months backward, allowing Adar 14 (Purim) the possibility to fall on only 4 days of the week, simply because of its influence on the day of the week for Yom Kippur.

Why was this complicated juggling necessary? The reason universally given is that if Yom Kippur should fall on Friday or Sunday, having this fast day next to a Shabbat would result in unmanageable conflicts in halacha (observance requirements for both days). The Chabad site adds the idea that two days of rest in a row would cause burials to be delayed beyond the mandated 2-day limit. (see, footnote 6, probably based on Rosh Hashana 20a)

Reason No. 6: The declared reasons for deliberately manipulating the day on which Yom Kippur falls do not stand up to scrutiny.

Without debating the details of that supposed conflict, the Talmud itself indicates that there was no such conflict in second Temple times. Yom Kippur could and did fall on both Friday and Sunday. (See BT Sukkah 54b and Mishnah Shabbat 15:5)

It would clearly be a top rabbinic priority to guide the people through the fine points of observance in these special cases – Shabbat preparations, burying the dead, and any other questions raised by Yom Kippur. And indeed it was a priority. The above Talmudic passages hint that special halacha was firmly in place for observing Yom Kippur when it fell before or after Shabbat; specific rulings are mentioned quite matter-of-factly. One rabbi insisted that there had been no delay of the Seventh Molad since the time of Ezra, because “there was no need” (Rosh Hashana 19b).

Therefore, preventing Tishrei 1 from falling on a Wednesday or Friday – as well as preventing Adar 14 from falling on a Shabbat or a Monday – is claimed to be necessary in order to avoid a dilemma… which does not exist. (The real reason remains obscure.)

Given the extreme seriousness of G-d’s command to observe Yom Kippur “on the very day” it occurs, nothing can justify moving it to a different day – certainly not a theoretical problem already resolved by rabbis 2000 years ago.

Reason No. 7: The day marked on the Jewish calendar for Tishrei 1 this year is disqualified, based on the calendar’s own rules for changing the day.

These rules are very complicated; they include four requirements for “dechiyot” (postponements) which can result in delaying the Seventh Month beyond its true Molad for one or even two days. The Dechiyot can be reviewed quickly here. ( This page suggests that such postponements occur 43 percent of the time, but an orthodox forum estimates the frequency at 6 out of 10 times! ( )

However, neither mathematicians nor rabbis mention any rule that allows setting Tishrei 1 one day before its time. On the contrary, the Dechiyah known as “Lo ADU Rosh” specifies that if the day falls naturally on Friday (as this year) it is supposed to be postponed to Shabbat.

The reason it is declared prematurely instead is no doubt explained by the rabbinic community, perhaps due to its effect on the dating for the following year (one of the more obscure Dechiyot rules). But an examination of the Four Dechiyot reveals that all of this convoluted day-swapping is ultimately in order to satisfy the first Dechiya: under no circumstances can Yom Kippur ever be allowed to fall on Friday or Sunday, a non-negotiable condition which has never been satisfactorily explained (see the previous Reason).

Reason No. 8: The manipulation of Yom Kippur in the past destroyed faithfulness to truth and freedom of conscience among Torah-faithful Jews.

The most notorious of these incidents (around 90 CE) is recorded in Rosh Hashana 25a-b. It was triggered when the head of the Sanhedrin in Yavne at the time, Gamaliel II, accepted the Molad testimony of false witnesses – an action that the Talmud reports without comment. (Note: This was not the teacher of the apostle Paul, mentioned in Acts 5:34, 22:3; that was Gamaliel I, who lived two generations earlier.)

The circumstances described in the Talmud were apparently similar to this year: the Dechiyah rules were applied in reverse, and Tishrei 1 was declared one day too early. The resulting protest from Gamaliel’s colleagues was silenced with what might today be called a spiritual guilt trip: to question this decision would be equivalent to questioning all halachic decisions as far back as Moses himself.

