Frequently Asked Questions

Before the HCI can observe Pesach, “the Abib” (the sprouting / the green ears / the spring), an agricultural occurrence in the land of Israel must take place. Once the barley is observed in the twelfth month, the following new moon (crescent) is declared the beginning of our new year. If, however, the barley is not observed by the end of the twelfth month, an additional month is added to our year, giving us a 13th month (leap year). That following month (after the 13th month) would be declared “the Abib”, as the climate would be warm enough to prompt the growth of the barley in the land of Israel, and we would keep the Pesach on the eve of the fourteen day (in its proper appointed time and season. Ex.12:1-2; Ex.13:3-4; Deut.16:1).

In contrast, however, those who follow the Jewish (Hillel II) calendar, observe Pesach according to a fixed/pre-calculated time that does not take into consideration whether “the Abib” has occurred. Although the Hillel calendar does have seven (7) leap years in a nineteen (19) year cycle, those leap years are fixed.

If the HCI observes “the Abib” before the end of the twelfth month and the Jewish calendar has a pre-determined leap year (adding a thirteenth month) in that same year, the HCI and other Israelites who follow the Jewish calendar will keep Pesach a month apart. Or, if the HCI. does not observe “the Abib” by the end of the twelfth month and a thirteen month (leap year) is added in the same year that the Jewish calendar has pre-determined a twelve month year, we will observe Pesach a month apart.

The Abib indicates a stage in the development of the barley crops. This is clear from Ex 9:31-32 which describes the devastation caused by the plague of hail:

“And the flax and the barley were smitten, because the barley was in the ear [abib] and the flax was in bloom [giv’ol]. And the wheat and the spelt were not smitten because they were dark [afilot].”

The above passage relates that the barley crops were destroyed by the hail while the wheat and spelt were not damaged. To understand the reason for this we must look at how grain develops. When grains are early in their development they are flexible and have a dark green color. As they become ripe they take on a light yellowish hue and become more brittle. The brittle barley was destroyed while the more flexible grains were not.

Abib, therefore, represents a condition and not a time. Exodus 13:4 then means we departed Egypt when the barley was in a certain condition. Because the definite article is used, a correct translation of the Masoretic text would read as follows.

Ex 13:4 This day came ye out in the month of the abib.

This rendering is supported by the Septuagint text which reads:

Ex 13:4 For on this day ye go forth in the month of new corn (grain).

The HCI and other Israelites observe the new moon on different days because the HCI recognizes the first crescent as the new moon while many other Israelites (followers of the Jewish calendar) use the dark moon/conjunction to signify the beginning of a new moon. Since a dark moon can last up to two days, the HCI will observe their new moons one to two days after other Israelites.

However, sometimes the HCI. and other Israelites will observe the new moon on the same day. That usually happens when the Jewish calendar uses the “rules of postponement” to delay the observance of their new moon to a more convenient day, which in many cases, would be the day of the first crescent.

(Please see Question #10 below for an explanation of the “rules of postponement”).

The HCI uses the crescent moon primarily because of Genesis 1:14:

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.”

The astronomical new moon can appear anywhere within a day, only the crescent moon remains consistent with creation, it only can appear in the evening sky.

Definition of Moon:
The one satellite of the earth, its companion in the annual circuit of the sun. The moon phases, or apparent changes of figure, results from
the fact that it is itself a dark globe, one hemisphere of which reflects the light of the sun. (Columbia encyclopedia)

When Yah states that the lights are what he wants to be used for days, seasons, and years, we are not to focus our attention on the object He uses to get the light to us (moon, black disc), but instead we must focus our attention on the lights. The crescent is the first stage of that light representing the beginning of our new month. When ever in the scriptures it states new moon, it always uses the Hebrew word “chodesh”, which means to rebuild, to renew, repair (Strong’s Concordance 2320)

Psalm 81– “Blow on a horn for the chodesh (new moon) on the keseh (full moon) for the day of our chag (feast).”

All of our months should begin with the first appearance of the new light, and all of our feast days should automatically fall on a full moon or when the disk of the moon reflects to us that it is completely covered with light. With the exception that if for some reason it is impossible to sight the first crescent of the first day, then each day would be pushed forward one day. In the case where we are estimating the calendar date of a holy day, if the crescent does not appear on the first estimated day, the next day would be proclaimed the holy day. The lights in the heavens travel throughout the entire universe, it is not until it reaches a certain object in the universe that it reflects back to us on earth, repeating this cycle every 29 3/4 days. The beginning stage of this reflection from the moon is the crescent new moon, and the middle stage is when the light completely covers that disk, called a full moon.

Originally, the new moon was not fixed by astronomical calculations but was solemnly proclaimed after witnesses had testified to the reappearance of the crescent of the moon. The rabbinical authorities hold that on the 30th of each month, the members of the High Court assembled in a courtyard in Jerusalem, named Beit Ya’azek, where they waited to receive the testimony of two reliable witnesses; they then sanctified the New Moon. If the moon’s crescent was not seen on the 30th day, the New Moon was automatically celebrated on the 31st day. To inform the population of the beginning of the month, beacons were kindled on the Mount of Olives and thence over the entire land and in parts of the Diaspora. [Enc. Judaica, Vol.12, p.1039].

