Hebrew In Israel | Beyin Ha’arbayim – When Is Pesach Done? – Learn Torah

"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." Exodus 12:6

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Hebrew In Israel | Beyin Ha’arbayim – When Is Pesach Done? – Learn Torah

Yoel Halevi 4 comments

The term בין הערביים –Beyin Ha’Arbayim is temporal construct form used to describe a specific time of day, and found in several places in the Bible.  One of the most important places it is used is in connection to the time of the Pesach sacrifice as prescribed in Exodus 12:6.  This term has created many arguments over when to do things, and in fact has raised the question of how does the Torah understand time in overall.

The Problems

There are two problems we find with this term which has led many to be confused on when the Pesach is to be done.  The first problem is that the verses which deal with the time seem to not be clear what day the Pesach is to be done.  Is it the 14th,  the 15th, or even the end of the 13th?  The second problem is that during the second temple, a new interpretation was created.  It seems that due to the large amounts of people showing for the feast, it was impossible to do the Pesach at the short time prescribed (I will get to it in a moment).  Because of this new interpretation, we have a new layer of data which has caused many people to be even more confused about this term.

Word Analysis

The word בין is a preposition that means between, hence this term means “Between the evenings”.

The word ערב-Erev means in Modern Hebrew “evening”, but in Biblical Hebrew it means Sunset.  In Akkadian the word Arbu means to enter–meaning the sun enters its resting place.

The suffix -yim is a dual form used in Semitic languages to indicate two of something.  It is also used for the plural of some words that usually come in twos, but it can be used for the regular plural.

Second Temple Interpretation

The new interpretation used in the second temple attempted to interpret the word Erev as having the meaning of “Evening” which means that it is not the sun setting, but rather the sun moving to the west.  This meant that the time was of several hours and lasts from midday to the evening.  This interpretation enabled the large number of celebrates to do a very long service which was not limited to just slaughtering the animals.  The Mishnah and Talmud in Pesachim 5 describes singing the Hallel (Psalms 113-118) and a complex sacrifice which needs to be manipulated in different stages.  This practice created a need to expand the time frame of the sacrifice to midday.

The Two Evenings And Sacrifice

What are the two evenings?  The answer is the two settings of light.  The first setting is of the actual sun, and the second of the light.  This means that the time of Bein Ha’Arbayim is modernly known as “Dusk” or “Twilight”.  This is the common meaning in Semitic languages, and is the most accurate meaning based on the etymology.

The issue they were having in the second temple was that dusk lasts in the land of Israel for about 15-25 minutes, which is not enough time for the whole ritual they created (see Mishnah Pesachim Chapter 5).  What I find is that the Pesach ritual as descried in Talmudic sources is not the same as the Torah, for the Torah does not say you need to be done with everything in this time frame, only that you need to start.  In a time when people slaughtered for themselves, this could have been done in minutes.  The Torah does not say anywhere that a Kohen has to do it, nor does it say that they (i.e the Kohanim) are to collect the blood, or even throw it.  The Pesach seems to be less of a sacrifice and more of a family/tribal affair led by the families.  We never find in Torah a description of and altar being used, or any of the regular blood manipulation as found with the sacrifices.  I find it fair to say that these details can be argued as introduced later by Leviticus, but one must remember that the Torah says in Exodus 12:9:

כִּי אִם-צְלִי-אֵשׁ, רֹאשׁוֹ עַל-כְּרָעָיו וְעַל-קִרְבּוֹ

but roasted in the fire, with its head, the lower parts of its legs and its inner organs

Hence all the parts of the animal are used while roasting, making the usual parts put on the altar or given to the Kohen still intact.  A Kohen had to bring his own Pesach and was not ascribed to the Pesach of others.  None of the parts which make a sacrifice of any kind is given to a Kohen or places on the altar.  It seems logical that the forbidden organs (i.e. Chelev) were removed, but other than that the whole animal was taken by the family and eaten only by them.

The Case of Chronicles

Chronicles 35:13 is an interesting case where we hear of a presumed long ceremony which includes more sacrifices than ascribed in the Torah.

 וַיְבַשְּׁלוּ הַפֶּסַח בָּאֵשׁ, כַּמִּשְׁפָּט; וְהַקֳּדָשִׁים בִּשְּׁלוּ, בַּסִּירוֹת וּבַדְּוָדִים וּבַצֵּלָחוֹת, וַיָּרִיצוּ, לְכָל-בְּנֵי הָעָם

They roasted the Pesach lamb over fire, according to the rule; while they boiled the holy offerings in pots, kettles and pans and carried them quickly to all the ordinary people.

