Passover: Timing is Everything (Part 3)

The sad reality is that as Hebrews, we have lost the full instruction book as to how YHWH would have us read the signs of the seasons.  We are forced to embrace his sovereignty here.  Maybe God knew that if we were certain about his dates and methods we’d simply sabotage the true spirit of the appointed times with our own pride.  Considering how often we fail to embrace humility, I fully understand why he would withholding this intel to teach us grace while we await his second coming.  

So then, for those who desire to restore both the true spirit and timing of his calendar, we are faced with choices.  Some simply trust the traditions of past Jewish leadership, although they admit that their own calendar has drifted over the centuries by a day or so.  I appreciate the value of this position, especially for those who desire peace with faithful Jews who honor these same days, and who strive to honor, obey, and worship our mutual father. Personally, I struggle with keeping dates that I know are incorrect, even if only by a day or so.  Also, some of the traditions of the Jews seem inconsistent with the Messianic themes of the holidays, which also gives me pause.   I hope those of you who keep the Jewish feast calendar are blessed by it, and aren’t hearing any condescension in my words.    

One of the roots of the word “Torah” implies hitting a target. His grace allows for us to take shot after shot, and we are supposed to use those reattempts to get closer to the bullseye.

This means we often have to undertake a diligent search for the truth, modifying or rejecting even well-meaning traditions of those that went before us. This challenge was given to ancient Israel (who failed at it)  in Jerimiah 6:16, “Thus says YHWH: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”  This same challenge remains with searching to understanding how to implement Yah’s ancient clock as well.

Searching for these “good ways”, many modern believers have established personal contacts in the land of Israel or use various websites where agricultural experts determine when the barley crops are ripe enough to call the month “Aviv”.  This strategy makes sense, as ripe barley was a crucial ingredient in various springtime Levitical offerings and rituals.  If the barley doesn’t become ripe during the first month of the year, certainly we’ve miscalculated the start of the year.  Using the barley as a “sign” then, sounds foolproof. However, there have been several years where different experts have used different criteria. Fields in the north of Israel sometimes ripen at a different speeds than in the south. There are also several species of barley, and it would seem logical that differing planting times or farming practices (organic vs. GMO, or irrigated vs. not).  There have been years where these slight variations leave factions celebrating the feasts one month apart from one another.  Again, if this is the way you and your family honor YHWH, and are doing your utmost for His highest, don’t feel criticized by these words.     

Wanting to leave out the human element, the next choice is to look to the sky. It says a lot about human nature that rather than spending billions on how to use the moon for time-keeping, we instead shoot rockets at it and then step on its face.  Other than hundreds of blinking man-made satellites, it  seems as if we’ve haven’t spoiled his celestial clock too badly yet.  Nevertheless, there remains broad and passionate disagreement as to how to use the moon to determine a month.  Some have even devised a questionable system to use it’s phases to calculate a seven-day week.  (Relax, all of our calculations are questionable.)  The sun controls the timing of the equinoxes and solstices, but it’s hard to determine how to use those signs in conjunction with the moon.  There’s somewhat of a fringe debate as to if the sun and moon should both be relevant, or if we are simply supposed to pick one.      

To add to our confusing options, others claim to have found the true ancient calendar in the dusty schedules implied by extra-biblical books like The Book of Enoch, or from incomplete historical writings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. There are dozens of internet “ministries” that are eager to sell you their version of the calendar, or to get you on their mailing list to calculate the dates for you.   

After over a decade of personally searching, and switching, and researching, here’s the thing:  If the result of any of these techniques gets you to Pesach in the Spring, you are already better off than simply following Roman tradition, which doesn’t honor Pesach at all.
 If the hunt for a viable solution, or the one you’ve chosen is serving as an act of worship for you, then I encourage and applaud you.  If your choice of schedule is causing division, or arrogance, or subtracting from a lifestyle of peace and love—you are doing it wrong, even if you’ve nailed the timing down to the correct second.

There is no way to keep this next series of paragraphs simple, but for me and my house, we have found peace and have consistently kept the same understanding for almost 10 years now.  Although we don’t actively search for barley, using this method there has been enough ripe barley in the land of Israel to call the month Aviv.  Here is how my family recons Rosh Chodesh (day one, month one) which then calibrates the remainder of YHWH’s feasts for the rest of the year. 

Look at Genesis 1:14-18 closely.  It mentions the use of the sun, moon, and stars (in that order).  As the verse literally says, the signs in the heavens collaborate to determine His appointed times. The sunset and sunrise determine the day, the phases of the moon determine the month, and the position of the stars determine the year.  Each of these lights and signs exist for every human to see if they would simply lift up their heads. They move in a predictable mathematical progression that should serve as the literal definition of clockwork.

