A Jewish Roots Update

Who would have thought…

Here it is, just 10 months into the unplanned adventure of writing this blog, and Jewish Roots of Christianity has reached a significant milestone, of sorts.  having had more than 11,000 individual visitors to our page!

That is pretty cool considering we never intended to ever do this in the first place!

Here is a brief update and look back.

11 000 visitors in 10 months circled
Count per Day – April 20 2016 – 11 AM

 

These 11 000+ visitors came from well over a 100 different countries or territories! 

112 countries 20.04.2016
The 212 countries and territories our visitors are from

For those who haven’t heard the story behind how the Jewish Roots of Christianity web site was created, it came about because people who were not on Facebook (where the first of these articles were posted as “Notes”), wanted to be able to read them. These were Gentile Christians wanting to understand the roots of their faith better.  Okay, that seemed pretty easy; we could just put them on a free WordPress site which is what we did.

JrofC header
The Header from Jewish Roots of Christianity’s first WordPress site

The problem was, the url was cumbersome and the template inflexible.  When we had over 1500 visitors in just 5 weeks, we realized there was an interest in what we were writing.

JRofC - 5 weeks - 1500 visitors

So we uploaded it to its current server, and Jewish Roots of Christianity, the blog, began.  That was June 11, 2015.

People were asking if we had ‘cards’ with the website url on it, which we didn’t, so we printed those.

JRofC1 business card design
Jewish Roots of Christianity website cards

And so it began…

More than 11, 000 people from 112 countries later, here we are; writing about Jewish Sabbaths and holy days, life in the first century and current events in the Land in light of Scripture.

We are glad that you have been visiting and returning and hope our articles continue to be a source of encouragement and inspiration to you.

Shalom!

UNESCO Resolution Erases Jews Connection to Temple Mount

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) who are responsible to institute and administer “education programs” in Arab-controlled parts of Israel (including Gaza, and Judea & Samaria – on the Western Bank of the Jordan River) passed a resolution which denies Israel’s historic connection to the Temple Mount and Western Wall.

Meeting in Paris yesterday, UNESCO passed a resolution which referred to the Al-Asqa Mosque and the Temple Mount by its Arabic term Al-Haram Al-Sharif — giving preeminence to the Dome of the Rock  Mosque which was built on the site where the First and Second Jewish Temples once stood.

As we briefly outline below, the First Temple was built in 833 – 827 BCE and the Second Temple was built between 353 and 349 BCE. To put the claims of the UNESCO resolution in context, the Al-Asqa Mosque was built in 705 CE and the Dome of the Rock  Mosque (Qubbat As-Sakhrah) was built in 691 CE on the site of the First and Second Jewish Temples.  How outrageous, that United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)  — who are responsible to institute and administer “education programs”, would so blatantly deny history.

UNESCO’s resolution referred to the Western Wall only in quotation marks and only after using the Arabic term Al-Buraq Plaza and accused Israel of planting “fake Jewish graves” in Eastern Jerusalem; a claim which is especially grievous given that the old Jewish cemetery on Mount Olives was desecrated by the Jordanians prior to 1967, using its tombstones to pave roads.

UNESCO is not only rewriting history, it is ignoring connection of Judaism to the Temple Mount; where the two Temples stood for a thousand years. While Jews can ascend to the Temple Mount area, they are forbidden to pray and Jewish visitors are frequently arrested by the ‘Temple police’ if it is even thought the they uttered a silent prayer before sipping from their water bottle.

The First Temple ( Solomon’s Temple)

The First Temple was constructed by King Solomon, based on detailed plans that God had given to his father, King David through the prophet Nathan. King David had wanted to build it himself, but was told that his son would be the one to do it. Solomon began building the Temple in 833 BCE and it was completed in 827 BCE. The site was on Mount Moriah — the same location where Abraham was prepared to offer up his son Isaac.  The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians 470 years after it was built.

