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The Coming "Calendar War" of 2013

This article "preempts", if you will, heated discussions about the Hebrew calendar for 2013 which are sure to come as people realize how wrong the 2013 rabbinic calendar is! The published rabbinic calendar has the 1st day of Nisan on March 12, 2013 (beginning at sunset March 11th), but the moon will have only gone into conjunction over night between March 11 and March 12, so March 12th can't be "1 Nisan"! So what's up?

What's up is this: The published rabbinic calendar doesn't rely on the moon, at least not entirely, and if they let 1 Nisan fall on the day it should (by the moon), then Yom Kippur, 7 months later, will fall on a SUNDAY and according to the rabbis, that is forbidden! So the rabbinic calendar "decrees" by "rule" that 1 Nisan will be March 12th so Yom Kippur will therefore fall on a SATURDAY.

These "rules" established to "force" High Holy Days on particular days of the week is NOT Scriptural, so we at The Refiner's Fire choose not to follow the published rabbinic calendar. It's as simple as that! Instead, we rely on a moon-based calendar, and observe the High Holy Days on the days on which they fall! However, our moon-based calendar is not what you might think! We do not rely on the "sighting of the crescent", as that is just as wrong as the "rule" based calendar of the rabbis! In the following paragraphs, we will explain why this is.

The issue of the calendar is important because YHWH commanded that His Feasts be observed "at the right time":

Exodus 12:14 "This will be a day for you to remember and celebrate as a festival to ADONAI; from generation to generation you are to celebrate it by a perpetual regulation.(CJB)

Exodus 13:10 "Therefore you are to observe this regulation at its proper time, year after year."(CJB)

Exodus 23:14 "Three times a year, you are to observe a festival for me."(CJB)

Leviticus 23:37 "These are the designated times of ADONAI that you are to proclaim as holy convocations..." (CJB)

Though it is clearly important to observe the High Holy Days at their right time, it is not a salvation issue, so we do not argue one calendar over another. That being said, we feel strongly that the "rules" used by the rabbis is wrong, as is waiting for the "sighted crescent". With this stage now set, for those interested in the rationale behind our calendar, you are invited to read on.

In the table below, in the first column, you will find the 5 major festivals where "High Holy Days" are commanded. High Holy Days are those special Sabbath days which are to be holy convocations. Unlike the weekly Sabbath, which falls from Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset on our modern Gregorian calendar, the High Holy Days are specified as particular days of the Hebrew month and can be any day of the week, including the weekly Shabbat should they fall on a Shabbat.

The 2nd column is the date in the Hebrew calendar on which the festivals fall. The 3rd column, "Gregorian Month", is the equivalent date in the familiar World civil calendar in use since the year 1582, and is the date on which the festival falls by proper reckoning of the Hebrew month. It is this column which contains the dates on which to observe the High Holy Days. Then there is a column for the "Day of week", and finally the date according to the rabbinic calendar. In all cases, you can see that the rabbinic calendar for 2013 indicates a day earlier, and hence one weekday earlier on which the festival should fall.

Hebrew Month
Gregorian Month
Day of week
Passover 15-21 Nisan 27-Mar-13
Shavuot 6 Sivan (Note 1) 16-May-13 Thursday 15-May-13
New Year 1 Tishri 6-Sep-13 Friday 5-Sep-13
Yom Kippur 10 Tishri 15-Sep-13 Sunday 14-Sep-13
Sukkot 15-22 Tishri 20-Sep-13
Friday 19-Sep-13
Note 1: Rabbinically, Shavuot always falls on 6 Sivan, but it is possible to fall on 5 Sivan. In 2013 Shavuot falls on 6 Sivan.

Please note Yom Kippur in the table above. Note the day of the week on which it falls - Sunday. Then look at Yom Kippur in the rabbinic column - September 14th, which is a Saturday. This is the crux of the matter! Only by rabbinic rules, Yom Kippur is not permitted to fall on a Sunday (or a Friday) as "back-to-back" Sabbaths are not permitted. So for 2013, the Rabbinic calendar forces the 1st day of Nissan to 12 Mar instead of 13 Mar. Thus Yom Kippur (rabbinically) is made to, indeed "forced" to, fall on Saturday, 14 Sep, instead of when it actually falls on Sunday, 15 Sep. This is not Scriptural, so our preferred calendar reflects the actual date and timing of the Hebrew months by conjunction of the moon and the Holy days fall where they fall.