The 12 constellations of stars (in Hebrew called “the Mazzaroth” in Job 38:32) complete a full cycle in one biblical year.  Therefore, every Rosh Chodesh, every Aviv 1, we see the same group of stars in the same place in the sky.  Usually the wheel completes a turn in 12 month time-frame, but sometimes a 13 month kicks in to calibrate.  This leap-month (needed in most calendar variants) used to disturb me, since 12 is a Hebrew number that signifies divine rule (12 Tribes and 12 Disciples, for example).  However, instead of counting months which are flexible by design, we are actually counting the 12 sectors in the sky, each one with its own unique designated star-pattern. The Mazzaroth do not determine our destiny. In no way do we worship them.  We simply are appreciating and trying to understand the biggest and most wonderful clock ever designed in the same way the Magi in the new testament did. 

There’s a certain constellation known as “the Virgin”, that has been especially significant since the time of the birth of Messiah.  Still today, when it begins to appear in the eastern sky at Sunset we know the season of Aviv is close.  The Virgin contains a star called “Spica” which is one of the brightest in the sky.  In every ancient drawing (from every culture on earth) this star appears in the Virgin’s hand as a shaft of barley or wheat, and it represents the start of the harvest.  This set of stars is the sign of harvest time, rising at the start of the barley harvest each year and setting at end of the entire harvest season exactly six months later.  This same image is highlighted in Rev 12:1, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”  I’m convinced this is a reference to this important constellation, which also occurs in the western sky on day one of the 7th biblical month, just as described in Rev 12.

If all of that sounds complex, there’s an easier clue to Aviv 1.  We also know that March 21st on the Roman solar calendar marks the Spring Equinox. That day marks the rough potential beginning of the annual barley harvest, so we already know the season when all of these signs converge, simply by agricultural common sense.  There’s a certain beauty to living in tune with the signs in the heavens, but if that is simply too impractical, Pesach certainly will occur on or after March 21st each year—so that really narrows the search window. 

Once we know the new year is about to begin, we watch for the moon phases to determine when to start counting the days of the month.  The Pesach meal occurs on the eve of the 14th, but first we need to find day one.  Most (not all) agree that a biblical month begins when the moon is “new”, but like the rest of this puzzle, a true definition of “new” has also been lost to time.  Most consider the moon “new” when the first sliver is just visible, for some it’s the day before that, and for others it’s the day before that.  All of these ideas have reasonable cases, and there are numerous “scientific” websites and apps that can assist with this hunt for truth.  For me and my house, we visually spot the final sliver of each moon cycle, as well as the newest sliver of the next one. The day in between those two slivers is the new moon, and thus day 1.  This is not nearly as hard as it sounds, and the balance and symmetry of the moon cycle makes it too amazing to only use one of its phases. Reckoning the start of the month in this way offers a second witness–the full moon will then occur on the 15th of each biblical month, which is also considered a “High Sabbath” in the 1st and 7th month of each year.  The Pesach meal occurs at the very moment that full moon is rising, marking it is as the “Paschal Moon” we talked about in Part 1 of this sub-series.

Of course, the sun plays a crucial part in the calculous.  Fun fact, only when the moon is truly full does the sun set at the precise time that the moon rises.  If you could see both unobstructed horizons at once, you would see half of the sun and half of the full moon at the same exact time. This brief and unique celestial event is known biblically as “between the two evenings”, which according to Leviticus 23:5 is the exact time when the Passover meal is to be eaten.  See. That was easy. 

There is significance to this moment, especially in its brevity. It’s coming, it’s there, it’s gone. Contrary to Jewish tradition, where the Passover meal can literally take hours, the Torah says to eat the lamb in haste. This shows us that the moment of our redemption is very specific, and it’s also very brief.  Redemption isn’t a process, it’s instantaneous.  This is a time for commitment and subsequent quick action.  We also aren’t supposed to stop moving during this transition from slavery to freedom.  We aren’t supposed to look back and reminisce like Lot’s wife.  We aren’t supposed to doubt or ponder or ask for signs, like Gideon or Thomas. 

This same moment, only minutes before the sunset, was the exact time that Joseph of Arimathea took down the body of Messiah off the cross and laid him in his tomb.  Because of Joseph’s obedience, both the earth and the grave swallowed the ultimate Pesach Lamb of God at the precise moment that the entire body of faithful Israel was collectively eating the symbolic one in their own homes.  What more proof could you want that God so loved the world? 

Psalm 103:11-12, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” 

This verse takes on heightened significance as they are the two directions illuminated by our creator at the very moment we were redeemed. The rising moon in the east, the setting sun in the west. As we reflect on that reality while we eat the lamb in haste, while we eat Messiah’s flesh and drink his blood, we aren’t experiencing a slow transition into the body of Messiah, we are instantly one with it.   

We have all been invited to engage in that same beautiful timing and enter into that same amazing story.  We have to care enough to research the details, and be wise enough to make course corrections as we try to figure it out.  We have to realize that we’ve been shackled by tradition, but the Blood of the lamb has made us free to worship in spirit and in truth.  We have to be willing to reject the false calendar and the pagan holidays forced upon us by the very culture that crucified our Messiah.  

The more you look, the more you’ll find that timing is everything.

Psalm 8:3-4 “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

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