Return from Captivity

The different stages of the return to Zion from Babylon are documented in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and are as follows;

  1. In 538 BCE, approximately 1,000 Jews returned under a man known as Sheshbazzar out of the notion to redeem the land of Israel from its ruins and to re-establish the Temple.
  2. The second wave of return was led by Zerubbabel, the grandson of Jeconiah, king of Judah who was a descendant of the house of David.  It was these that completed the construction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 516 BCE.
  3. The third wave of return was led by Ezra in 458 BCE with official approval of the Persian government and permission to take money from exiled Jews to the Temple and Jews living in Israel. Around 5,000 Jews were in this wave of Zion returnees. Ezra appointed magistrates and judges and to teach the law of God to the people of Israel.
  4. The fourth wave of return was led by Nehemiah in 445 BCE. It is not clear how many Zion returnees joined him, but the Book of Nehemiah depicts a strong army escort supplied by the king.

Building of the Second Temple

In 353 BCE, exactly seventy years after the destruction of the First Temple, the Jews began building again—at first independently, but King Darius soon ratified their effort. The Second Temple was completed in 349 BCE. In 66 CE, after the Jews protested excessive Roman taxation, the Romans plundered the Second Temple and killed 6,000 Jews.  This was the start of the Jewish-Roman war (66-73 CE) and was led by the future Emperor Titus. Titus ordered the burning of the Second Temple which was built after the return of the captives of Babylon to Zion and which was only ~ 90 years old at the time.  Although this seemed to be natural events of history, these events had been prophesied by Jesus in Matt 24:1-25 & 46, Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36. With the ‘siege of Jerusalem’ in 70 CE and the destruction of the Temple, the Jews including those of the Early Church fled Jerusalem.

Josephus documents that 1.1 million people were killed during the siege of which the majority were Jewish and 97,000 were captured and enslaved and many fled to areas around the Mediterranean. The Jewish state came to an end in 70 CE and the Second Jewish Diaspora began.

UNESCO’s Resolution

UNESCO  resolution was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan and France, Spain, Sweden, Russia and Slovenia were among the non-Arab nations who supported it. In all, it was approved by 33 states.

Only six countries voted against the resolution,  including the United States, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Seventeen countries abstained.

Some Thoughts…

UNESCO prides itself on promoting tolerance, interfaith and inter-cultural dialogue,  yet it passed a resolution which attempts to erase the Jewish people from history. This resolution makes UNESCO an accomplice to the spreading of anti-Jewish propaganda and to the perpetuating of racial discrimination of Jews in their historical homeland. Furthermore, this resolution serves to fan the flames of terrorism against Jews in Israel — simply for being there. Instead of promoting tolerance they are promoting terrorism.

France,  Spain, Sweden, Russia and Slovenia certainly need to be held to account for supporting this resolution as do Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan for submitting it.

Passover’s significance to the Church

Introduction:

God set apart 3 specific times of commemoration for the Jewish people that were occasions that all the men were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These 3 days also coincide to significant days to the Church — namely (1) the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant, (2) the day the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and (3) the date that many Biblical scholars believe to be the date of Jesus’ birth.

To understand the significance of any of the three pilgrim festivals to the Church, one first needs to understand the significance to the Jews, so we’ll cover that first.

This article is on Passover; the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant.

Last Supper vs Last Seder 709 x 803


Passover (Pesach) falls on the 14th day of the first month on the Biblical calendar and is the first day in the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. Nowadays the term “Passover” refers to both.

“The Passover to the Lord comes in the first month, at twilight on the fourteenth day of the month.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord is on the fifteenth day of the same month. For seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you are to hold a sacred assembly; you are not to do any daily work. You are to present a fire offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day there will be a sacred assembly; you must not do any daily work.”

Leviticus 23:5-8

While months in Scripture are numbered; first month, second month, etc. they also have names.

The names of the months that appear in the Old Testament are split between the names used before and after the exile of the Jews under the Babylonians.  As a result, in some passages, Passover is said to fall in the month of Aviv — in the parts of the Old Testament written before the Babylonian exile, and to fall in the month of Nisan in the parts of Scripture written after the exile. The first month is still called Nisan, today.

