There are a few important milestones in the life of a small child that are enthusiastically celebrated as major achievements by the adults around them: First steps, first words, and learning to read and write. (Maybe if my own parents had celebrated those a bit better, these articles would be more enjoyable.) For humans of every generation before the industrial revolution, there was a fourth foundational skill now neglected–telling time.
There was a time when the cultures of the world were centered around outdoor living–not just for leisure time, as that term certainly didn’t even exist. The sun, moon, and stars, weren’t decorations, they were valuable tools that guided every aspect of every day. Only in the last 100 years have we found our lives illuminated perpetually by artificial light, often from bulbs, but mostly from screens. As if we were moths or were desperate for warmth, we huddle around our devices with our heads lilting down. Every tiny town and city projects this pollution into to the night sky, often obscuring YHWH’s creation from view.
Genesis 15:5, “And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” As Abraham’s offspring who inherited the family business, this same sight should offer encouragement to us too, but there are few places left on earth where Abraham’s view could still be seen today. Not that we’d travel there anyway. There’s an app for that.
There are two sets of verses in Genesis that give us hints as to how YHWH’s clock works. The first speaks to conditions entirely under his control in the heavens.
Gen 1:14-18, “And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs, and for appointed times, and for days, and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth. And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.”
The second components are established, not in the original creation, but in the recreation after the flood. Genesis 8:22, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” This post flood world seems to be when the wheel of seasons began, but the tricky part is discerning what to call the beginning and the end. Every one of us was born into this spin cycle with it already in progress.
Traditional Judaism teaches that Adam was created in the fall, which makes “fall” an especially appropriate name for this season. Judaism therefore joins other ancient cultures such as the Mayans and Egyptians who all begin their calendars near the Autumnal Equinox. We’ll look at this more closely, but Exodus 12:2 clearly tells Israel to mark their new year in the spring. The choice to make Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) occur exactly 6 months off schedule (precisely the opposite, of the actual timing commanded) can really confuse those of us who consider scripture authoritative. They reconcile this argument by claiming that their secular culture calendar starts in the fall, but their religious calendar starts in the spring. Personally, I would prefer to lead my family with my faith life and my daily life on the same schedule—as they are not supposed to be separate things.
The fact that most modern cultures on earth sync up with January 1st as New Year’s Day is simply an extension of the power of Western Civilization, in this case as an inheritance from the Roman empire. Bear with this bunny trail, but it’s a trail that sadly doesn’t end, even when you finish reading this article. After several tweaks by various sun-worshiping emperors over two dozen centuries, we still use Roman Pope Gregory’s calendar absentmindedly today. At the end of each Roman year there were two major holidays: December 25th, “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti” (The Birthday of the Unconquered Sun) and “Kalends” (meaning ‘beginnings’), which happened on January 1st. “Kalends” is where we get the word “calendar” from. We get the name of the month “January” from Janus, the Roman god who has two faces, one facing the past and one facing into the future.
I promise that we’ll get back to talking about Passover, but it needs to be pointed out that there are eight days spanning from the 25th to the 1st—making the original ancient Roman “happy holidays” yet another pathetic off-season forgery of the biblical eight-day Feast of Sukkot. Sukkot is the commanded season of joy which occurs at the end of each harvest, and also celebrates the planting of the seeds that will result in new barley come spring. King Jeroboam, who I discussed in Part 1, is a prototype of the Antichrist and was the first to create a similar awful replica of Sukkot—a religious and political scam specifically designed to distract the faithful from proper worship.
It’s certainly true that both old and bad habits die hard. So here we are, left in a world and culture that continues to celebrate new beginnings in the dead of winter. We are also left in the dark, celebrating with man-made lights on houses, trees, and Chanukkiah’s. It may be a season of hope (because the cold and dark are so miserable) but it’s not the designed season for new beginnings. It’s not a coincidence that the 9th plague on Egypt, the one JUST before Pesach, was a plague of darkness.
YHWH does not want Israel, his beloved, synchronized with the world. At the time of the 7th plague (hail) we learn this fun-fact: Exodus 9:31-32, “The flax and the barley were struck down, for the barley was “in the ear” and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the emmer were not struck down, for they are late in coming up.” The phrase translated as “in the ear” is the Hebrew word “Aviv”. We need to put that puzzle piece together with this fresh command from YHWH, Exodus 12:2,“This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.”
These two verses offer Israel the annual opportunity to align with the cycle of creation, while at the same time helping us to see the divinely designed coordination between the signs in the heavens and earth. Aviv, a word which implies ripe and ready, thus became the original Hebrew name of biblical month one.
The Holy calendar given to Israel in God’s instructions, aims to align our lives with the agricultural signs of light, warmth, and growth—the perfect season to remember our redemption out of a world which chooses a calendar beginning with darkness and death.
The 14th of Aviv, the heart of the month of green sprouts and new beginnings, is when Pesach (Passover) is scheduled each year.
In Part 3 we’ll look closer at the heavenly signs of Spring, and the various options available to us to determine specifically when Pesach should be honored.