Keith Hunt - THE OT CALENDAR? Part 5: MAIMONIDES: SANCTIFICATION OF THE NEW MOON   Restitution of All Things

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                        THE CODE OF
                        MAIMONIDES                                       

                     SANCTIFICATION of
                       the NEW MOON                                   
     
              TRANSLATED PROM THE HEBREW BY                                 
                      SOLOMON GANDZ
                        
                      TREATISE VIII
                                      
                     LAWS CONCERNING                                    
                   THE SANCTIFICATION                                    
                     OF THE NEW MOON
                                    
  To ascertain by calculation and to establish by proclamation
the day on which each month of the year is to begin
                               
  COMMENT(kmHunt):
  We have nothing in the New Testament to instructs us nor any
detail as to HOW the mainstream Jewish court in Jerusalem
governed the calendar. Jesus did not speak about it in any direct
manner. We can know from the Gospels that Christ did observe the
Passover on the 14th of Nisan as determined by the day of the
first of Nisan, which was set and announced by the Jewish court.
We can know from the Gospels that Jesus observed the Feast of
Tabernacles when the rest of mainstream Judah was observing it. 
For details of how the calendar was regulated in the time of
Jesus and the first century Church of God, we are dependant upon
the writing of the Jews themselves.  We are blessed with having
the writings of the Jewish scholar called Maimonides, who lived
and wrote around 1000-1100 A.D.  We can only trust that he
himself had access to records and books (lost to us today) that
he based his writings upon.  This being the case, we shall
now proceed to see many of the rules and regulations used in the
time of Christ for governing the calendar Jesus lived under.  I
comment where I feel it is needed. 
  
                                                             
                                                             
                                                             
1.The months of the year are lunar months, as it is said: This
is the burnt offering of every new moon throughout the months
of the year (Num. 28: 14), and it is also said: "This month       
shall  be unto you the beginning of months" (Exod.                
12:2)...... 
  
With  respect to the years, however, we reckon according to 
solar years: for it is said: "Heed the month of the ripening      
ears" (Deut. 16: 1; see below, iv, i).
  
  
2.By how much does the solar year exceed the lunar year? By app-
roximately 11 days.  Therefore, whenever this excess accumulates
to about 30 days, or a little more or less one month is added and
the particular year is made to consist of 13 months, and this is
the so-called embolismic (or intercalated) year. For the year
could not consist of twelve months plus so-and-so many days,
since it is said, "throughout the months of the year" (Num. 28:
14), which implies that we should count the year by months and
not by days.
  
  
3.Each month the moon disappears and becomes invisible for about
two days, or somewhat more or less - for about one day at the end
of the old month, before it reaches its conjunction with the sun,
and for about one day after its conjunction with the sun. Then it
reappears in the evening in the west, and this night, on which it
becomes visible in the west after its disappearance, is the
beginning of the month. From this day on 29 days were counted,
and if the new crescent appeared on the night of the 30th day,
this 30th day was the first day of the new month. If, however, it
did not appear on that night, the 30th day would belong to the
old month and the 31st day would be the first day of the new
month . And no matter whether the moon did or did not appear in
the night of the 31st day, no attention was to it, for the lunar
month never lasts longer than thirty days.
  
             
4.If the moon appeared on the night of the 30th day, so that the
old month consisted of 29 days, this month was called a defective
month; if, however, the moon did not appear on the night of the
30th day, so that the old month consisted of 30 days, it was
called embolismic (or intercalated) month, or a full
month..........
  
  
5.The authority over the observation of the crescent (and the
subsequent proclamation of New Moon Day) was given not to
everyone - as is the case with the Sabbath day, with respect to
which everyone counts 6 days and rests on the 7th day - but only
to the Court. The day sanctified and proclaimed by the court as
the beginning of the month was New Moon Day. For it is said:
"This month shall be to you" (Exod. 12:2), that is to say,
accepting or rejecting evidence concerning this matter is put
into your hand.
  