Important Clues

Before I continue with the details, let's discuss for a moment the visibility of the crescent moon for the Hebrew month of Nisan in 2013. The moon will be in conjunction with the sun at 9:51 PM, Jerusalem time, on March 11th. (Please don't get ahead of me and argue "...but the conjunction can't be seen..." - I know that.) Clearly, at sunset, March 11th, the new moon will not be seen, but since the conjunction is so late on March 11th, the new moon will likely also not be seen at sunset on Mar 12th! But at sunset March 13th, on which the rabbinic calendar will say is the beginning of the 3rd of Nisan, the moon will definitely be visible as the young moon it still is, but it will be visibly young enough that it can't be the 3rd of Nisan, yet old enough that it can't be the 1st of Nisan! No, sunset in Jerusalem, March 13th, the moon instead will be a visible sign that the date is transitioning from the 1st of Nisan to the 2nd of Nisan! This will cause great controversy, because not only will the rabbinic calendar say sunset March 13th becomes the 3rd of Nisan, but for "crescentists", who insist the Hebrew month does not start till the "sighting of the crescent", there is a chance that sunset, 13 Mar, only marks the 1st of Nisan as this is the first night the crescent may be visible! Neither the rabbinic nor the crescentist calendar will be right, but it will certainly lead to many, many arguments! On the other hand, if atmospheric conditions are ideal in Israel at sunset, March 12th, the thin crescent may be spotted! The moon will be very low, and the dusk very bright in the short window of opportunity when the crescent might be seen.

Not to belabor the point, but if you don't choose the correct day for the 1st day of a new Hebrew month, then the middle of the month is wrong! Since the "month", as described by the moon is either 29 or 30 days (it averages 29.53 days), then the middle of the month is either the 14th or the 15th day of the month - it can't be any other day. That means that a full or nearly full moon, must rise at the sunset of the 14th! It also means that the moon will be seen to pass through its full phase from the 14th to the 15th or the 15th to the 16th! It also means that if the moon rises at sunset on the 14th and the moon is already past full, then you know you got the wrong day for the beginning of the month! It also means that if the moon rises well after the sunset, and your calendar says it is only the 14th, then you got the wrong day for the start of the month!

Since Passover (Pesach), by command, (See Exodus 12, and Leviticus 23:5) , falls after sunset on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan, a 30-day month, then you should see, at the sunset on the 14th, a full or nearly full moon rising! The important condition is that if you have chosen the correct day for the beginning of the month, then the moon will be seen to pass through its "full" phase as the Hebrew day passes from the 14th to the 15th becoming full sometime on the 15th. But if you have chosen incorrectly the 1st day of the month, then the moon will be observed to become full on the wrong day! This is also important at Sukkot which occurs in the month of Tishri, also a 30-day month on the Hebrew Calendar. Sukkot begins on the 15th of Tishri, so sunset on the 14th of Tishri you should always see a nearly full moon rising at sunset! (If you have ever made the effort to observe this for yourself, it is a beautiful and awe-inspiring event! At sunset on 14 Nisan (Passover), or 14 Tishri (Sukkot), turn to the east and see the very nearly full moon rising! What a blessing to have a "sign" of the High Holy Day!

Note: Some will argue, quite correctly, that the moon's synodic period or "lunation" (the time it takes for one complete orbit as seen from the earth) varies from 28.9 days to 30.15 days and question how we can say there will always be a nearly full moon rising at sunset of the 14th day of the month! The answer is this: Though the above statement is correct that a lunation varies from 28.9 to 30.15 days, the number of days between any two lunations is between 29.27 and 29.83 days! So you see that 1/2 of 29.27 is about 14.6 and 1/2 of 29.83 is about 14.9, and both 14.6 and 14.9 is "in" the 15th of the month, so the moon will always be seen passing through its full phase on the 15th day of the Hebrew month.