It is not unusual for Chronicles to express a common practice of its time and try to harmonize Biblical texts, and throw back on times of the past.  Chronicles attempts to harmonize the description of animals in Exodus 12, which only talks about sheep and goats, and Deuteronomy 15:2 which adds cattle.   By doing this, the author of Chronicles creates a complex service to accommodate a contradiction in the text by introducing “Qodashim” sacrifices (to expand on this see the work of Sara Japhet and commentators).  What we actually learn from this is that in early 2nd Temple they had already stumbled on a problem in the commandment, and they shifted to a different practice which was expanded in later rabbinic rulings.

Day or Night?

The other part to the confusion is what part of the day does the time frame belong to?  Exodus 12:18 clearly connects the feast of unleavened bread to the doing of the Pesach, but the text also says the it is the 14th in the evening.  If we remember that the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy have a “day starts at sunset” concept, the confusion becomes evident: if it is the 14th in the evening, then is it the end of the 13th day after sunset or the end of the 14th?

Some have tried to explain that the day begins at sunrise based on Leviticus and Genesis (De Vaux, Milgrom and more), and claim that the day has not ended and it is still the 14th.  These arguments ignore the difference between Leviticus, which is temple centered where services are only during the day, and the rest of the bible which is not (the Genesis argument is too long to explain here, and we might deal with it at another time).  On top of this, the Pesach is unusual because it is an individuals responsibility and is done by the owner regardless of the Kohanim, and therefore is actually different than usual temple practice.  It also is done at a time when usual temple services end–with the last evening offering of the Tamid (Numbers 28:1-10).

The reason the text uses such difficult language is because of the ambiguity of this time of day.

On the one hand it is still light time, but on the other the sun is not out and has set behind the horizon.  It is also the split-second change between one part of time and the other, leaving it in a problematic state in time recognition.  This problem was recognized by other cultures, and this time of day was seen as a middle ground and a border between day and night, and the different days.

To avoid any confusion the text created a link in chapter 12 to the feast of unleavened bread which is on the 15th, making it clear that this time is connected to the next day, and is to be done at the end of the 14th leading to the 15th day.  One can notice a slight roughness in the transition between verses 14 and 15 where the text shifts from the Pesach to the feast.  The subject of the whole chapter is the Pesach, and this section from v. 15 to 20 is “out of place”.  This is not an unusual thing in the Torah, and sections which relate to one thing will be inserted into the storyline by association or relevance (S. Talmon “The Ways of the Biblical narrative, Hebrew University 1965).

When reading the text in full, one can see the transition point in verse 15 when the subject changes from the laws of Pesach to the laws of Chag Hamatzot.

יג וְהָיָה הַדָּם לָכֶם לְאֹת, עַל הַבָּתִּים אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם שָׁם, וְרָאִיתִי אֶת-הַדָּם, וּפָסַחְתִּי עֲלֵכֶם; וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה בָכֶם נֶגֶף לְמַשְׁחִית, בְּהַכֹּתִי בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.  יד וְהָיָה הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה לָכֶם לְזִכָּרוֹן, וְחַגֹּתֶם אֹתוֹ חַג לַיהוָה:  לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם, חֻקַּת עוֹלָם תְּחָגֻּהוּ.  טו שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, מַצּוֹת תֹּאכֵלוּ–אַךְ בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן, תַּשְׁבִּיתוּ שְּׂאֹר מִבָּתֵּיכֶם:  כִּי כָּל-אֹכֵל חָמֵץ, וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל–מִיּוֹם הָרִאשֹׁן, עַד-יוֹם הַשְּׁבִעִי.  טז וּבַיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן, מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי, מִקְרָא-קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם:  כָּל-מְלָאכָה, לֹא-יֵעָשֶׂה בָהֶם–אַךְ אֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל לְכָל-נֶפֶשׁ, הוּא לְבַדּוֹ יֵעָשֶׂה לָכֶם.  יז וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, אֶת-הַמַּצּוֹת, כִּי בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, הוֹצֵאתִי אֶת-צִבְאוֹתֵיכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם; וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת-הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם–חֻקַּת עוֹלָם.  יח בָּרִאשֹׁן בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ, בָּעֶרֶב, תֹּאכְלוּ, מַצֹּת:  עַד יוֹם הָאֶחָד וְעֶשְׂרִים, לַחֹדֶשׁ–בָּעָרֶב.  יט שִׁבְעַת יָמִים–שְׂאֹר, לֹא יִמָּצֵא בְּבָתֵּיכֶם:  כִּי כָּל-אֹכֵלמַחְמֶצֶת, וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל–בַּגֵּר, וּבְאֶזְרַח הָאָרֶץ.  כ כָּל-מַחְמֶצֶת, לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ; בְּכֹל, מוֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם, תֹּאכְלוּ, מַצּוֹת

