Handling 2016’s Passover calendar issues
“What should I do? Which expert should I follow?” I’m hearing this question a lot lately, especially THIS year.
You may or may not have heard of the huge recent decision by many who do not follow the rabbinic calendar to keep the Passover and Days of Unleavens (or Unleavened Bread) a whole month early. Therefore, this year, many are planning to keep Passover day on March 24, and most of those will keep the bread/wine Passover service the evening of March 23. And the first holyday of Unleavened Bread for these folks will be Friday, March 25. Those on the rabbinic calendar will be keeping those days near the end of April on the appointed days.
This year, this discussion about keeping it a month earlier than the rest has nothing to do with the Equinox. So don’t jump to that conclusion. It’s a different issue this year.
You know perhaps already about the debate that has raged for decades between the rabbinic orthodox Jewish calendar that most Jews follow, and most Church of God groups follow – and the one that goes by visual sighting of the new moon in Jerusalem. Usually the latter group ends up keeping the holydays one or two days later than the first group. But this year, there’s a whole MONTH difference between some of these groups.
What happened? Why the change? In this blog I hope to simplify what’s happening and what your role is and how to help you feel about your decision.
It boils down to this. The first month was originally called the month of Abib (or Aviv) by God himself. Nisan was the new Babylonian name they accepted years later. If you check the context and find that Yahweh is the one speaking, you’ll see that HE himself calls it “the month of Abib” (on your own time read Exodus 23:14-15; Ex. 34:17-18; Deut 16:1 –and notice if you go back, that it is Yahweh who is speaking).
When they Jews came back from Babylon, they had renamed some of the months by the pagan Babylonian names including the first month – to Nisan. And there’s the great new name Tammuz (ever hear of that name?), and so on. But it was originally called Abib in the Bible.
Abib refers to a stage in the first grains to be harvested – the lowly barley. The first of the firstfruits of barley pictured the Messiah who would be raised (waved) to heaven to be “accepted in our behalf” (just as Christ did for us), as Leviticus 23:9-11. Then the real barley harvest could begin.
Those who are keeping the Passover a month early will also be remembering Wavesheaf day on March 27, which coincidentally is also Easter Sunday, for whatever that is worth. The fact that the first month is called Abib points to that stage of barley harvest when the barley is green but at a certain stage of being able to be harvested, dried and then eventually milled into very fine flour. I’m keeping the discussion basic. There are many websites that go into far more depth.
MY point is to figure out what to do about it and how to deal with one another because of all these differences of viewpoint.
Now – why are some keeping the Passover in March instead of April? Click on “Continue reading” to get the overview and what you need to do about it.
So why the one month discrepancy?
Keep this point in mind: There can be no Wavesheaf if there is no fresh, new barley from the new crop that is able to be ready to be harvested and ground into fine flour to be waved. (They did not wave or lift up a sheaf of barley stalks as some imagine. No, it was an amount of very fine flour from the firstfruits barley that was lifted above the High Priest’s head on the day after the Sabbath of Passover week.) You can’t use last year’s barley. And if there’s no fresh barley ready when you have Passover and then Wavesheaf Day, what did they do?
Every year there are various teams of experts who go examine the barley stages of development in Israel near the end of the 12th month of the Hebrew calendar to determine if there is enough harvestable barley yet. The Rabbinic calendar pre-calculated all this about 1700 years ago when Hillel II came out with his calculated calendar. Overall, Hillel II did an extraordinary job considering everything he had to work with. But even now, top rabbis in Israel will confess that the rabbinic calendar needs some adjustment. I’ve spoken to top rabbis myself about this in Israel. So that’s no secret.
Hillel realized that some years there would need to be an intercalated (added) 13th month to keep the calendar functioning in its seasons since their calendar is based on a 360 day year. Many feel that the original year was, in fact, 360 days, but then various huge events changed things. Remember Hezekiah’s sun dial going back 10 degrees, plus Joshua’s “long day” – actually apparently almost an extra day? (See Joshua 10; 2 Kings 20:8-11) Anyway, let’s get back to the story.
So the Hillel calendar that most use has everything already figured out by calculation. The other “camp” believes they need to inspect the barley each year themselves. Some will also use other indications from scripture of when the spring of the year has fully arrived – such as the return of the storks, the cooing of the turtle doves, the birth of the new year’s lambs, the growth stages on figs and vineyards, and so on. They have the scriptures for these.
So THIS year, 2016, Hillel’s calendar says we’re currently in an intercalated month- the 13th month. Some inspectors believe, on the other hand, that they have found enough barley ready and that there should be no added month this year. Some also base it on the other signs they’re witnessing as I mentioned.
The group that says the barley is ready also explain that if the barley is ready, and not harvested, that if you wait several weeks or a month (to April) before doing so – that it will be much too brittle and the seeds will all fall to the ground if you even lightly touch the stalks. They claim the barley needs to be harvested now, this month. They claim if you wait a month, the barley harvest will be largely ruined. Scriptures are also shown that once the barley IS ready, it should immediately be put to the sickle and harvested – and the count to Pentecost begins (see Deuteronomy 16:9-10; Joel 3:13; even Rev 14:15).