Passover is the commemoration of God bringing the Jews out of Egypt, our deliverance from slavery, God’s redemption of us, and His taking us as His people, as He said He would in Exodus 6;

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.  I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”

Exodus 6: 6-7

I will bring“, “I will deliver“, “I will redeem“, “I will take”  from the verse above are referred to as “the four ‘I wills’” and play a central role in framing the commemoration of Passover, called a Seder (for “order”). These four “I wills” correspond to the 4 cups of wine that are poured during the Passover commemoration and have significance to the Church, as well as to the Jewish people. More on that below.

The Feast of Passover commemorates the night when the Angel of the LORD passed over the households in Egypt where the blood of a perfect lamb was applied to the doorposts and lintels of the house; sparing the first born son (Exodus 12:1-13; Leviticus 23:5).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorates that the Jews left Egypt in such haste that they did not have time to let their bread rise and had to bake it quickly by grilling it, as opposed to baking it.

Passover is quite literally, the account of how God saved His people by the shedding of the blood of the perfect Passover lamb. Sound familiar?  It should.

The 4 cups of wine that are poured during the Seder, the commemoration meal of Passover and which correspond to the four “I wills” are called;

Cup of Sanctification
I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians

Cup of Judgment
I will deliver you out of their bondage

Cup of Redemption
I will redeem you with an outstretched arm

Cup of Praise
I will take you to me for a people

It is believed that it was the third cup, the Cup of Redemption that Jesus took with His disciples and with which He instituted the New Covenant.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the [1] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

[1] some manuscripts insert "new"

Matthew 26:25-28

Here is Luke’s account;

“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Luke 22:20

If there is a “new” covenant there must necessarily be an “old” covenant.

Most Gentile Christians think of the “old covenant” as the “Law” given to Moses at Mount Sinai – but God says in Jeremiah 31:32 that the “old covenant” is the one that He made with our forefathers in the day that He took us by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt”.


The “New Covenant” – promised to the Jewish People

It may come as a surprise to learn that the New Covenant was promised by God beforehand to the Jewish people.

The “new covenant” that Jesus instituted at what the Church calls the “Last Supper” (more accurately called ‘the last Seder’) — was promised to the Jewish people in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 31.

It is a Jewish covenant – one He said He would make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (the Jews).

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

Jeremiah 31: 31- 33

Why did God need to make a “new” covenant?

Hebrews 8 explains why He needed to make a new covenant with us.  We broke the first covenant:

“if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second one. But finding fault with His people, He says:

 Look, the days are coming, says the Lord,

when I will make a new covenant

with the house of Israel

and with the house of Judah—

not like the covenant

that I made with their ancestors

on the day I took them by their hands

to lead them out of the land of Egypt.

I disregarded them, says the Lord,

because they did not continue in My covenant.

But this is the covenant

that I will make with the house of Israel

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put My laws into their minds

and write them on their hearts.

I will be their God,

and they will be My people.

And each person will not teach his fellow citizen

and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,”

because they will all know Me,

from the least to the greatest of them.

For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing,

and I will never again remember their sins

By saying, a new covenant, He has declared that the first is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear.”

Hebrews 8: 7-14

God needed to make a new covenant with us because we broke the “first covenant” (the one He ratified with Abraham and that He swore by Himself to uphold) and which He implemented when He led us out of Egypt to bring us into our own Land, which He promised to Abraham. He was a husband to us and we were unfaithful.

While the New Covenant is a Jewish covenant promised by God to the Jewish people in the Old Testament, it was also God’s  means to fulfill the promise He made to the Gentiles back in Genesis 12:3;

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and curse those that curse you, and in you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.

In this passage, God speaks of His promise to Abraham (developed more in Genesis 17:1-8) that He will make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and given them a specific land . He then goes on to say something incredible — that through a descendant of Abraham’s “all the nations [Ha-Goyiim, in Hebrew, meaning “Gentiles”] on earth will be blessed”. 

This is referred to as “the all-nations clause of the Abrahamic Covenant”

Wow! God planned right from the beginning that the Messiah, a Jew — would be a blessing to the Gentiles.  On the cross, access to all — Jew and Gentile was provided.  The veil was torn.  Whosoever will, may come.