13 The blood will serve you as a sign marking the houses where you are; when I see the blood, I will pass over you — when I strike the land of Egypt, the death blow will not strike you.  14 “‘This will be a day for you to remember and celebrate as a festival to YHWH; from generation to generation you are to celebrate it by a perpetual regulation.  15 “‘For seven days you are to eat matzah — on the first day remove the leaven from your houses. For whoever eats hametz [leavened bread] from the first to the seventh day is to be cut off from Isra’el.  16 On the first and seventh days, you are to have an assembly set aside for God. On these days, no work is to be done, except what each must do to prepare his food; you may do only that.  17 You are to observe the festival of matzah, for on this very day I brought your divisions out of the land of Egypt. Therefore, you are to observe this day from generation to generation by a perpetual regulation.  18 From the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the evening of the twenty-first day, you are to eat matzah.  19 During those seven days, no leaven is to be found in your houses. Whoever eats food with hametz in it is to be cut off from the community of Isra’el — it doesn’t matter whether he is a foreigner or a citizen of the land.  20 Eat nothing with hametz in it. Wherever you live, eat matzah.’”

However everything is by design, and the text adds a later subject here to connect the two parts of the feast, and by doing that also gives us clarification in regards to the when of the first part.  Pesach is the opening ritual of the larger seven-day feast of Chag Hamatzot, which is marked by the great assembly of the people at the temple with their appointed animal.  By the time one sits to eat the Pesach, the matzah is already prepared for him and leaven has been removed as described in Exodus 23:17-19

יז שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים, בַּשָּׁנָה–יֵרָאֶה, כָּל-זְכוּרְךָ, אֶל-פְּנֵי, הָאָדֹן יְהוָה.  יח לֹא-תִזְבַּח עַל-חָמֵץ, דַּם-זִבְחִי; וְלֹא-יָלִין חֵלֶב-חַגִּי, עַד-בֹּקֶר.  יט רֵאשִׁית, בִּכּוּרֵי אַדְמָתְךָ, תָּבִיא, בֵּית יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ; לֹא-תְבַשֵּׁל גְּדִי, בַּחֲלֵב אִמּוֹ.

17 Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Lord, YHWH.
18 You are not to offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread, nor is the fat of my festival to remain all night until morning.
19 You are to bring the best firstfruits of your land into the house of YHWH your God.


In conclusion, the term is used for indicating a time that belongs to the end of the light time of the day when the sun sets, but there is still light.  This time of day is in limbo and creates a difficult time reference which has created confusion.  The understanding of this term is that it is used to describe the time between two days, and exists both in the previous day and the next.  It is a transitional time which takes the person out of the previous day and takes him into the next.

Photo:  New Moon in 2014, taken by Yoel Halevi.

Originally Published:  24 March 2015


John Lloyd

April 19, 2019 at 12:43 am

Thank you for the very insightful article. I have studied this subject for many years and came to the same conclusion (that beyin ha arbayim is “dusk”). To me it is evident from Exodus 16 where both “beyin ha arbayim” and “ba erev” are used for the timing of the quail. It seems clear (at least to me) that the quail came at sunset (ending the Sabbath) and that they ate the quail during “beyin ha arbayim”. Then they had “bread (manna) in the morning (boqer). I enjoyed your explanation for the “twisting” of the meaning of the phrase to justify later practices. I wish more teachers were honest like you! One question, though, because it wasn’t clear to me and my wife: Do you believe that the original Pesach sacrifice occurred at the beginning of the 14th (after sunset) or at the beginning of the 15th (after sunset)? Thanks in advance for the clarification!


April 19, 2019 at 4:50 am

Thank-you for this mini study, Yoel. I appreciate the information regarding changes that occurred during the 2nd temple period, and the mention of the Chronicles verse. Also the clarity regarding “between evenings”.

Owen Murphy

April 6, 2020 at 9:10 pm

Thank you for this- Is there room for the dual ‘yim’ to mean the ‘evening’ of 6 am to noon and the ‘evening’ of noon to 6 pm are actually the ”two’ evenings rather than sunset and twilight of the 14th? Thus the day is ‘evened’ out with two 6 hour segments.

    Yoel Halevi

    April 8, 2020 at 11:57 am

    The whole article is specifically why the interpretation od several hours is incorrect. Hence the answer would be no.

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