                            
           
6.Just as the astronomers who discern the positions and motions
of the stars engage in calculation, so the Jewish court, too,
used to study and investigate and perform mathematical
operations, in order to find out whether or not it would be
possible for the new crescent to be visible in its "proper time,"
which is the night of the 30th day. If the members of the court
found that the new moon might be visible, they were obliged to be
in attendance at the court house for the whole 30th day and be on
the watch for the arrival of witnesses. If witnesses did arrive,
they were duly examined and tested, and if their testimony
appeared trustworthy, this day was sanctified as New Moon Day. If
the new crescent did not appear and no witnesses arrived, this
day was the 30th day of the old month, which thus became an
embolismic month. If, however, the members of the court found by
calculation that the new moon could not possibly be seen, they
were not obliged to be in attendance on the 30th day or to wait
for the arrival of witnesses. If witnesses nonetheless did appear
and testified that they had seen the new crescent, it was certain
that they were false witnesses, or that a phenomenon resembling
the new moon had been seen by them through the clouds, while in
reality it was not the new crescent at all.
  
COMMENT (Keith Hunt):
Did you catch it? The Jewish court did use "calculation" - the
governing of the new month day was not always done by mere
observation of the crescent of the moon. I guess not, some days
it would be cloudy, and the crescent of the moon would not be
visible.
  
7. Scripture made it incumbent upon the court to discover by 
calculation whether or not the new moon might be visible, to
examine the witnesses, and then to sanctify the new moon and in
send out messengers to inform the whole community which day was
to be New Moon Day, so that the people would know on which days
the holidays would fall. For it is said: "These are the appointed
seasons of the Lord which ye shall proclaim to be holy
convocations" (Lev. 23: 37), and it is further said: "And thou
shalt keep this ordinance in its season" (Exod.13:10).
  
  
8. Only in Palestine was it permitted to compute and proclaim new
month days and embolismic years, for it is written: " For out of
Zion shall go forth the law. and the word of the Lord from
Jerusalem" (Isa. 2: 3). If, however, a great scholar ordained in
Palestine emigrated to a foreign territory without leaving in
Palestine a man equal to him in learning, he was permitted  to
compute and proclaim the new moon days and em-bolismic years
outside of Palestine. If he, however, learned that there had
arisen in Palestine a scholar equal to him in rank and, needless
to say, if the new scholar was superior to him, he was no longer
permitted to proclaim new months and embolismic years outside of
Palestine, and if he did so, against the law, his proclamation
was null and void.
  
  
  CHAPTER 2
  
  
1.Two worthy men only, qualified to function as witnesses in any
other legal matter, were fit to testify concerning the new moon.
Women and slaves were considered disqualified as witnesses, and
their testimony could not be accepted. If father and son had seen
the new moon, they were to go to court and testify. This does
not, however, mean that witnesses who were blood relatives were
qualified to testify concerning the new moon, but the reason for
it is as follows: In case one of them should be disqualified -
whether because he was a robber or because of some other
circumstance which disqualified him as a witness - the other
could join with a third witness and testify. Any person who, by
the law of the Scribes, was disqualified as a witness, even
though he was fit according to biblical law, was also
disqualified to testify concerning the new moon.
  
      
2.The primary law had been that one need not be too particular 
with regard to evidence concerning the new moon. If the court had
sanctified the new moon on the strength of testimony of witnesses
and these witnesses were subsequently found to have given false
testimony, the sanctification of the new moon remained in force.
Originally, therefore, the court used to accept evidence
concerning the new moon from any  Israelite, for the legal
presumption was that any Israelite is qualified as a witness
until evidence to the contrary is brought to light. However, when
heretics began to cause trouble in a mischievous manner and to
hire men to testify that they had observed the new crescent,
although they did not in fact see it, the Sages decreed that
evidence concerning the new moon should not be accepted unless
the witnesses were known to the court as worthy men, and that the
witnesses should be duly tested and examined.
  
