Hebrew In Israel |13th or 14th? – Learn Torah

Hebrew In Israel |13th or 14th? – Learn Torah

Yoel Halevi One comments

One of the questions I get asked all the time is when to celebrate the Pessach? This issue arises because of the wording of Exo 12:6

וְהָיָה לָכֶם לְמִשְׁמֶרֶת עַד אַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה וְשָׁחֲטוּ אֹתוֹ כֹּל קְהַל עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם

“You are to keep it until the fourteenth day of the month, and then the entire assembly of the community of Isra’el will slaughter it at dusk” (CJB)

And Lev 23:5

בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר לַחֹדֶשׁ בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם פֶּסַח לַיהוָה

“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between sundown and complete darkness, comes Pessach for YHWH” (CJB)

Some have taken these verses to mean that at the end of the 13th day at dusk, which leads to the 14th day, one is to do the Pessach. However, this interpretation is incorrect and the time should be at the end of the 14th day at dusk. This incorrect interpretation is an overextension of the concept of sunset being the beginning of the day. However, as I have explained in my article on Beyin Ha’abayim, the concept of dusk has always been a problem for people in the ancient world. In truth, this time of dusk was in limbo and was seen as part of the previous and next day.

An external text to the Bible which deals with the same issue gives more insight into the matter.  When reading the so-called Pessach papyrus from the year 419/8 BCE from Elephantine one can see a very clear interpretation of the above verses.  In the letter, the writer Hananyah gives some instruction to Yadani of the Jewish garrison of the city. Inline 3-4 Hananyah writes:

יא כעת אנתם כן מנו ארב[עת עשר]

[יומן לניסן וב14 בין שמשיא פסחא עב]דו ומן יום 15 עד יום 21 ל[ניסן חגא]

“And now you thus count fourteen 

Days to Nissan and on the 14th between the suns do the Passover and from the 15th day till the 21st of Nissan a feast”

Later on Hananyah becomes even more clear and states in line 7:

[ואל יתחזה בביתכם מן יום 14 לניסן ב]מערב שמשא עד יום 21 לניס[ן במערב]

[שמשא וכל חמיר….]

“And it will not be seen, from the 14th of Nissan from sunset, till the 21st of Nissan at sunset

Any leaven” 

This above statement clearly links the time of the Pessach together with the beginning time at dusk of the rest of the feast of Chag Hamatzot. It is important to note that the writer is actually instructing the community in Egypt to do a Pessach lamb. This in itself is a very interesting due to the fact that most people believe the Pessach was to only be kept in Jerusalem.  

The statement in the letter is consistent with Exo 12:18

בָּרִאשֹׁן בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ בָּעֶרֶב תֹּאכְלוּ מַצֹּת עַד יוֹם הָאֶחָד וְעֶשְׂרִים לַחֹדֶשׁ בָּעָרֶב

“From the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the evening of the twenty-first day, you are to eat matzah” (CJB)

It seems very clear that the writer of the letter, who lived in the Persian era, is telling the community to count full fourteen-day, and only at the end of the 14th day are they to keep the Pessach. The sequence of words in lines 3-4 and 7 cannot be read any other way then the following way:

Count 14 days>reach the end of the 14th day at sunset>dusk>do the Pessach.  

Hence the conclusion is that one is to do the Pessach at the END of the 14th day leading to the 15th. Exodus 12:18 does the exact same thing by indicating that the feast of Chag Hamatzot starts at the same time as the Pessach. 

One comments

Michael Gardner

April 8, 2020 at 5:59 pm

If you would have kept “between the evenings” as it is kept now, many Jewish/Israelite firstborn males would perish if the destroyer came at midnight on Aviv 14.
Since Israel was spared because of obedience to the directive, to me it is a no brainer that Pesach is to be kept between the evenings/dusks [20-30 minute period of time not 24 hours.] when the 14th commences just after sunset of the end of the 13 of Aviv; rabbinic commentary notwithstanding. We have to place YHWH’s words over man’s to find favor with Him. Thanks. Stay safe! This virus is operating similar to a death messenger or worse.

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