One sage, R. Yehoshua by name, was nevertheless determined to follow his conscience and observe Yom Kippur on the correct day. Although R. Yehoshua was actually Rabban Gamaliel’s teacher, the latter ordered him to appear before the Sanhedrin and publicly desecrate that day. After agonizing over the dilemma, R. Yehoshua submitted to the humiliation. He was then commended for becoming the “disciple” of his former student by knowingly following him into error.

Reason No. 9: Gamaliel’s Yom Kippur decision was used to override G-d’s command, force outward conformity and pervert Torah truth – a multiple error that is about to be repeated.

The Talmud justifies Gamaliel’s actions. The final answer is put into the mouth of R. Akiva, who offered “comfort” to R. Yehoshua by assuring him that the Torah mandates the leaders of Israel to “ fix the festivals, even if you err inadvertently, even if you err deliberately, even if you are misled.” (my emphasis)

This strange “Torah teaching” was based on three verses (Lev.22:31, 23:2, 23:4) with one common word taken out of context. (You can read the passage, Rosh Hashana 25a-b, in English here - That single word is used as a skeleton to support a fictitious Torah “quote” that (to put it mildly) opens the door to arbitrary decisions on any Torah matter. Yet it is accepted as Torah support for Gamaliel’s error – and for his humiliation of his former teacher, a respected sage who felt honor-bound to stand for the truth.

Thus all Jews attending the Yavne rabbinic school, and all Talmudic students from that day on, have absorbed the lesson that there is nothing wrong with Jewish leaders deliberately setting wrong days for the L-RD’s Holy Convocations, expecting everyone to comply, and publicly humiliating dissenters (even scholars wiser than themselves). It’s not surprising that as time went on, Gamaliel took still greater liberties in consolidating his personal power and eliminating his rivals… including a decision to silence the very Voice of G-d (the infamous Tanur Akhnai ruling).

Meanwhile, this helps explain why there is no Torah community rebellion today among those who are aware of the multiplied errors in the Jewish calendar. And even if R. Akiva’s explanation is not satisfactory, few rabbis are prepared to suffer the fate of R. Yehoshua.

Gamaliel set a clear example in setting aside the commandment of G-d for the sake of human tradition (Mark 7:8-9), and R. Yehoshua set a clear example in desiring men’s approval more than G-d’s (Jn.12:43). While disciples of the Talmud have accepted those priorities as proper, disciples of Yeshua cannot. Our people are once again being called to observe a false “Yom Kippur” in order to prove whose disciples they are, which gives us an opportunity to stand for our Rabbi’s teaching and for Torah truth.

Reason No. 10: There is rabbinic consensus that the calendar from the 4th century CE is becoming increasingly unreliable, but nothing is being done.

The Talmud encouraged sanctifying the New Moon by observation even if it wasn’t necessary (Rosh Hashana 20a). But some halachic authorities have pointed out that eventually the Jewish people will have no choice but to return to a witness-based declaration of the new moons, because of a built-in “drift” in the 1600-year-old calculation system which by now is considerable. For details on this dilemma, see this page for example, written by a rabbinic group attempting to revive the Sanhedrin court.

Notice the reason why nothing concrete is being done to restore the more reliable and more praiseworthy system of Molad witnesses. As this group of orthodox leaders expresses it: “…such a step should be [sic] unacceptable to the public and spiritual leadership.” There is no evidence that the public would not welcome a return to this ancient Jewish custom; perhaps the opposite is true.[6] The obstacle is more likely the fear of contradicting the established leadership.

Also realized (but not mentioned) is that returning to reliance on eyewitnesses would revive an ancient dilemma: what to do when the witnesses give truthful but inconvenient testimony, so that they must be “intimidated”[7] into changing their story? (Rosh Hashana 20a) It’s not likely that modern, educated Jews would unite behind a public display of falsified testimony. They would certainly demand to know what constitutes the “emergency” (in the words of Rabba b. Shmuel) that requires such drastic measures. Why did no one before 70 CE worry about Yom Kippur falling on those dreaded days of Friday or Sunday?