COMMENT (Keith Hunt):
Did you notice that one important statement?  If once the court
had declared and sanctified the new month day, on the testimony
of witnesses, and those witnesses were later found to be false,
THE SANCTIFICATION of the new moon day STILL REMAINED in force!! 
The month would be adjusted next month.  If you like, things
would be "postponed" for the convenience of the people and the
nation.  And some today want to make a "big thing" about the
"postponements" of the Jewish calendar!   Even in Christ's day
they had their types of postponements in the calculated/observing
calendar.
  
  
      
3.If, therefore, men (from a town outside Jerusalem) who were not
known to the court saw the new moon, the people of that town were
accustomed to send with these witnesses who had seen the moon
other witnesses to certify them before the court and vouch for
their trustworthiness, and only then was their testimony
accepted.
  
  
     
4.The court used to employ methods of calculation of the kind
employed by astronomers in order to ascertain whether the new
moon of the coming month would be seen to the north or to the
south of the sun, whether its latitude would be wide or narrow,
and in which direction the tips of its horns would point. And
when witnesses appeared in order to testify, the court used to
examine them as follows: Where did you see the new moon, to the
north or to the south? In which direction did its horns point?
How great was its altitude, in the estimate of your eyes, and how
wide its latitude? If their testimony was found to conform with
the results of astronomical calculation, it was accepted; but if
it was found not to conform, it was rejected.
  
COMMENT (Keith Hunt):
Once more "calculation" is mentioned as playing a large part in
th  courts determination of the new month day and its
sanctification.
  
  
  
5.If the witnesses said that they had seen the new moon reflected
in the water, or in the clouds, or in a crystal, or if they said
that they had seen part of it in the sky and part in the clouds,
or in the water, or in a crystal, this was not considered a valid
observation and the court did not sanctify the new moon on the
basis of such an observation. If one witness said, I saw it, and
in my estimate it had an altitude of about double a man's height,
and the second witness said, It had an altitude of about treble a
man's height, their testimonies were combined. If one said, Its
altitude was about treble a man's height, and the second said,
about five times a man's height, the testimonies were not
combined. However, the testimony of one of them could be combined
with that of another witness who testified to the same effect, or
who differed from him only to the degree of one man's height.
  
  
6.If the witnesses said, "We noticed the new moon while paying no
attention, but later, when we looked at the sky intentionally and
wanted to see it, so that we might bear testimony to its
appearance, we could not see it," such testimony was not
considered evidence, and the court did not sanctify the new moon
on the strength of it. For there existed suspicion that at first
something that looked to them like the moon had appeared in the
gathering clouds, but that the clouds subsequently disappeared
and that they then had seen nothing. If the witnesses said, "In
the morning of the 29th day we saw the (old) moon in the east
before sunrise, and in the evening, on the night of the 30th day,
we saw the (new) moon in the west," they were considered
trustworthy and the court could sanctify the new moon on the
basis of this observation, since they did see the new phase "in
its proper time." However, no attention was paid to the part of
their testimony in which they said that they had seen the (old)
moon in the morning, for the court was not obliged to heed what
they had seen in the morning. Rather, it was assumed that
something that had looked to them like the moon appeared in the
gathering clouds. A similar case existed if witnesses said that
they had seen the new moon in its "proper time," but on the night
of the embolismic day the new moon could not be seen: the court
considered such witnesses as trustworthy, for all that mattered
was that they did observe the new crescent on the night of the
30th day.
  
      
  
7.In accepting the evidence concerning the new moon the procedure
of the court was as follows All those qualified to testify
regarding the observation of the new moon would come to the
courthouse, and the court would invite them all to one place and
entertain them liberally with bountiful meals, so that people
might make it a habit to come. The first pair of witnesses to
arrive was mentioned above (Sec. 4). The older of the two men
took procedence in being questioned; if his testimony was
found to conform to the data of calculation, the other one was
called in, and if both testimonies were in agreement, their
evidence was declared valid. The other pairs of witnesses were
also interrogated but only with a few leading questions, not
because their testimony was needed, but in order to spare them
the disappointment of not having been examined at all and to
encourage them in the habit of corning to the court. 
  