Jesus is the mediator of this new covenant (Hebrews 8:1-6).


The “Bread and the Cup”

Some people think that Jesus was implementing  a new ritual, a “Holy Sacrament”, an Ordinance, when He took the “bread and the cup”,  gave thanks, broke it and said “take eat all of you, for the forgiveness of sins“. Let’s look at this in its context…

Jesus was sitting at the Passover meal with His disciples.  As Jews, in accordance with the Law of Moses, they were keeping the memorial feast (Seder) to remember that night that the Angel of the Lord passed over the houses of the children of Israel when He saw the blood of a perfect lamb (“a lamb without blemish”] — painted on the doorposts and lintel of the Jews’ houses. When He saw the blood, He passed over — sparing the first born of the Jews.  It was in THIS context, that Jesus took the “bread and cup”.

It was not “any bread” that He took.

It was not “any cup“.


Taking, Giving Thanks and Breaking the Bread

In the account in Luke (Luke 22:14-20) it says:

He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Luke 22:19

Let’s break down the account of what Jesus did in

(1) taking the bread

(2) giving thanks and

(3) breaking it


The “Bread” Jesus Took

Have you ever seen what matzoh, unleavened bread looks like? It is hard, dry and very crumbly.

Here is a picture;

passover cup and echad

Matzoh is made of only flour and water and is baked very quickly over an open fire — because it symbolizes the the Jews had no time to let their bread rise (with yeast) when they fled Egypt. Holes are pierced into it in stripes to allow more even heat flow during the baking process and to keep it from puffing up while it is cooking.  The flames leave these little brown spots that look like bruises all over, because matzoh are grilled over an open fire.

Matzoh is pierced, striped and bruised — like the Messiah was prophesied to be in Isaiah 53:4-6.

This is the “bread” that Jesus took !


“Giving Thanks”

Scripture says that when Jesus took the (unleavened) bread from the Passover Seder, He “gave thanks“.

As a Jew, having a meal with His Disciples who were Jews, “giving thanks” meant something very specific.

There is the “blessing on bread” and the “blessing on wine” — bread and wine are two elements that are found at every feast meal, including the Sabbath (Shabbat) meal. The only difference is, at Passover, the “bread” is unleavened.  So matzoh is used.

These are specific blessings.

When Jesus took the “bread” and “gave thanks” He prayed the “blessing on bread” over the matzoh;

“Blessed are You, O LORD, God King of the Universe, who brings bread from the earth. Amen”.


“Breaking” the Bread

Remember, the “bread” Jesus took was hard and pierced with holes in stripes. “Breaking” the matzoh means it would ‘snap’ along one of the lines of pieced holes.

After He took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, He gave it to them and said;

“This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

He was saying, this broken pierced, striped, bruised matzoh — is Me. He was saying that He was going to be ‘broken’ for them, that He is the One spoken of in Isaiah 53.

Then He said;

“Do this in remembrance of Me”.

Was He implementing a new ritual? A Holy Sacrament? An Ordinance of the Church?

Or was He taking elements that are found at the Passover meal — elements that already had a specific meaning and relating THAT to what He was about to do?

Like the perfect Passover lambs on the night the Jews left Egypt, He was about to be sacrificed — broken for us.


“The Cup”

It is believed that the cup that Jesus took was the 3rd cup — the Cup of Redemption, as it was a cup He took “as they were eating”.   As you will see below, the 4th cup was taken “after supper”.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26:25-28

By way of background, it is important to know, is that the wine served at the Passover Seder meal must be red wine, because it is represents

“the blood of the lambs that was placed on the doorposts and lintels of the homes , the night we left Egypt — so that when the Angel of the Lord saw it, He would “pass over”.”