The phrase “the lights” in the scripture are referring to the sun and the stars. It is also referring to the sunlight reflecting off the moon because the moon has no light of its own. When the sunlight reflects off the moon, it creates phases of the moon or moon phases. The amount of light reflected, determines the phases. When no light is reflected, this is also a phase. When you examine the phases of the moon you will see that one of the phases is called the full moon, which is when the sun lights up the entire one half of the moon that faces the earth. So, one might ask the question, “When do the phases of the moon begin?”

The beginning of the full moon phase starts with a first crescent. When the crescent of the moon gradually gets larger, it is “waxing”. Once it reaches the full moon phase, the crescent begins to get smaller. This is called “waning”. Eventually, there is no light reflecting off the moon and it appears completely dark. Hence, you have the dark moon phase. The renewing of the moon occurs when the first crescent re-appears. That is when we celebrate the new moon.

Many people argue that the dark moon, which is also called the “conjunction”, is the new moon. However, the definition of new moon does not support a dark moon. A moon that is rebuilding is not a completely dark moon. Conversely, a moon that is growing, a crescent moon, is seen soon after the period of darkness when the moon is in conjunction.

Many Israelites believe the concealed moon is the new moon. One point to consider is that there is no actual “day” of concealed moon. In fact the moon stays concealed anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 days in the Middle East. In ancient societies, people worked from dawn to dusk and they would have noticed the old moon getting smaller and smaller in the morning sky. When the morning moon had disappeared, the ancient Israelites would have anxiously awaited its reappearance 1.5-3.5 days later in the evening sky. Having disappeared for several days and then appearing anew in the early evening sky they would have called it the “New Moon” or “Chodesh” (from Chadash meaning “New”).

When we research ancient history, we find that the Sanhedrin, prior to 358 C.E. (when Hillel II publish his version of the Jewish calendar), used the first crescent to observe the new moon (See Wikipedia-Sanhedrin). The Sanhedrin had a special court of three members. They met on the 29th day of each month to await the report of two witnesses. Once the testimonies were accepted by the Sanhedrin court, based on their own calculations in comparison with these observations of the sighting of the crescent, they would send out messengers to declare the day of the new month to the people. Initially, the declaration was relayed by fire signals that were lighted on mountaintops. The Calendar Court was comprised of men who were well versed in scripture and astronomy. Everyone abided by the decision of the Sanhedrin. Even the priests had to abide by the decision. Jewish scholars have acknowledged this fact in writings such as The Jewish Book of Why and Understanding the Jewish Calendar.

Finally, the Naval Observatory calls the new moon “conjunction” and many people recognize them as a reliable source. However, further research reveals that they agree that the first crescent served as the “ancient” new moon. They regard conjunction as the “astronomical” new moon. When we examine the Torah, (Gen.1:14) The Most High said “let the lights be for signs and seasons”. The Hebrew word He used for signs is “owth” which means “sign” or “signal”. The dictionary defines signs as tokens, images, or seals. Throughout the Torah when Yah gave us signs, it was something that could be seen or visual. A few examples of these signs were the rainbow for Noah, the signs in Egypt, the manna and quails in the wilderness and our fringes. These are but a few of the signs the Most High provided us. Therefore, it is very unlikely that the Most High would have told us to look for a sign that we could not see!

If the first crescent is not visible in the Holy Land on the appropriate day at even, let’s say the 29th day, we look on the following day. However, by default a month cannot exceed 30 days. So if the new crescent is not visible the coming in of the 30th day, the next day is pronounced the beginning of the new month automatically. It should be noted that although we in the Western Hemisphere will look to confirm the findings, our law requires that we look to Jerusalem for our direction in following the Torah.

The major differences are:

a. The modern Jewish calendar determinations fluctuate between the crescent and the concealed moon based on rabbinical rules of postponements that plots the holy days at convenient times. The HCI consistently follows only the new crescent moon, a consistent indicator itself, for the onset of the month and allows subsequent dates/holy days to fall as they may.

b. The Jewish calendar has two new years (the 7th month and the 1st month). The HCI only acknowledges our new year at the time that the earth is renewed in the month of Abib. (Exodus 12:1-2)

c. The Jewish calendar changes one-day observances of our holy days to two-day observances. The HCI only seeks to fully understand and comply with the law around holy day observances, not add to it.

When the Jewish calendar was made public by Hillel II in 358 A.D., it included several new laws or rules called “postponements”. These laws made it necessary to actually delay Yom Teruah (Day of the Blowing) a/k/a Rosh Hashanah, to keep Yom Kippor (Day of Atonement) from falling on a Friday or a Sunday, and to keep Hoshana Rabbah – the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) or Chag Succote – from falling on the weekly Sabbath.