  
  
        8.Thereupon, after the evidence had been accepted as
valid, the chief justice of the court would pronounce the formula
MEKUDDAS ("the new moon has been sanctified ), and after  him the
whole community would respond, "Mekuddas, Mekuddas." Neither the
calculation nor the sanctification of the new moon could be
carried out except by a court of three.  Nor was formal
sanctification of the new moon   pronounced except when the new
moon had been observed in its "proper time," nor the
pronouncement  made other  during  day time, and if it was made
during the night time, the sanctification was not valid.     Even
if the court itself and the whole community of Israel had
observed the new moon, as long as the court had not pronounced
the Mekuddas formula before the arrival of darkness on the night
of the 31st day - if only because the examination of the
witnesses had dragged on for so long that the court had no
occasion to pronounce Mekuddas before the arrival of darkness on
the night of the 31st - this new moon could no longer be
sanctified and the old month was declared embolismic.
In that case New Moon Day was declared to fall on the 31st day,
notwithstanding  that the new crescent had been observed on the
night of the 30th  day. For it was not the observation of the new
moon but the official   pronouncement of the Mekuddas formula by
the court which legally initiated the new month.
       
COMMENT (Keith Hunt):
Please read point 8 above again, and slowly.  What important
statements are made here!  Do you get what he has said, do you
see the significance as to what is stated?  When it all came down
to it, it was not the observation and calculation so much that
was the final authority as to when the new month day, BUT it was
the "pronouncement of the Mekuddas formula by the court which
legally initiated the new month."  And we have seen that if the
legal pronouncement was given by the court on the technical wrong
day, or the witnesses were later found to be false, the
sanctification of the new month day STILL STOOD!  And people
today want to make a big thing about so-called errors in the
Jewish perpetual calendar!  What errors I ask?  Where are all the
rules and laws laid out in the Bible as to how the calendar is to
be governed?  Try to kind them if you can! Errors, so called by
some, may have been made back in Christ's time by the Jewish
court in Jerusalem (they really were not errors as such, for they
had authority as to when to declare the new month day), yet if
the new month day was legally sanctified by the pronouncement of
the Mekuddas formula, the day of the new month stood,  regardless
of any other situation.  Jesus never argued with them over the
matter, never disagreed with their sanctification, for He
observed the Passover on the 14th of Nisan as the 1st of Nisan
was pronounced by the Jewish court in Jerusalem. 
  
         
  
9.If the court itself observed the new crescent at the end of the
29th day before the appearance of a star on the night of the 30th
day, the cour  might proclaim Mekuddas, since it was still
daytime. But if they saw it on the night of the 30th day after
the appearance of two stars, the proper procedure was as follows:
They waited until the following day and then they appointed two
other judges to sit with one of them and to constitute a new
court, while the two remaining members testified as witnesses
before the new court of three, whereupon these three did sanctify
the new moon.
  
  
10.If the court sanctified the new moon by inadvertence or by
mistake or under duress, the sanctification was valid and
everyone was in duty bound to observe the festivals in accordance
with the day in which the judges had sanctified the new crescent.
Even though it was known that the judges had erred, their
decision was binding, for the authority over this matter had been
given to them only. He who has commanded us to observe the
festivals has also commanded us to follow them, for it is
written: "which you shall proclaim" (Lev. 23: 37).    
  