As disciples of Yeshua, we are in a position of enviable freedom to follow the Holy Spirit as He speaks to our conscience. There is no public pressure preventing our community from restoring abused areas of Torah observance such as this.

Reason No. 11: There is a popular rabbinic opinion that the failing calendar will be rectified by the Messiah Himself.

For example, in Chabad’s explanation of how the Jewish months are declared, there is an implication that the originator of the calendar expected Messiah to put an end to its use: “When Hillel established the perpetual calendar, he sanctified every Rosh Chodesh until Moshiach will come and reestablish the Sanhedrin.”

Since at least some of the Jewish leadership considers this restoration a task for the Messiah, we who know the Messiah and are zealous for Torah are in a position to seek Him on how to do this. Certainly if Yeshua were here in the flesh, He would specifically condemn the wrong declaration of Yom Kippur as an example of “transgressing the commandment of G-d for the sake of your tradition.” (Matt.15:3)

If He chose, He could call together a council to restore this and other upside-down priorities and neglected commands for our own community. Maybe He will do a greater thing than that, something no rabbi would dare to hope for: give lots of people the same idea at the same time, in order to demonstrate the oneness of His obedient Body!

Reason No. 12: There are times when those who know G-d and follow His Messiah must take a stand that separates them from the Jewish community.

We are all familiar with the need to suffer the effects of separation from the Jewish community because of our confession of Yeshua as Messiah of Israel and Son of G-d. “So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” (Heb.13:13) Some truths are simply non-negotiable whatever the cost.

There are similar cases when we must take a stand against perversion of the laws G-d gave to Israel. Most of Yeshua’s confrontations with the rabbis of His day were for this very purpose (Matt.5, 6, 15, 23, to list only a few).

The command to observe Yom Kippur on its proper day is emphasized by G-d’s word (see Reason No. 4). Consider that G-d, knowing the Messiah would come and fulfill this ordinance by becoming our Atonement, nevertheless underlined two Yom Kippur requirements – “afflicting” your soul and refraining from all work – “on this very day” as “an eternal ordinance” (chukat olam, Lev.23:31). If our faithfulness to this command causes a break with the rest of the Jewish people, we will have the distinction of being those for whom Psalm 119 was written: “Remove from me reproach and contempt, for I have kept Your testimonies… I will speak of Your testimonies before kings and will not be ashamed.” (v.22, 46)

There is another motivation for parting ways on this issue, which relates to our witness concerning the Messiah. When we come together as a distinct community to obey G-d in faith, we more closely follow the example of the first-century Jewish believers, who were numbered by the “ten thousands” and who were “all zealous for the Law” (Acts 21:21). This coming Yom Kippur is an opportunity to demonstrate the zeal needed to restore it to its proper day.

Reason No. 13: One of the callings of the Body of Messiah, after being filled with the Spirit, is to restore faithfulness to Torah in general.

The first public testimony given by the Spirit-filled apostles was entirely drawn from Torah and Prophets. More noteworthy, Peter urged these crowds of devout Jews to not only repent of their sins and be immersed, but also to “be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40). This was a direct reference to Deut.5:5 and 20, where G-d predicts that Israel will turn away from Him and His Law, becoming a “perverse generation”. The apostles were witnesses of the perversity as they listened to the Torah teachers sidestepping challenges from the Lord (Matt.21:23-27), putting people out of the synagogues for telling the truth (Jn.9:13-34), and trying to cover up the fact of the Messiah’s Resurrection (Matt.28:11-15, Acts 4:1-17).

So the apostles, freshly filled with the Holy Spirit, saw their mandate as turning their generation back to faithfulness to G-d’s Law, which would then lead them to salvation through Messiah (as Paul explicitly wrote: Gal.3:24, 2 Tim.3:15).