This is avoided so that there will not be two days in a row on which it is forbidden to prepare food or do the other sorts of work that are permitted on secular days. Since Yom Kippor is one week and two days after Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah), Yom Teruah cannot fall on a Wednesday or a Friday in order that Yom Kippor not fall on a Friday or Sunday. This law/rule also prevents the seventh day of Chag Succote (called Hoshanah Rabbah) from falling on the Sabbath, in which case Jews would not be able to perform a ritual called arava and the seven hakofos. In order to prevent this, Yom Teruah is not permitted to fall on Sunday.

There are therefore three days, Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, on which Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) can never fall. If the molad (conjunction) falls on one of these days, then Yom Teruah is pushed off until the next day. In case the molad falls after noon on Shabbat, Tuesday or Thursday, Yom Teruah is pushed off one day (this is called a molad zoken). And since that would put it on one of the three days on which it cannot fall, it is pushed off yet another day. In such a case, Yom Teruah has been postponed two days from the conjunction (dark moon or molad).

Note: There are other instances where postponements are used in the Jewish calendar. However, the rationale for these rules, which are based on the preceding explanations, are more complicated, therefore they are not included here for the sake of brevity. (See Understanding the Jewish Calendar, by Rabbi Nathan Bushwick, pub.Moznaim Publ.; The Jewish Book of Why, by Alfred J. Kolatch, pub. Penguin Compass.)

The Gezer Calendar was found near the location of the ancient city of Gezer. The city that Solomon built after it was given as a gift to the daughter of the Pharaoh that Solomon married. (1st Kings 9:16-17)

This calendar, written on limestone is dated to the late 10th century BCE. It shows a division of eight agricultural seasons of one or two months each. These agricultural seasons can be understood as sub-seasons within the summer/winter seasons. It is a clear indicator that our forefathers regarded the calendar from an agricultural perspective. Although the months are not given names or ordinal numbers in the Gezer calendar, it is clear that the month known as Abib coincides with the barley harvest.

Lev. 23:15-17 reads: “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete; even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall present a new meal-offering unto the LORD.”-The Holy Scriptures, publ.,The Jewish Publication Society of America.

The more accurate translation of the Hebrew text is:

“And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Shabbat (Sabbath), from the day that ye brought the sheaf of waving; seven Shabtote (Sabbaths) shall there be complete; even unto the morrow after the seventh Shabbat shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall present a new meal-offering unto the LORD.”

The inaccurate translation has caused us to start the counting of the sheaf (omer) on the sixteenth day of Aviv (the day after the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread), which could fall on any day of the week, ending our fifty day count on the sixth day of the fourth month (Siwan), which could also fall on any day of the week. If this was the intention of The Creator, we would have been instructed to observe Chag Shavuote on the sixth day of the fourth month (Siwan). However, Chag Shavuote is the only feast day that is not specifically dated of the appointed seasons in Leviticus 23.

Thus, using the correct translation of the text, we must begin counting the sheaf (omer) on the Sunday after the weekly Shabbat following the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which always ends on the day after the seventh weekly Shabbat (Sunday). A date is not specified in the Torah because the counting of the sheaf (omer) can start anywhere from one to seven days after the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

For instance, if we interpret the phrase, “the morrow after the day of rest (Shabbat)”, to mean the day after the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and you start your counting of the sheaf (omer) on a Wednesday, you will end your fifty day count on a Wednesday. However, that would not explain how the forty-ninth (49th) day, a Tuesday, could be a Shabbat! (See the phrase, “even unto the morrow after the seventh Shabbat” in the text above). When the translators changed the phrase “seven Shabtote” (Sabbaths) to “seven weeks”, they caused us to observe this Holy day on the WRONG day.

The sighting of the crescent moon is a dynamic rather than a static event. That is to say, the percentage of visibility increases with time. At the same time, the revolution of the moon around the earth combined with the earths revolution around the sun causes the new moon sighting to move from east to west. As a result, after the first possible sighting of the crescent, it becomes more visible as the minutes and hours pass.

Because of this phenomenon, once the crescent is visible in the Holy Land, its visibility is increased here in the land of the Great Captivity. Barring any poor weather conditions, as previously stated, the apparent motion from east to west in time and space causes a greater percentage of the crescent to be visible. Consequently, it is possible that there could be no sighting in the Land but the crescent could be sighted here. It is even possible to have no sighting on the east coast but have a sighting on the west coast.

It is precisely because of these dynamics that the HCI deemed it necessary to have the sighting in one place, the Holy Land, as the for official sighting the calendar.

  1. The transitional period toward the end of the day when the sun nears the lowest point above the horizon and the light begins to be enveloped by the darkness. The process ends when the darkness dominates the light, and thus begins a new day.
  2. Erev is a visual transformation in the daylight sky that has a beginning and an end. This transitional period begins to take place when darkness is introduced into the light and ends when the darkness dominates the light. The transitional period can last from approximately 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the season and location in which it occurs.
  3. Erev, meaning mixture, denotes the transitional period, or process, towards the end of the day when the darkness begins to envelope the light. The initial state of “erev’ is a part of the current day and as erev ends the next day begins.

Note: The above definitions describe visual effects one can expect under clear weather conditions only. When experiencing less than optimum conditions, the previous days’ time frames should be used and adjusted accordingly.