COMMENT (Keith Hunt):
Once more please read slowly the above point 10. What an eye
opener!  Once the decision by the court had been made to sanctify
the new month day by the pronouncement of the Mekuddas formula,
it was binding, EVEN if from a pure technical point the court had
been misled or deceived in some manner, it was they who had the
authority from God to announce when the new month day was to be
observed.  Jesus never argued against them on this matter. He
observed the Feast of Tabernacles as recorded in the Gospel of
John, when all of mainstream Judah observed it. When the court
pronounced the new month day of the 7th month, which would
determine the annual feast days of the 7th month, Jesus observed
those festivals along with the mainstream body of Jewish people
in Jerusalem. The Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees, who were
members of the court of Jerusalem, all agreed on the pronouncing
of the new month day for each month of the year. They all agreed
as to when the 1st of Nisan would be, and so all knew when the
14th, 15th and 21st of Nisan was. They all agreed as to when the
1st of the 7th month would be, hence when the feast of Trumpets,
feast of Atonement, feast of Tabernacles, and feast of the 8th
day, would be. They all agreed as to when the 1st of the 3rd
month would be, but the COUNTING of 7 Sabbaths to the feast of
Pentecost was not agreed upon by the Pharisees and the Sadducees,
hence they observed it on different days WITHIN the 3rd month. 
The Gospels are silent as to which teaching Jesus said was the
correct one, but as He would have followed the truth, He would
have observed Pentecost on the correct day.  This correct day has
nothing to do with the pronouncement of the new month days, only
with the correct time to start the count to Pentecost FROM WITHIN
the month of Nisan(the first month), and the 1st day of Nisan was
agreed upon by all as it was announced by the court of mainstream
Jewish authority from Jerusalem.
  
    
CHAPTER 3
    
1. If witnesses observed the new moon, and there was a walking
distance of one night and one day, or less, between their place
and the place of the court, they were obliged to go there to
testify. If, however, the distance was greater than this, they
were not obliged to go, for after the 30th day their testimony
was of no value, since the old month had already been declared
embolismic.
  
  
2.Witnesses who observed the new moon were obliged to go to court
and testify, even on a Sabbath; for it is said: "which ye shall
proclaim in their appointed season" (Lev. 23: 4), and wherever
the term appointed season is used in connection with a
commandment, this commandment takes precedence over the laws of
the Sabbath. Accordingly, they were allowed to violate the
Sabbath only on account of the months of Nisan and Tishri, for
the observance of the festivals (in proper season) depends only
upon these two months. At the time, however, when the sanctuary
was still standing, violation of the Sabbath was permissible on
account of all the months, because of the Musaph offering of each
New Moon Day, which offering took precedence over the laws of the
Sabbath.
  
  
  
3.Even as the witnesses who had observed the new moon were
permitted to violate the Sabbath, so also the witnesses who
accompanied them to certify their trustworthiness before the
court were permitted to profane the Sabbath, whenever the
observing witnesses were not known to the court. And even if
there was only one witness to introduce them to the court, he
was allowed to accompany them and violate the Sabbath on account
of the possibility that another witness might be found who would
join him to form a pair.
  
  
4.If a witness who had observed the new moon on the night of the
Sabbath was sick, he was allowed to ride an ass, or to be carried
on a litter. If the witnesses were afraid of enemies who might be
lurking for them on the road, they were allowed to take along
weapons; and if it was a long journey, they were allowed to carry
along food. Even if the new moon had been so large that it must
have been observed quite generally, the witnesses might not say:
"Just as we have observed it, so must many other people have
observed it, and there is thus no need for us to violate the
Sabbath." For the law prescribed that whoever had observed the
new moon and was qualified to testify was in duty bound to
violate the Sabbath in order to go and testify, if the distance
between his place and the place of the court was only that of a
night and a day, or less.
  
  
5.Originally, the court was wont to accept the testimony of
witnesses concerning the new moon during the whole of the 30th
day. Once, however, it happened that no witnesses had yet arrived
late in the afternoon, so that the authorities of the Temple were
embarrassed and did not know what to do. They hesitated to
sacrifice the afternoon burnt offering, for they were afraid that
witnesses might still come, and it would then be impossible for
them to sacrifice the additional offering of the (New Moon) Day,
inasmuch as no sacrifice could be offered after the daily
offering of the afternoon. Thereupon the members of the court
decided to enact a law to the effect that evidence concerning the
new moon was not to be accepted after the time of the afternoon
offering, so  that enough of daytime might be left to sacrifice
the additional  offering and the daily burnt offering, and to
perform their respective libations.
  