This effect of the Spirit was prophesied by Ezekiel for the last days as well: “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ezek.36:27) We can demonstrate that we are filled with the Spirit by restoring careful observance of Yom Kippur.

Reason No. 14: No leaders in the Torah community will dare to call for the required changes in order to restore faithful Yom Kippur observance.

The Sanhedrin was the “seat of Moses” for Torah Jews everywhere. As we have seen, the Molad witnesses were required to testify in their court concerning what they had seen, while Jews the world over waited for the traditional announcement from Jerusalem: “Mekudash,Mekudash, Mekudash!” ([The day is] Sanctified, Sanctified, Sanctified” as a New Moon, a Holy Convocation.)

As perverse as the Sanhedrin was in their day, the apostles still recognized their authority to render judgments in Law-related matters. Note that they answered multiple commands from the court to justify their Torah teaching (Acts 4:7, 5:26-28, 7:1), and that they appealed to them to judge rightly (Acts 4:19, 23:1). They even accepted without protest the Sanhedrin’s punishment of them for disobeying (including imprisonment – Acts 5:17-18, and beatings – Acts 5:40-41). Yeshua’s disciples stood their ground on the truth, but without dismissing the authority of “the seat of Moses” as Yeshua had commanded (Matt.23:2).

If the Sanhedrin still existed today, we would have a clear example to follow. But this central authority, which tried to continue in Yavne after Jerusalem was destroyed (70 CE), gradually lost strength until it finally disbanded around 350 CE.

Jews then turned to regional authorities, first in Babylon and Tiberius; later in France, Egypt and Spain; then came an assortment of Italian, Turkish, German and Polish sages, all of which resulted in divergent practices among Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yemenite and Ethiopian Jews – as well as other differences between Hasidim and Mitnagdim (roughly the Torah equivalent of charismatic and non-charismatic streams).

Modern Israel attempted to establish a central authority in the Chief Rabbinate, but even the concession of appointing two “Chief Rabbis” to accommodate the gap between Ashkenazi and Sephardi practice did not restore a central authority as it was hoped; the appointments became so political that today few Jews appeal to them for Torah judgments.

In the end, halachic authority settled on individual rabbis who guided their own communities, especially among ultra-orthodox Jews who sometimes disagree on halachic fine points sharply enough to denounce one another. And even in these cases, the announcement of a new halachic decision is quite rare and usually controversial. Today’s “Torah authorities” restrict their rulings to a recorded decision set down in history by earlier sages. Almost no one dares to suggest that any of those rulings should be overturned to accommodate modern needs – much less to correct an old error.

Curiously, a new ‘Sanhedrin’ has declared itself and has tabled the idea of restoring the original Molad customs, before the calendar calculation method fails us altogether (see Reason No.10); yet even while taking on the title, they decline to take up this role which traditionally belonged to the Sanhedrin.

In short, the “seat of Moses” has been unoccupied for quite some time. The Jewish people are like “sheep without a shepherd” even in the earthly sense of trying to keep the covenant. G-d has promised to rectify that (Isa.1:26). Meanwhile we who have the Holy Spirit can rely on Him to write His laws on our hearts and minds (Jer.31:33, Heb.v.32), and restore specific commandments that have been lost or perverted.

The calendar challenge in general, and Yom Kippur dating in particular, presents an opportunity for Messiah’s community to point the people back to true Torah observance… which will ready them to receive their Messiah (see the previous Reason),


Dealing with the Implications

Many readers will be wondering how to respond to this new discovery, especially if they are accustomed to following the Jewish calendar. If we are going to face this situation 6 years out of every 10 [Reason No.7], we need to build community consensus on how to apply the above truths on an ongoing basis.

Yom Kippur will always present a unique challenge in the calendar controversy. Our changes in observing the other Holy Days of the Seventh Month[2] are not nearly as disruptive:

Yom Tru’ah is a two-day Shabbat by rabbinic decree and universal agreement, so moving the Day from Thursday to Friday for example (as this year) will coincide with the second-day observance.