Jesus took an element fundamental to the Passover Seder meal — a cup of red wine that already had a very specific meaning and told His Disciples what He was about to do;

“When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him.  Then He said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

Luke 22:14-18

He took the cup and after “giving thanks”…  i.e. He said the “blessing on wine”:

“Blessed are You O LORD, God, King of the Universe, who brings forth the fruit of the vine. Amen”

Since He said the “blessing on the cup”, he would have taken a sip of it. Then He passed the cup around for everyone to take a sip, which is what is done after “Kiddish”, the “blessing on the wine” is said.  He would have passed the cup to the eldest male there, who would have taken a sip and then passed it to the next eldest.

Then He said:

“I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

He knew what lay ahead and that on THIS Passover, He was the Lamb that was about to be sacrificed — so that they (we) could be spared the penalty of death.

Then Jesus said He would not drink of the fruit of the vine (i.e. would not drink the 4th cup of wine of the Passover Seder meal) until He drinks it with us in the Kingdom of God (cr Matt 26:29, Mark 14:25).


The Fourth Cup  — the Fourth “I will”

We know that this was the fourth cup, because it says in Luke 22:20 that it is the one that He took “after supper”. This cup represents the fourth “I will” – “I will take you to me for a people”.

Of this cup, Jesus said;

In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said,“This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.” “

By saying this, Jesus was telling His Disciples that THIS Passover it would be His blood that was going to be the sacrifice and more than that, He was saying that His blood would be the sacrifice that would ratify the New Covenant — the covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31.

Remember…

The “first covenant” was the one that was ratified with Abraham — the SAME Covenant with the “all-nations clause” in it.

This was the Covenant that was ratified when God alone passed through the split carcasses. This meant that if that Covenant was broken by the Jews, only God would have to pay the penalty for it having been broken.

Referring back to Hebrews 8:7-14, a “new covenant” was needed because we (the Jews) broke the “first covenant”.

Jesus was saying when He took the 3rd cup — the Cup of Redemption, that just as God swore by Himself to do when He passed through the cut carcasses alone, He was going to “pay the required price” for us breaking the first covenant. He was going to redeem us — buy us back.

In just a few hours, He would do, just that.

While the New Covenant was promised to the Jews and He would be the sacrifice that would soon ratify it — God planned from the beginning, that ‘all the nations — the Gentiles, would be blessed through this descendant of Abraham‘…the Jewish Messiah. In this new covenant — both Jew and Gentile would be full and equal partakers of.

When Jesus took this cup, He was comparing His blood to those of the lambs’ that were put on the doorposts and lintels of the houses the night we left Egypt — to spare us from death.

The reason that Jesus won’t drink the 4th cup yet — is because He is still gathering His people — both Jews and Gentiles to Himself.

Paul speaks of this in Romans 11:25-17;

“I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,

he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

“and this will be my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”

As regards the gospel, they [the Jews] are enemies of God for your (the Gentile’s) sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.  For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Romans 11:25-27

[for an in-depth explanation of this passage, phttp://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-partial-hardening-has-come-to-israel-until-the-full-number-of-the-gentiles-has-come-in/]

Paul also speaks of His future redemption of the Jews in Romans 11:11-15;

“So I ask, did they [the Jews] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their [the Jews] trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.

Now if their [the Jews] trespass means riches for the world, and if their [the Jews] failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their [the Jews] full inclusion mean!

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. In as much then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

For if their [the Jew’s] rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

Jesus is coming back for His Bride, comprised of both Jews and Gentiles and at that time He will again drink the fruit of the vine, the Cup of Praise, in the fulfillment of the fourth “I Will” – “I will take you to me for a people”.

 

INTRO – Passover, Pentecost and Booths – significance to the Church

Introduction:

God set apart 3 specific times of commemoration for the Jewish people that were occasions that all the men were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These 3 days also coincide to significant days to the Church — namely (1) the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant, (2) the day the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and (3) the date that many Biblical scholars believe to be the date of Jesus’ birth.


Jewish ‘holidays’ are not simply nice traditions that we celebrate as part of our cultural identity — but dates of commemoration set by God Himself for a specific purpose. Of the holidays set apart by Him as His “appointed times” — three were occasions that all the men were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These are often called the “pilgrim festivals”. These three are of significance to the Jewish people of course, but also have a great deal of importance to the Church.

