Welcome to Nazarene Israel. My name is Norman Willis. I would like to ask you, have you ever heard it said “It cannot be the Passover season yet, because it is not yet spring”? What we need to ask ourselves is, is that man’s tradition? Or is that Scripture?
I was called to the Hebrew Roots movement in 1999, and at that time I was taught that there are two main seasons in the land of Israel. First comes winter, which is colder and wetter, and it rains approximately half of the week. Then comes the time around the Spring Equinox, the change of seasons, which takes place normally speaking around March 20th or 21st depending upon the year. And then after the equinox then comes the summer, when things are generally hotter and much drier. But traditionally around the spring and fall equinoxes (the Spring Equinox happening around March 20th or 21st and the Fall Equinox happening around September 20th or 21st) you get a nice change of seasons. There are three or so weeks where the weather is very pleasant, and that short sleeve weather and everything is just really a very nice time to be in the land of Israel.
Traditionally, at least according to the rabbis, the feasts happen either during or around these three very pleasant weeks of transition, around the time of the spring and the fall equinoxes. It is considered a blessing that Yahweh gives to his people. That is to say that the Passover and the wave sheaf are supposed to take place around the time of the Spring Equinox (again starting around March 20th or 21st), that is when the season is thought to begin. And then again in the fall it is thought that the “Fall Feast Season” takes place around the same general time, around the equinoxes. But let us ask ourselves; is this man’s tradition? or where is “Spring” commanded in Scripture?
Many different groups believe in the importance of the role that tradition plays in the keeping of the feasts, but in Nazarene Israel we believe rather that what is most important is to obey what Scripture says. That is why, in our study Aviv Barley Simplified, we have seen that Scripture tells us to declare the Head of the New Year (in Hebrew called Rosh Hashanah) at the time when we see the first crescent sliver of the new moon, and that we will be able to offer the very first sheaf of aviv barley (which we are defining as medium dough barley) 15 to 21 days later, on the day of the Wave Sheaf Offering (called in Hebrew Yom Hanafat Haomer). This is a very important time. This wave sheaf is symbolic of Yeshua. Yeshua was presented and that cleared the way for the rest of the harvest. The presenting of the wave sheaf pleases Yahweh. Yahweh then sanctifies the harvest, and this clears the way for the rest of the harvest. Now let us ask ourselves, “where is Spring in this?”
In this presentation we are going to look at four other calendars which tell us that there is a requirement for Spring before the new year can begin. We are going to look at the rabbinic Jewish (or what is called the Hillel II Calendar). We are also going to look at the Equinox Calendar. We are going to look at the Lunar Sabbath Calendar. And last but not least we are also going to take a look at the Karaite (or what might be called the Sadducee Calendar) — three of these calendars require spring to begin the new year, and the Hillel II declares the new year in the fall.
The Rabbinic Jewish (or the Hillel II Calendar) was created by Rabbi Hillel HaNasi, he lived around 320-385 CE, a little bit after the time of Emperor Constantine. This calendar was finalized somewhere around 922-924 CE, and it was originally created because the Jews were barred from the land of Israel. Therefore, they could no longer declare the Head of the Year based on the condition of the aviv barley in the land of Israel. They had to create a way to mathematically approximate the ripening of the aviv barley in the land of Israel. This is a mathematical, pre-calculated calendar that actually is very brilliant, considering the era in which it was created. It is amazing how good it is! It is not completely accurate. But considering the amount of time it has been in use, it is rather amazing, and in fact it is still in use today. But there are some problems with the Rabbinic Jewish Hillel 2 calendar.
One issue is that it declares Rosh Hashanah (the Head of the Year) based on the Spring (Vernal) Equinox, or at the very least that is one of the factors. They cannot declare the Passover before the vernal equinox. To put it another way, Passover and the wave sheaf cannot take place before the Spring Equinox. In other words that means the Passover cannot take place before spring, meaning Passover cannot take place in the winter when it is still cold. Now it is important to note that even the rabbis admit that this is not a correct calendar, and they want to go back to the original Aviv Barley Calendar. In fact, I have had the head of the Sanhedrin, Rabbi Hillel Weiss, admit to me that they want to go back to the original Aviv Barley Calendar, but they cannot figure out how to get the people to do it (but that is another issue all of itself).