The actual "time" of full, may happen early on the 15th or it may happen late on the 15th, but the actual "time" of "full" is not discernible by the human eye, and is not really important anyway. The point is that the moon will be full sometime on the 15th of the Hebrew month - if you started counting from the correct day! Still others will argue that since you can't "see" when "full" actually happens, how can you possibly know on what day "full" is? After all, the moon "looks full" for 2 or even 3 days! Well, one can see the moon rise before sunset and therefore know the moon is not yet full, or you can see the moon rise well after sunset and know that it is already past full. You can also see the full or nearly full moon setting! If the apparently full moon is still above the west horizon at the next sunrise, you know it has passed full! Conversely, if the apparently full moon is seen to set before the next sunrise, you know the moon has not yet reached "full". (In both cases, the rising or setting of a nearly full moon, some variations are possible, for example a completely "full" moon, can rise before sunset. This does not mean the general rule is wrong. It only means that the observer needs to be aware of additional clues to know whether or not the moon is before, at, or past full.)

These key clues - witnesses if you will - of just what day it is by observing the moon are completely missed by most people today because we "modern" people don't need to know these things! All we have to do is look at a calendar! The "art" of watching the "moon clues" is completely lost. But "key moon clues" also play an important role in knowing which day is the 1st day of a new month. More on this later.

Armed with this new knowledge that the moon gives away its age, let's examine the two contending calendars for the month of Nisan in 2013. For "our" calendar, Nisan 14 falls on March 26th (so sunset March 26th becomes 15 Nisan), and the nearly full moon will be seen rising at sunset that evening. But in the rabbinic calendar, 14 Nisan falls on 25 Mar, and the moon will be seen to rise an hour and a half before sunset, and clearly not becoming full that evening when their calendar says it has become the 15th of Nisan!

OK so what does this mean? It means that if you wish to observe the rabbinic calendar for 2013, you will be observing Passover decidedly on the wrong night being a day early, but worse, all the following High Holy Days will be on the wrong days as well, all the way to the end of the year! If instead you observe the Holy Days by our recommended calendar, (which by the way is not "ours"), you will find that the signs in the sun, moon, and stars, indicate the correct days as YHWH intended, and the High Holy Days will be on the proper days in accordance with Exodus 13:10.

On with the details

As mentioned above, the New Moon will be in conjunction with the sun on March 11, 2013, at 9:51 PM Jerusalem time. This means that the conjunction happens when Adar 29 has already ended, so it means that Adar in the year 2013 must include a 30th day. Now this is not uncommon for two consecutive Hebrew months to have 30 days, so Adar having 30 days to be followed by Nisan with 30 days is OK. But explaining this is outside the scope of this article.

But the rabbis ignore what is happening to the moon, and opt to call sunset March 11th, the 1st of Nisan, keeping Adar (the month just ending) as having 29 days. By doing so, they have "declared" the beginning of a new month, even though, by the moon, the old month (Adar) has not yet ended! As indicated at the start, the reason they do this is to force Yom Kippur to fall on a Saturday.

Instead, this is what should happen: Since the conjunction of the moon happens after sunset on Adar 29 (March 11th), an additional day to Adar is required. By adding a 30th day to Adar, then at sunset on 30 Adar (March 12th), it is now becomes 1 Nisan, the moon is now "new", and should be visible at sunset! Now all would be well and good, except at sunset on March 12th, even though the moon is new, and is in the sky close to the horizon at sunset in Jerusalem, it might or might not be seen! If not seen, it will cause the crescentists to wait another day, till sunset March 13th, whereupon the moon will assuredly be "seen", and the crescentists will declare "1 Nisan" to have just begun - but a day late! As indicated above though, the very appearance of the moon (its altitude at first visibility, and "thickness" of the crescent) at sunset on March 132th will give away the fact that both the rabbinical calendar, and the crescentists were wrong!

Indeed, here is what the moon will look like at sunset from Jerusalem on March 13th, 2013:

Crescent moon, at sunset from Jerusalem, March 13, 2013

Fig 1: Crescent moon, at sunset from Jerusalem, March 13, 2013

To the skilled observer, this presents a couple of "red flags". First, the thickness of the crescent is "too thick" to be a "new moon". It is "new", but the moon itself is indicating that it is "older" than it should be to be the "1st" day of the month. Second, the altitude of the moon when it becomes visible after sunset will be too high to be a "first visible new moon". Both of these factors should indicate that the moon being observed is not a "first visible crescent", rather, the moon is clearly in its 2nd day. (I know this is hard to understand, as most "observers" have no clue what a "new moon" should look like, so I will ask the reader to accept this simply as fact.)

