A Basic Guide to the Original
SUGGESTIONS FOR MODERN PRACTICE
By Andrew Gabriel Roth
Wheel of Stars addresses
detailed and complex elements of the Biblical calendar,
but some folks prefer to learn the basic rules first.
So for those who want the basics, the following is a
brief synopsis of how ancient Israel set the Hebrew
years according to the constellations. While we
examine these elements, we'll also avail ourselves of
the best science that modern astronomy has to offer.
I also want to point out that as my publisher and I
release the calendar grids, we have gone to great
lengths to acknowledge some of the other calendar
schools and show how their dates are calculated as well,
to be open and fair, and for you to make comparisons.
Our calendar material also strives to show two levels of
understanding. One is to recover the actual Hebrew
dates, the other is to explore the controversy over what
some of those dates mean. I believe it is very
important to keep those concepts as separate
considerations to avoid any potential confusion.
With those thoughts in mind, let us proceed to some of
The Hebrew day ends at sunset.
speaking the next day actually can be said to begin at
darkness or when one to three twilight stars appear.
Still, sunset is the most useful marker for tracking the
solar 24 hour day without bowing down to the sun, moon
and starry host as forbidden by YHWH.
The Shabbat is separate from any
other solar, lunar or constellation cycle.
YHWH didn’t need or use the sun,
or stars to count to 7 and commands us to count the same
way. Contrary to the opinions of some speculators,
we have never lost the seven day week nor have we lost
the days themselves. Yes indeed, the Romans had major
difficulties keeping time, the Master of the Universe
doesn't have those same difficulties. Many issues
affected the calendar days but not the days of the week.
Wednesday would still be Wednesday (as in the 4th day of
the week) but perhaps the 7th day instead of
12th day etc. Also, please bear in mind
that Roman issues have no effect on how YHWH ordered His
days in Scripture.
Keep the Shabbat where you live;
but the Festivals and Rosh Kodesh (beginning of the
months) are on
Israel time. Since
the days are marked by the setting of the sun, they have
to be a local phenomenon. However, in another
sense we sanctify the moon over Jerusalem skies as well,
and this is most important for Festivals like Passover
and Tabernacles with are tied to the full moon in their
respective months. However, “Israel time” is with
respect to setting up the 24 hour period of a
Festival—it will still have to begin at the time of
sunset where you live based on that day it
is sanctified in Israel, by the cycles of the sun and moon.
The Hebrew month always begins in
darkness, on the sunset after the lunar conjunction.
This is a key process where sun and moon work together
in harmony. Our days must be solar and 24 hours
long. So when the month ends on day 29, the solar day
simply needs to “catch” up to bring us to the first day
of the new Hebrew month. So it is not just the
moon getting renewed as a “chodesh” but the sun as
As a corollary to the above, sight
the moon more often than just once a month.
Put simply, if the waxing crescent of the New moon is a
sign, why not also treat the waning crescent of the Old
moon as a sign also? The same idea applies to the
full moons that are supposed to align with
Festivals—they are signs too as is sunset! So when
you see the last day of the Old moon on day 28, observe
that every 29th day the moon will not be
seen. It has gone into conjunction and doesn’t
appear at its expected time. That next sunset is
the new month.
In modern practice, it
comes down to this: Look up the time of the lunar
conjunction (adjusted for Jerusalem time, which is 2
hours after Universal Time, the most common measure used
on astronomical websites like NASA and US Navy) and
compare it to when the sun will set. If it is before
sunset then when that day ends in darkness, the new
month will begin. If it is after sunset, then the
sunset on the following day is day 1.
The Hebrew Solar Year runs from
the sunset after the Vernal Equinox to the sunset after
the next Vernal Equinox.
Again it’s the same concept we saw for the month. The
difference is that it is the sun and stars that are
working together as opposed to the sun and the moon for
the month. So when the stars tell us spring is here,
the day that happens must “catch up” and end the year at
sunset. The length of the tropical year is exactly the
same whether reckoning its start at midnight or at
sunset. The year, also like the month and the Shabbat,
is based on where you live since sunset is again marking
The Hebrew Lunisolar Year is based
in aligning the New Moon of spring as defined as the New
Moon nearest to the Vernal Equinox.
1 Abib can happen either before or
after the VE but Passover cannot ever happen before the
VE; it is, as Josephus said, regulated by the lunar
cycle that is in the sign of Aries which back then was
the first sign of spring. It is irrelevant what modern
astrology marks now; rather, the first star sign of
spring is fixed (now Pisces) and that’s what the Hebrew
calendar synchronizes to.
Modern Tip: Look up the moment
of the VE and then take the nearest New Moon. If the
New Moon happens on March 16th that is only
an average of five days off from the VE so that’s a
no-brainer. However a New Moon can happen as late as
April 4th and still be 1 Abib as well.
When we do this, the barley will be ripe, but remember
the barley didn’t set the time of Pesach for the first
40 years of its existence and was ruined the year of the
Exodus, so it is the result of spring not the
cause of spring.
The 19 year Metonic Cycle was
never endorsed by YHWH, but it can be properly used and
patched. This is the
heart of the Rabbinic calendar, but the cycle itself was
discovered in Athens
and Babylon and adapted for Jewish use much later.
The Metonic can lose a day every 218 years, which is
better than the Julian calendar that most of us
abandoned long ago. Metonic can also create
problems occasionally by allowing 1 Abib to happen in
late February, or, for Pesach (Passover) to touch the
last few days of April. Neither is correct as they
will choose New Moons that are not nearest to the VE.
The VE trumps all.
In terms of ancient reckoning, they would have
recognized that occasionally the arrival of the Vernal
Equinox can interfere with the way we count the Hebrew
month. While extremely rare, this happened in 30 CE,
the year Y’shua Mashiyach was crucified. The VE
came and prevented a 30th day for Adar from
happening. We know this had to be the case because
without it happening there is no Sign of Jonah timeline
(Matthew 12:38-40) and
Y’shua goes up to the stake on a Friday afternoon
otherwise, contradicting his own words!
The omer count is a fixed 50 day
count from the 16th of Abib.
However, 6 Sivan is only an average. The Hebrew months
are not always going lock step between 30 and 29 fixed
days but are tied to the cycles of the moon and their
relationship to sunset. Occasionally we get two 29
or 30 day months back to back, but never more than two.
As a result, 6 Sivan is not the guaranteed time of
Shavuot, but the 50th day after the 16th
of Abib is. This is why the ancient traditions are
unanimous about the 50 day length and the starting
point, but the fixing of 6 Sivan only happens after the
advent of the Rabbinic calendar. Other rules, like
the setting of Purim to keep it from hitting on a
particular week day, must be left to the due diligence
of the Beit Dinnim and each individual congregation.