Then the second calendar we are going to look at is the Equinox Calendar. This calendar, sometimes it includes barley, and sometimes it does not include barley. But this calendar assumes that the year again begins only after the Vernal or Spring Equinox–and the equinox is when the day and the night are of equal length. This happens in the spring usually around March 20th to 21st and then again in the fall around September 20th to 21st. We talk more about the pitfalls and the errors in this in Nazarene Scripture Studies Volume 2 in a study called “The Equinox Error”, and there are a great number of things wrong with this calendar. One of the big things wrong is that just in terms of adding the Spring! That is against Scripture. Yahweh warns us very, very clearly in Deuteronomy chapter 4 and verse 2. He says:
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:2
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor shall you take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh or Elohim which, I command you.”
Meaning not the commandments you modify, not the commandments that you tweak by yourself, but I want you to keep the commandments that I tell you to do, how I tell you to do them. Again, he says in Deuteronomy 12 and verse 32:
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:32
“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”
This is precisely what happens when we get into adding the requirement of spring or the Spring Equinox to the calendar system.
When we look at what kinds of things might be added to the calendar, Yahweh warns us in Deuteronomy chapter 4 and verse 19; he says: “And take heed (that means be careful! It means watch out!)! If you are not careful, He says, “you’re going to lift your eyes to the heaven and when you see the sun the moon and the stars and all the host of the heaven, you are going to feel driven to worship them, and serve them which Yahweh or Elohim has given to all the other peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage.”
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:19
“And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which Yahweh your Elohim has given to all the (other) peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage.”
In other words, Yahweh has given these things to the goy (gentile) nations of the world. He does not want his people Israel to be paying attention to or basing their calendars off the sun, the moon, and the stars except in the way that He tells them to.
There is a very old maxim in Judaism which is: “Whoever’s calendar you keep, that is who you worship.” That is a true saying, if we think about it. If that is true (and it is true), we must ask ourselves why are we doing what we are doing? Are we doing the things we are doing specifically because Yahweh said to do so, or is it that we only think we are following what Yahweh said to do, but secretly we have some other hidden spiritual reasons that we may not be aware of? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves.
Let us look at what happened in Exodus chapter 32 and verse 5, and the sin of the golden calf. Aharon had the children of Israel break off the golden earrings that were in their ears and he fashioned it and made it into a golden calf. It says:
Shemote (Exodus) 32:5
“When Aharon saw it, he built an altar before it and Aharon made a proclamation and said, Tomorrow is a feast to Yahweh!”
Notice what he said, because it is very important. Aharon thought that he was honoring Yahweh, but Yahweh did not feel honored, because Aharon did not do what Yahweh said to do. That is the difference. Aharon added something.
We are talking about adding things to Scripture, let us look. We have a study in Nazarene Scripture Studies Volume 2, we talk about the lunar sabbath in detail, all the things that are wrong with it in a study called “the Lunar Sabbath Error”. But we all know that in Genesis, Elohim worked for six days to create the heavens the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and then He rested on the seventh day. And then, in Genesis chapter 2 and verse 3 we see it says:
B’reisheet (Genesis) 2:3
“Elohim blessed the seventh day and set it apart because in it he rested from all his work which Elohim had created and made.”
There are many different witnesses all throughout Scripture to this concept of working for six days and then taking a rest. For example, in collecting the manna in Exodus chapter 16 and verse 26, Yahweh tells the children of Israel:
Shemote (Exodus) 16:26
“Six days shall you gather it but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.”
This is the basic concept is that you work for six days, and then take a break, and the seventh day is the Sabbath. It is right there in Scripture; it is very plain. But the lunar sabbath people do not see it that way. The lunar sabbath people have a completely different concept. In the lunar sabbath concept they would say: “No no no no! You don’t understand. Yahweh does not mean count to seven and take a break! When Yahweh says count to seven and then rest, what He really means is to look up in the sky at the phase of the moon.” You know, you cannot make this stuff up. And it is amazing how many people adhere to this concept; I am constantly amazed how many people believe this!
The lunar sabbath people would tell us that this is a sabbath when you cannot see the new moon, and this is another sabbath when the moon is half full, and this is another sabbath when the moon is full, and here is another sabbath when the moon returns back to half full. Then we are back to another sabbath when the moon again is not full.