Just to be clear, the appearance of the moon the previous sunset is presented in the next image - March 12, 2013, again from Jerusalem, when the sun has gone sufficiently below the horizon for any chance that the new moon might be seen:

Crescent moon, at sunset from Jerusalem, March 12, 2013

Fig 2: Crescent moon, at sunset from Jerusalem, March 12, 2013

Here, the very thin sliver of the New Moon crescent is actually present, above the horizon, and it is indicating that the new month has begun - but the moon is below 4 degrees above the horizon at the time the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon, and the sky on the western horizon, near the moon, will still be very bright, and this sliver of the moon will be very hard to see! (The images of Figures 1 and 2 themselves do not reflect the brightness of the sky around the moon at the time. The illustrations only show the way the crescents will look.)

The point is this: Figure 2, above, shows the appearance of the moon at sunset on March 12th from Jerusalem, but it is not at all certain it will be seen! But our calendar takes this into account, and identifies sunset, March 12th, as the beginning of Nisan anyway. This night, sunset March 12th, becomes 1 Nisan. But the Rabbinical calendar says sunset March 12th is becoming 2 Nisan!

Not convinced?

Let us then turn to these objections: 1) "...but the (lunar) conjunction can't be seen!" 2) "The Bible says the New Moon is determined by the sighting of the crescent!" And 3) "But the sighting of the New Crescent is easy, anyone can determine the new month by simply looking up and seeing the crescent!"

Let me take the 2nd question first. You will find nowhere in Scripture where YHWH prescribes a method for determining the day of the New Moon. Period. You also will find no requirement that the new month be determined by the sighting of the crescent! The idea that the new month is determined by the sighting of the crescent is likely a myth, perpetuated by centuries of misunderstanding about the recorded motions of the moon, and historical texts which, though they describe the "human witnesses" sighting of the crescent, do not describe the fact that the "witnesses" were doing nothing more than confirming the month had begun. Without elaborting fully, the fundamental reason "sighting the crescent" is not correct in determining the day of the new month is this: Sighting the crescent is but a single "heavenly" witness. No one, skilled at observing the motions of the sun, moon, and stars would conclude that observing a crescent moon on one evening would be sufficient by itself to indicate a new month has begun.

Now for the 1st question. Think about it for a minute! The central objection is that "we can't see the conjunction." But who says we need to "see" the moment of conjunction to know when it happened? We don't need to see the moment of conjunction! We only need "bound" it! Just as in the discussion above about "moment" of full moon, which we also cannot be "seen", yet we can "bound" it by other signs which ARE visible, and in the case of the new moon, by meticulously watching the old moon and the new, we, as well as the ancient people, had already available the means to "bound" when conjunction took place! And I believe this is just what the Priests of old did! They knew this secret, and they knew full well, as a result, which day would be the new month, up to a week early! The idea that you needed "witnesses" to come forth stating they had "sighted" the new moon, was only an appeasement, if you will, to give the public a "say" in the event. (Appeasing the public would not be unprecedented!)

Given that the new, thin crescent is visible after conjunction and the old, thin crescent visible at sunrise a few days earlier meant that the moon was about to go into conjunction, skilled observers could easily "bound" the day of the conjunction! Therefore I posit that the ancients could tell when the old month ended and the new month began by simply knowing the last day the old moon was seen, and buy using tables of accumulated observations, they could predict when they would again see the "new" crescent of the new month. It is only modern man who is too lazy to watch the moon throughout the entire month, citing instead that only the sighting of the new crescent determines the new month!

Indeed, if you were so inclined, you could prove this for yourself. Get up early every day before sunrise and watch the old moon! Over the months (and years), you will notice its position and size (thickness of the crescent), angle, and altitude before sunrise, and you will come to be able to accurately predict when the moon goes into conjunction, and how many more days are needed before the next month begins. Then, combining your observations of the old moon, with your observations of the "new" moon, you can come up with a completely relable process to very accurately determine if the old month needs to be 29 days or 30, and on what day the new month will be. It is not hard! It just takes an effort which we are not inclined to do these days since there is, admitedly, no need to! We have our calendars or we'd rather simply accept some false fact like "the month does not begin till the crescent is spotted".