Before getting into what these three occasions are and what they signify to both to the Jews and the Church, we need to provide some background on the calendar, itself. The Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles (not solar cycles, like the Western calendar); specifically, on the timing of the “new moon“.

new moon over Jerusalem April 9 2016
new moon over Jerusalem April 9 2016 7:16 PM – courtesy of Nehemiah Gordon

At the beginning of the moon’s cycle, it appears as a thin crescent shape. This is the “new moon” and signals the beginning of a new Jewish month. The first day of the month is called Rosh Chodesh (gutteral “ch” sound) — the “Head of the Month”.  During the remainder of the lunar cycle, the moon grows until it is a “full moon” (of no special significance in Judaism) in the middle of the month, and then it begins to wane, until it cannot be seen at all. It remains invisible for approximately two days until the “new moon” reappears, and the cycle begins again. The entire cycle takes approximately 29½ days and since a month needs to consist of complete days, some months are twenty-nine days and some thirty days. Knowing exactly when the month begins is very important to the Jewish people, as God set the dates of Jewish observances according to the phases of the month.

Before God delivered the Jews from slavery in Egypt, God told Moses and Aaron that this month shall be to you the “beginning of months” — that “it shall be the head of months” for you.

“And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: ‘This “chodesh” (new moon) shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the head of months (first of the months) for you.'”

Exodus 12:1-2

God tells Moses that the year will begin on that month — for the purpose of counting months…but not for the purpose of counting years. “New Years” is a different time, see below.

The “first month” referred to above is the first month of the Biblical Calendar. 

Months in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar are numbered, with the first month being the one with the commemoration of God’s delivery of the Jews from bondage (Passover). This month is called Nisan by Jews today, and used to be called “Aviv” before the Babylonian exile. It is the start of the Biblical Calendar.

Years are counted from Rosh Hashanah — the Civil New Year, which occurs in the seventh month of the Biblical calendar and which according to Rabbinic tradition commemorates when Adam and Eve were created.  Rosh Hashanah is the “head of the year” — in contrast to the first month which is the “head of months“.

Rosh Hashanah is what Jews celebrate as “New Years” and is set out in Scripture in Exodus 34 where it is referred to as “the turn of the year“;

“Observe the feast of Pentecost with the first-gathered produce of the wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the turn of the year.”

Exodus 34:22

The feast “at the turn of the year” is after Pentecost, and is the “feast of Ingathering” — also called Feast of Booths (Sukkot) or Feast of Tabernacles and is one of the three pilgrim festivals. The other two are Passover (Pesach) and Pentecost (Shavuot) and coincide with very important dates to the Church, as well as to the Jews.

It is important to keep in mind that it is the sighting of the “new moon” that signals the beginning of a new Jewish month (Rosh Chodesh) and the sighting of the “new moon” on the first month which begins a new calendar of months. The timing of Passover is set as being on the 14th day of this month. 

There are several challenges to setting the beginning of any new month relative to the timing of the “new moon”.  Firstly — what if it isn’t visible?  What if it is overcast? It does happen in Israel; what then?

Multiply those challenges with the need to confirm the sighting of the “new moon” before a new year can begin – by which the date of Passover is set. Remember, Passover is one of the three times a year all the men of Israel had to go to Jerusalem. There was no way to know when Passover would be — until the sighting of the “new moon” occurred, and then all the men and their families had 14 days to get packed and to arrive in Jerusalem.  Quite the “road trip”!

To put this in context, that means that none of the disciples knew in advance when the “Last Supper” would take place until 14 days earlier, when the “new moon” was sighted.

The Pilgrim Festivals

None of the Jewish ‘holidays’, including the pilgrim festivals of Feast of Booths (Sukkot), Passover (Pesach) and Pentecost (Shavuot) are “holidays” in the same way commonly thought of by non-Jews. These are times of commemoration that God Himself set apart in Leviticus 23, along with Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Firstfuits (which we touch on below) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  He calls these “My designated (or “appointed” times)”

“Tell the people of Israel: ‘The designated times of the LORD which you are to proclaim as holy convocations are My designated times.’ “

Leviticus 23:2