There are several problems here. One is that this is not what Yahweh said to do. And another problem is that it takes longer, mathematically it is impossible. It takes the moon on average, give or take, about 29.5 days to orbit the earth, and this 29.5 does not divide evenly by seven. If you divide it by four you get an average of 7.375 days. There is no way to get it to cleanly work out by sevens! For example, let us just look at an average month right here. Here is one of those moon phases.
They would say that this is a sabbath. We count one- two- three- four- five- six- seven- eight days to get to the next sabbath, you have got an eight-day week.
One – two – three – four – five – six – seven days. (We are back to a seven-day week, that is good.)
One – two – three – four – five – six – seven, (here is another seven-day week, that is good).
Now One – two – three – four – five – six – seven – eight days (again to get to the next sabbath).
If it is a 29-day month you have three weeks that have seven days and you must have one week that has eight! Or in this particular example you have got two weeks that are eight days and two weeks that are seven. Mathematically it simply does not work. They try to solve it, but there are way too many problems. If you are interested please read Nazarene Scripture Studies Volume 2, “The Lunar Sabbath Error”.
Some versions of the lunar sabbath use the barley and some do not, but they typically add a requirement for the Spring Equinox to begin the year.
Again, we are talking in the context about adding things to the calendar that Yahweh says are not there. With that in mind now, last, but not least, let us come to the Karaite (or what might be called the Sadducee) Calendar. If you talk to the Karaites, the Karaites will tell you, they will claim that their calendar is the original calendar that was given to Moshe (Moses) in the wilderness of Sinai. But it is not. We explain what that original calendar is in our video study, Aviv Barley Simplified, and you can also find the transcript on the website. We will have links below.
There is a lot of information, but what is important to understand here is that Aviv barley is defined as barley that is “tender, young and green”, because what Yahweh wants us to do is He wants us to bring him the very first sheaf of barley, (to present him with our first and finest), just like in Genesis, so that then he can sanctify the harvest, bless the harvest and then this clears the way for the rest of the harvest. And we are defining Aviv barley as barley that is what is called medium dough. It is not yet hard. It is still tender, it is still young, it is still green a little bit, although there is something very substantial about it.
Well, the Karaites have a very different concept, and because of this they have a completely different definition. What the Karaites want to do is the Karaites want to wait until most of the crop in Israel is already hard and brown and ripe before they will declare the harvest, before they will declare Aviv. That is because the Karaites want to bring in the harvest and then they are not going to bring a sheaf first (to clear the way for the harvest)–they are going to go ahead and bring in the harvest, and then bring a sheaf of that harvest to the priest. That is their concept. In order to do that, because they are harvesting first, they need to have brown, harvest-ripe barley. That is what they are all about.
Some more confusing factors to add into the equation, the term Aviv means spring in modern Hebrew. That is not the original definition. The original definition of Aviv is “tender, young, and green”. We are talking about things that are added. When you change the definition that is kind of adding and taking away, you are taking away the original definition and you are adding a different definition. We are not saying that the Karaites use this definition because they do not. But is it possible that this definition has influenced certain groups of people’s thinking? They have not said exactly this, but the Karaites seem to believe that the term Aviv refers to the earliest time when whole barley fields can be harvested, and in their understanding that takes place in spring because they say it cannot take place in winter. Notice the assumption here. They are assuming that it needs to be Spring before they can declare the aviv barley. Or to put it in other terms, they assume it must be after the Spring Equinox before they can declare the aviv barley.
Now we talk about how the Karaite theology violates Scripture, and violates Yeshua’s example in our video, Let’s Not Break Deuteronomy 16:9. (If you have not seen that video, I strongly urge you to watch, it has got a lot of great information in there.) But let us look at how it applies to this year. There is a very popular barley search team that is led by a Karaite, it is called Devorah’s Date Tree. It is led by a Karaite by the name of Devorah Gordon. She is very clear, she says she is not an official representative, she is just simply leading what she calls an interfaith barley and new moon search team. We do not have any issue with her new moon reporting! Her new reporting is excellent, and she also documents what she finds fairly well in terms of the barley. The difficulty is that she has a different definition of barley than Strong’s. She has a different definition and a different understanding of what the Aviv barley is, and what it is all about. We would believe that has to do with adding and taking away.