And finally, the 3rd objection: "But the sighting of the New Crescent is easy, anyone can determine the new month by simply looking up and seeing the crescent!" We've actually had someone make this statement to The Refiner's Fire! Though the statement is partially correct that it is "easy" to look in the sky at sunset, and see a crescent, if that crescent is sufficiently high enough and "old" enough to be observable. But concluding that the sighting "marks" the start of a new month is simply wrong! As described above, in reality, the moon would be carefully observed throughout the entire month, month after month, year after year, and those in charge of the observations would know full well when the new month would begin. Also, sighting a new crescent is not always "easy". As indicated above, for example, the new crescent for the 1st of Nisan in 2013 WILL BE in the sky (in Jerusalem) at sunset, March 12th, but it is not at all certain it will be seen! So what we have is that the beginning of the month of Nisan in 2013 by the "sighting of the crescent" might be the next night which will simply be wrong! Sighting the crescent to determine the new month is simply nonsense. It is neither (always) easy, nor accurate. And finally to the part of the objection stating "anyone can determine the new month by simply looking up and seeing the crescent." Fact is, determining the day of the new month is not the responsibility of just "anyone". In ancient times, keeping the calendar fell to the Priests, appointed from the Levis who were in in charge of the Temple and all things spiritual. In no way would determination of the first day of any month be expected of or accepted from "anyone".


So you should by now see that the rabbinic calendar for 2013, with 1 Nisan falling on Tuesday, March 12th, is wrong. That date, which is decidedly before the moon has had a chance to go into conjunction, is determined instead by "rules" to "force" Yom Kippur to fall on a weekly Shabbat. YHWH never said to alter the calendar to "force" a "Holy day" to fall on a certain day!

"In order to obey the mitzvot of ADONAI your God which I am giving you, do not add to what I am saying, and do not subtract from it." (Deuteronomy 4:2, CJB)

"Don't add anything to his words; or he will rebuke you, and you be found a liar." (Proverbs 30:6, CJB)

Worse, because the rabbinic calendar is wrong for 1 Nisan, it is wrong for every High Holy Day the rest of the year!

And finally, let's summarize the date for 1 Nisan, in the Gregorian year 2013. As mentioned above, the moon is in conjunction at 9:51 PM Jerusalem time, on March 11th. Since the moon becomes "new" after this time, and thus is well into the next Hebrew day, and the 1st day of the next Hebrew month cannot begin till the next sunset, a 30th day of Adar is required. We know this in advance by knowing that if the conjunction is after sunset (always from Jerusalem), an extra day of the current month is required. In this way, we are able to use modern technology to determine the precise time of the conjunction and then apply the Scriptural requirement for the new month to begin in the day following conjunction. Since, as described above, it is not necessary to know the precise moment of conjunction, and that the conjunction can be "bounded" by observation (i.e., not using technology), this technique is completely in harmony with the methods the ancients would have used to precisely determine the day of the new month from observation alone.

At sunset, on March 12th, 2013, in Jerusalem, a little less than 1/2 hour after sunset, the moon will be about 4 degrees above the horizon. This is plenty high for the moon to be seen, but the western horizon will still be quite bright. Whether or not the ultra-thin sliver of the almost 1 day old moon (as measured from true conjunction) will be seen is difficult to assess. But while the rabbinic calendar says this very evening is passing from 1 Nisan to 2 Nisan, the fact that if the moon is seen that night or not, it will be clear the rabbinic calendar is wrong. Come Passover, at sunset, March 26th, when we watch an almost full moon rise just minutes before sunset (in Jerusalem, meaning the moon will be passing into "full" that very evening), we will know that by our calendar we had the right day for the beginning of the Holy Year, 1 Nisan.

"Our" Calendar

We've used the term "our" calendar throughout this text but only because the method does not have a "name". But "our" calendar is really that of Aramaic scholar Andrew Gabriel Roth. All credit goes to him for his understanding of just how to combine our modern ability to calculate the precise position of the sun and moon at any moment in time with phenomenal accuracy, and apply that to how the ancient Priests would have perceived it and recovered the true calendar befitting of Genesis 1:14 God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to divide the day from the night; let them be for signs, seasons, days and years".

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