Therefore, those keeping the Passover in March, will also be keeping all the rest of this year’s holydays a month earlier than the majority will be keeping Pentecost and the fall feasts.
I hope I’ve explained that side fairly. I’m sure others would like to refine the explanation.
Having said all that, others believe firmly in the established Rabbinic calendar and believe God gave the rights to the calendar to the Jews to figure out. But which Jews? The Karaite Jews normally go by the visual sighting. But – this year, the Karaite Jews are also keeping the Passover near the end of April! They believe the barley is not quite ready by their measurements.
I believe many Hebraic Roots folks will be divided on this issue this year. So will some Church of God folks. The main COG denominations will keep it in April and probably most of them aren’t even aware of this intense discussion going on this year. So some will be keeping Passover in March, while most will be in April.
Now add to all of this the debate by some as to when the Passover MEAL and bread/wine/foot washing ceremony should be kept: some believe they should do it the eve of the 14th (as Christ did), others believe it should be done at 3 pm of Passover day, others yet believe it should be at the end of the 14th and into the 15th. The lamb is to be killed on the 14th. Again – at the beginning (eve of ) the 14th, or at 3 pm when GOD’s Lamb was killed, or later? Then we have the discussion of do we go by sighting in Jerusalem – or locally? The argument is made that before the age of internet/cell phones, it would have been impossible to tell believers scattered around the world what was happening in Jerusalem!
It is not my goal to discuss in detail all the details of all these arguments. Let me now CUT TO THE CHASE. WHAT will you do? How should you feel about it? What’s the HEART of this matter?
Here are my main points:
** BEFORE you decide what you will do, be sure you understand the main points being presented as best you can. DO look into it. DO pray hard about it. Ask God to show you what He wants YOU to do. Look to your ultimate Master, your Leader to lead you.
**the experts, or those claiming to be experts (and I’m not one claiming to know all about the calendar or barley, OK?), are not all coming to the same dates. And God is allowing this to go on for now. Perhaps He’s looking more to how we TREAT one another in our disagreement more than anything. There are some “salvational issue” topics that we can’t budge on. This one falls into the category of doing the best you can in understanding it – but not forgetting to love your neighbor who thinks differently.
Yeshua said to “love your neighbor as yourself”. He didn’t say “love your neighbor IF…. he/she is a sabbath-keeping, holyday-keeping believer who keeps the exact same day you do”. No, He didn’t say that. In fact, Christ purposely contexed that story within the story of a person of different beliefs – the “good Samaritan” – who was DESPISED by so many of the traditional Jews. So you and I are supposed to love our neighbor even if that neighbor is a Sunday-keeping Christian, or an agnostic, or even an atheist or Hindu or ---whatever! I’ll speak more on this soon.
After all, isn’t that what PASSOVER IS ALL ABOUT? That the Son of God came as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the WORLD (John 1:29) because God so loved the WORLD (John 3:16)? And Christ mingled with and was friendly with SINNERS? Shame on us if we forget the REASON we keep Passover and let argument and rancor get in the way!
** God looks upon the heart. YOUR heart, and the other person’s heart who has concluded something different from you, I mean. Sometimes we make wrong decisions. But if our intent is to follow our Savior’s lead, but we come up with the wrong decision, surely God looks upon the heart. David, for all his monstrous sins, was seen as a great man of God, for he had a HEART like God’s. David killed people. David stole a man’s wife. David did lots of crazy things like numbering Israel when he wasn’t supposed to and scores of thousands DIED. But God looked upon his heart.
**I would hope that you can still meet with people even if they and you keep different holyday dates. It’s not a reason to divide permanently.
**FOCUS ON Christ. All that barley pointed to HIM. He was raised to heaven to be accepted on our behalf on Wavesheaf Day during HIS last Passover week (John 20:17). He fulfilled the meaning of Wavesheaf. It’s done. It’s about HIM. He did it. He does not continue to be “waved” or raised to heaven every year soon after Passover. It’s done. The spring holydays’ meanings are largely fulfilled already. Pentecost also – or at least a big part of it is. It’s primarily the Fall holydays’ meanings that are yet to be fulfilled.
I firmly believe that there is so much judging and condemning going on by SOME here that we need to remember the reason for the Passover Season: that we are to be LIKE Christ, and FORGIVE one another as HE did you and me, and LOVE one another AS Christ loves us. But we’re letting all this furor over the dates get in the way of that. Some are even ashamed to admit if they will keep it in March or April. Shame on us that we divide over these things. I say that has to stop.
So whatever God leads you to do, hold you head high and do it – but keep your nose at a friendly level, OK?
Let me end with God’s word for us on this:
Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master [ultimately that is GOD] he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.
6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written:
"As I live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God."
12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us NOT judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.”
Have a wonderful Passover – remembering the REASONS for the Passover of love, forgiveness, washing one another in our hearts as Christ has already washed them, and no more condemning or judging of one another on these matters. Amen? I hope I hear “Amen” from all of you.
(If this blog has been helpful, let others know about it. Let’s come together in Christ.)