Devorah’s Date Tree has ridiculed the idea publicly that the barley can be Aviv before the Spring Equinox (before March the 20th or 21st). The reason they have not said this explicitly, but we believe that the reason that they ridicule it is because, at least in their understanding, most of the fields need to be ripe for the harvest. They want to bring in the harvest first and then bring the wave sheaf. That means that the fields need to be harvest ripe and that typically takes place after the Spring Equinox.
Now let us just ask ourselves the question—and I don’t want to say anything negative, I don’t want to say anything bad, but let us just ask ourselves the question: is it possible that the real reason that the Karaites ridicule the idea that the barley can be aviv before the Spring Equinox has anything to do with the Spring Equinox? I do not want to say anything radical, and I do not want to make any false accusations! But I just want to ask the question, it is just a question: is it possible that the reason the Karaites ridicule the idea that the barley can be aviv before the Spring Equinox has something at all to do with the Spring Equinox? It is just a question, I am asking.
Let us look at some of the things that Devorah’s Date Tree says. She is going through sample frequently asked questions (or she is paraphrasing). She says:
Devorah’s Date Tree
(Frequently Asked Questions)
“Could the new year begin next month? As I alluded to in my opening paragraph, it is still Winter here, and it poured all of last week.”
Because that is what it does in Israel in the winters! It rains in the winter and it does not rain in the summer. She is saying “it is still winter here!” In other words, she is saying “It is not yet spring.” Now just as a question, I do not want to say anything wrong, I do not want to say anything radical but just as a question is not that the same thing as to say it is not yet past the spring equinox? And where is spring commanded in scripture? She gives another frequently asked question: how was the weather? because that is an indicator of spring. She says it was just starting to get warmer on our first day, but then on the second day of our inspection it got cold again. Notice, is not her assumption here that it must be warm like it is in Israel in the summer? Meaning, after the spring equinox, or if it is not warm the barley cannot possibly be of Aviv and therefore it cannot possibly be Passover? It is just a question that I am asking.
Now in that light, let us consider again what the rabbis teach. Traditionally, according to the traditions and teachings of men, they teach that there are two seasons in Israel. That part is true, there is generally winter and there is generally summer. The winter is generally cold, and it generally rains half the week, and then comes the Spring Equinox, generally around March 21st (March 20th this year). Then comes the summer which is hot and dry. And, again, there are two very mild seasons around the two equinoxes, and many rabbis teach that the feasts always take place either around or after these two spring and fall equinoxes. In fact, you can very often hear the phrase used ‘the Spring and Fall Feasts’, even though that particular term is used nowhere in scripture. But is that truly what Scripture says?
We look at John chapter 18 and verse 18, we are talking about the time of Yeshua’s sacrifice which we know took place at the Passover. It says:
Yochanan (John) 18:18
“Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coal stood there, for it was cold, [meaning it is still in winter] and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.”
What this means is that the Passover can be cold, because Passover can happen in the winter. It does not have to be spring. There is no requirement to pass the spring equinox for it to be the Passover.
Now let us look at what happened in this particular year. Maybe you are watching this in a future year, but just imagine coming back to the junction of 2020 and 21. We had some very extreme weather (which happens sometimes). Around December of 2020 we had about six weeks of sun, and it was unseasonably warm in the land of Israel. In 2021 then the cold weather returned. What happens when barley does that, barley sort of advances. The barley in the land of Israel ripens over a two- or three-month period, about that. So, when we got this warm weather, the barley began to ripen, it began advancing.
The early portions of the barley reached what you might call a ‘point of no return’, and then the cold weather hit, and the later barley sort of pulled back. I do not know if you have ever watched, but in spring if you get a warm spell the buds will start to push out, and then if the cold weather returns the plants will actually retract the buds, the buds will come back in. But once they have reached a point of no return, once the buds open, it begins flowering. The plants have committed themselves and so then they will not draw back, they will continue pushing forward trying to make their seeds, (make their babies and procreate and continue the next generation, carry on).
But we had some very interesting things happen this year. We had a six-week unseasonably warm period in December and perhaps in January. First it was unseasonably hot, and then it was cold again.
A sister by the name of Becca Biderman found what you might call an early flush. This barley that had committed itself had gone past the point of no return. She found this early flush of Aviv barley on February the 6th. Notice this is say about a month and a half before the Spring Equinox of March the 20th, 2021. There were a lot of interesting factors in this particular field, a lot of very interesting factors, you could see Yahweh’s hand all over this.