Sukkahs are built ahead of time and often remain for a day or two afterwards, so those delaying their observance will again be in step with the community (except for the days they refrain from work).

Even Shemini Atzeret, if delayed a day, will still coincide with either the Diaspora celebration (one extra day) or with the Israeli custom of Hakafot Hashniyot (repeating the holiday celebration for the wider public the evening after the holiday ends).

Not so with Yom Kippur. Only one day is observed, and its customs are strikingly unique, causing deviation to be more noticeable, and potentially misunderstood by onlookers.

This might intimidate those who are integrated into the wider Jewish community – particularly in Israel, where the country literally shuts down for the Fast and even secular Jews participate. On the other hand, it may not faze believers who are already somewhat isolated from the Jewish community in their daily lives. Both sides need to invest some thoughtful, prayerful consideration on how to relate to our family, friends and neighbors who will be observing Yom Kippur on the wrong day.

We need to make every effort not to cause offense in the way we behave while the rest of Israel is fasting and we are not (1 Cor.10:32, 2 Cor.6:3). We also want to avoid the impression that we are ignoring Yom Kippur when we are actually trying to observe it more faithfully (Matt.5:17, Rom.14:16).

But because of the solemn warnings about observing Yom Kippur “on the tenth of the month, on this very day”, we must declare the correct day (and reject the wrong day) in our words and actions – even if our testimony causes offense. Our words include those that should not be said, such as the “amen” to a blessing meant for Yom Kippur that is recited on the wrong day.

Feedback, comments and questions are welcome. If there is enough interest, we are prepared to organize and host an online discussion group, Lord willing. Write to Hannah Weiss: hannah [at]


(1) We do not call the first day of the Seventh Month “Rosh Hashana” or the New Year; the L-RD declared Nisan 1 to be “the beginning of months, the first month of the year for you” – Exod.12:2. See a full discussion of the implications, and suggestions on how to observe the true New Year, in our series "Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim".

We are likewise committed to calling the months by their numbers as Torah does, rather than by their “Hebrew” names, which are actually not Hebrew but Babylonian (and in some cases are honoring pagan gods, violating the command in Exod.23:13). We do use the familiar month-names at times to communicate more clearly, as in the above paragraph.

(2) The question might be asked: Why are we focusing on the mistake in declaring the day for Yom Kippur, when the other Holy Days in the Seventh Month are likewise wrong? This is true, and we should make similar efforts to observe them on their proper days this year, which are as follows:

Yom Tru’ah (Trumpets) - Friday Sept.6 (beginning sundown Thursday Sept.5)

Sukkot (Tabernacles) - Friday Sept.20 (beginning sundown Thursday Sept.19) through Thursday Sept.26 (Hoshana Rabba)

Shemini Atzeret (popularly called Simchat Torah, or Rejoicing in the Law) - sundown Thursday Sept.26 until sundown Friday Sept.27

(3) Torah-observant or pro-Torah Messianic believers generally assume the rabbinic establishment of today to be the spiritual descendants of the Pharisees referred to by Yeshua in Matt.23:1-2. Therefore they are understood to be the spiritual heirs to the Lord’s command, “What they tell you, do and observe.” They conclude that the Lord instructed His disciples in these last days to receive halachic guidance from the modern rabbinic community. We ourselves once believed and practiced the same. But we recently discovered that our first assumption was wrong.

Many core values and teachings of the second-Temple Pharisees, some of which were recorded in the New Testament and others in the Mishnah, were rejected or revised by the rabbis who came after them – beginning with the generation that witnessed the destruction of the Temple (70 CE). Later in history, rabbinic schools broke with Temple-era Pharisaic teaching in other vital areas as well, replacing it with teaching that deviated progressively farther from Torah and Prophets, and even incorporating ideas from pagan religions.

In short, today’s rabbinic establishment is connected to the Pharisees of Yeshua’s day only in the most superficial way, and much of what they tell us “to keep and observe” bears little resemblance to the Torah observance and teachings familiar to the Lord and His apostles.