  
COMMENT (Keith Hunt):
Did you notice that?  Laws and calendar rules were added at
times, when the court saw fitting to do so in order to be
expedient for and towards other consideration within the
framework of people serving the Lord. That also throws some light
on the development of the Jewish perpetual calendar and its
postponement rules that many today object to. As the worship of
the Eternal is now upon every continent and every corner of the
earth(Jews and Christians are in all nations today), it was
needful that a calendar be devised for a worldwide unity worship
of God through His annual feasts. In so doing no confusion would
arise in the observance of God's weekly and annual Sabbaths.
    
                            
6.Therefore, if the time of the afternoon offering had arrived 
and no witnesses were yet there, the priests proceeded to
sacrifice the daily  burnt offering of the afternoon. If
witnesses arrived after the afternoon  offering. both the rest of
that day and the next day  were observe  as  holy days, but the
additional (New Moon Day) offering was sacrificed only on the
subsequent day; for no sanctification of the new moon could take
place after the afternoon offering had been  performed.     After
the destruction of the Temple,  however, a law was decreed by
Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai and his court to the effect that
evidence concerning the new moon be accepted during the whole of
the 30th day. Hence, if witnesses came even at the end of the
30th day, near sunset, their evidence was accepted and the 30th
day alone was duly observed as New Moon Day.
  
COMMENT (Keith Hunt):
Notice, laws and rules were added or changed AFTER the Temple
was destroyed in 70 A.D. The calendar was always to some point
moving and flexible for many centuries. The authority to exercise
this flexibility of the calendar was allowed by God and entrusted
to the court of Jewish scholars.  We have proof that this is so
from the fact that after the fall of the Temple, the Church of
God continued to observe the Passover on the 14th of Nisan as
declared by the Jewish calendar. This fact is found in the
writings and examples of servants of the Lord such as Polycarp
and Polycrates of the second century A.D.  Concerning Polycarp,
he wrote that he received the 14th of Nisan observation from the
very apostle John himself.
  
        
7.Whenever the court declared a month as full, because no
witnesses had appeared during the entire 30th day, it was
customary for people to betake themselves on the 31st day, which
was New Moon Day, to a place held ready for that purpose, and
there a meal was prepared. They went there not in the evening but
in the early morning before sunrise, nor did they go to this meal
if they were less than ten persons, nor did they take along
anything save bread made from grain or pulse, which was all that
they ate at this meal. And this is meant wherever reference is
made to the "religious meal for the intercalation of a month."
  
  
  
8. Originally it was customary, when the court sanctified the new
moon, to light fire signals on the tops of the mountains, so that
those who lived at a distance might learn of it. But when the
Cutheans began to cause trouble by kindling fire signals in a
mischievous way, in order to mislead the people, a law was
enacted whereby messengers were sent out to inform the public.
These messengers, however, were not permitted to profane a
holiday, or the Day of Atonement, and least of all the Sabbath;
for one may not violate the laws of the Sabbath in order to
facilitate verification of New Moon Day, but only to facilitate
its sanctification.
  
  
9.Messengers were sent out to verify the sanctification for the
following six months: Nisan, on account of the Passover; Ab, on
account of the Fastday; Elul, on account of the New Year - so
that the people might look out on the 30th day of Elul and wait
for a message: if they learned that the court had sanctified the
30th day, they observed this day alone as New Year's Day; if they
received no message, they observed both the 30th and the 31st
days as New Year's Days, until the messengers of Tishri reached
them-; Tishri, on account of the proper observance of the Tishri
holidays; Kislew, on account of Hanukkah; and Adar, on account of
Purim. During the existence of the Temple, however, messengers
were sent out also to verify the beginning of Iyyar, on account
of the Lesser Passover.

TO BE CONTINUED
                            ..................

Written April 1998

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