But Devorah’s Date Tree came in and inspected the field, and they said there was no Avid barley, because for Devorah’s Date Tree, what they wanted to see was not the very first sheaf of barley to present to the priesthood. What they wanted to see were whole fields of barley, and so they (because of their observer bias) looked past the first flush. And you can see them as they do their inspections, they were looking only at the second flush. I do not want to say they were consciously ignoring the first flush, but it is like they could not see the first flush because that is not what they were looking for. It is very interesting, if you know what you are looking at, to watch those inspections.
Then on February the 22nd (about a month before the equinox of March 20th) Becca Biderman and her assistant Cindy, they went south to Re’im Israel and they found a second witness to the early flush of Aviv barley. Devorah’s Date Tree came to that same field, very interesting. Becca will inspect fields and Devorah will come in there right behind her, and say that there is no Aviv barley. The reason that she is doing that, again, is because she is looking for harvestable fields which only occur after the Spring Equinox, generally speaking.
With that in mind we talk about certain translation errors. Very interesting these translation errors! In Genesis chapter 1 and verse 14, this is a passage that many people use as an alleged proof text for the Equinox Calendar or the Lunar Sabbath Calendar. It is very interesting to look at this. They talk about how things often get lost in the translation. It is very interesting because this verse reads very differently in the Hebrew than it reads in the English, and in many other languages. Let us take a good look at this verse. In Genesis 1 and verse 14, let us just go with the New King James here the standard translation, it says:
Genesis 1:14 NKJV
“Then Elohim [or God they would say] said, “Let there be light in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years.”
Now the term seasons refers to spring, summer, fall and winter, and that is based upon your solstices and your equinoxes. When you read this verse in English you are saying “let the sun, the moon and the stars be for signs and for seasons”, meaning spring. Let us take that back to the Hebrew.
In the Hebrew that that word right there is ‘u-le-mow-a-deem’. “U” is just and, “le-mo-w-ad-im”, “-im” is plural, and “mow-ad” (mowed’, mo-ade, moed, or mo-aw-dah).
The term, we looked that up, it is Strong’s Old Testament 4150 “mo’ed” and what it means is specifically “a festival”, it is “an appointed time”. Properly “an appointment”, in other words a fixed time, or a season but specifically “a feast or a festival”. When we look at that there is another translation, the Institute For Scripture Research version says:
B’reisheet (Genesis) 1:14 ISR
“And Elohim said, Let lights come to be in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and appointed times [meaning mo’edim, i.e., feasts], and for days and for years…”
Notice the seasons are not mentioned, only feasts. So, where is ‘spring’ in this verse?
We would start to add things like spring in order to justify the Lunar Sabbath Theory or the Equinox Theory or perhaps the Karaite doctrine of harvestable fields. We should consider again due to passages like Deuteronomy 4 and verse 2, where Yahweh says:
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:2
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor to take [anything] away…”
Because if we do that, we are not able to keep the commandments of Yahweh our Elohim which he commands us, because we are doing our own thing. That is why He tells us to be careful to do what He commands us, and not to add anything, and not to take anything away.
Notice he says, “take heed!” He means be careful! Be careful, be so very careful! Because if you are not careful, if you are not watching out, you are going to lift your eyes to the heaven and you are going to see the sun, the moon, and the stars and all the host of the heaven. And if you are not careful, you are going to feel driven to worship them and serve them. When it says and “serve them”, we have a study on this in “About Service” in The Torah Calendar Study. What that means in Hebrew is anything that is your reason for doing it, that is what service means. If you are modifying your calendar based on the equinox, then in Yahweh’s sight you are serving the equinox. That is what that means, that is why it is so important to pay attention, specifically to what Yahweh says to do.
Now let us ask ourselves, according to this true ancient Jewish maxim, they say “whoever’s calendar you keep that’s who you worship”. Are you keeping the Karaite calendar? Are you keeping the Sadducee calendar?
Let us ask ourselves, why are we doing what we are doing? Are we doing what we are doing because we have been very, very careful with Yahweh’s word, and we are following exactly what He said to do? Or have we added something? And if we have added something, does that mean that we only think that we are doing what Yahweh said to do, but really, we have added something, because we have some other spiritual reason going on in our heart?
In that light let us ask ourselves again, where is spring commanded in scripture?