With that as the context, we repeatedly make a distinction in this article between second-Temple teachings and later teachings by the rabbis at Yavne. Although only two generations had passed, the spiritual gap was already significant; and while the Torah teaching of Yeshua’s day was fatally flawed in certain aspects (Matt.23:3-36), what came later would have scandalized even Yeshua’s rabbinic opponents. (Our research on this is still in progress; more to come as the Lord allows.)

(4) This is easier to grasp if you picture the “dark” moon, which not really dark, but is lined up with the sun from our viewpoint on earth – the side catching the sunlight is facing the sun, away from us. It “reappears” the following night because it begins to lag behind the sun, and the changed angle lets us see a sliver of the part that faces the sun (viewed by us from the side).

Each night the lit portion we can see “grows” as the moon lags farther and farther behind the sun, until it is opposite the sun and “full” (with the earth standing between the moon and the sun, we can see the entire reflected surface). The moon continues to lose the race with the sun, rising and setting later each night, and finally “catches up” by backing up – rising and setting just ahead of the sun, and presenting a sliver of light from the side facing it. This is the “old” moon, about to go “dark” and be “reborn” as it lines up again with the sun. If the explanation didn't help, watch this NASA animation.

(5) To determine the correct day of the New Moon for yourself:

Choose a worldwide calculator, such as (scroll over to Israel and “pin” the map to see the times; then click on the dates in 2013: Sept.4, 5, 6). The site provides sunset and moonset times, along with helpful diagrams of the moon’s appearance each night. At this site, the old moon is labeled the “morning crescent”, the invisible moon is “new”, and the “evening crescent” is what Jews call the Molad (“reborn” or reappearing moon).

You will see that on Sept.4, the moon will set nearly an hour before the sun does, and on the 5th it still sets around 15 minutes ahead of the sun. Sometime on the 6th (during daylight in Israel) the moon passes its “dark” phase (in a straight line with the sun) and only then does it become the Molad – a visibly “new” crescent setting after the sun.

If desired, you can check another site, such as the US Navy which offers worldwide sun and moon data, (you need to fill in the latitude and longitude for Jerusalem: 35.1 E and 31.1 N, 2 hours east of GMT). Here the terms are more precise: the old moon on the 4th is called the “waning crescent with 1% illumination”, the dark moon on the 5th is called “new”, and on the 6th is listed the “waxing crescent with 1% illumination”, our Molad. Thus by the testimony of two witnesses, you can conclude that Sept.6 (beginning the evening of the 5th) is indeed the first day of the new month.

(6) With regard to public receptivity, there is actually a significant amount of discussion online about the possibility and desirability of reinstating the eyewitness method of declaring new Jewish months. Most conclude, however, that the current rabbinic establishment would never allow reinstatement of the observation-based Jewish calendar, because in today’s open society they would have to relinquish the right to manipulate eyewitness testimony.

There are isolated Jewish groups practicing New Moon observation and following an independent calendar. The most notable is the Karaite community, which (ironically) has adopted the original rabbinic requirements of second Temple days, despite their commitment to ignore rabbinic tradition.

(7) This contradictory approach to determining the Molad dates back to the end of the first century CE, preserved in the Talmudic tractate Rosh Hashana (20a to 25b). There we find some of the greatest names in post-Temple Judaism justifying a system that “encouraged” eyewitnesses to freely testify whatever the Sanhedrin wanted them to see. The Hebrew term in Rosh Hashana 20a is “me’ayemin al ha-edim” (“intimidating” or “threatening” the witnesses.)

This is only one example showing the fundamental change in Pharisaic teaching after the Temple’s destruction. The rabbinic community, despite abandoning or perverting the customs handed down by their predecessors, still confidently asserts that they are preserving an unbroken chain of Torah transmission. For further observations on this phenomenon, see Note 3 above.

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