PESACH OBSERVANCE - WHEN, HOW? by Ya'acov Wolfaardt
This article is regarded by many as controversial. If you are offended by this article, I cannot blame you! Many years ago I would also have been offended by it, but by the mercy of the Most High Elohim, He opened my eyes to this teaching ("Torah" in Hebrew). One thing that we should all reconsile in our own minds before we think of teaching, is that the Scriptures has a specific order regarding teaching. The first and foremost teaching we should adhere to is the Torah itself, that is the first 5 books written by Moses (Moshe). The teaching that Yahushua our Messiah gave runs parallel with the Torah, and does not contradict it whatsoever - His teaching enhances the Torah. In the light of this background regarding teaching, please read this article with an open mind.
In years gone by, and even today many believers are stumbling over this question. There are at this stage basically 3 mind sets or doctrinal viewpoints on when the 14th of Aviv, "between the evenings" is.
Does the evening of a day belong to the beginning or the end of a day:
Most believers that observe the festivals or set appointments of Yahueh are also Sabbath observant - if not all. Most of these believers hold to the viewpoint that shabbat is celebrated (a festival unto Yahueh) from evening 'till evening, i.e. Friday sunset until Saturday sunset. From this background these believers are in a mind set of observing all of Yahueh's appointments from evening 'till evening, although this is not commanded in Scripture for all these appointments. This is true for 3 of the set-apart days of all the appointed times, i.e. (1) The 1st day of Unleavened bread, (2) the last day of Unleavened bread and (3) Yom Kippur, which is not a festival, but a High Sabbath. Scripture says that we should observe Yom Kippur on the 10th day of the 7th month, Wayyiqra / Leviticus 23:27. When does the 10th day start? From the following passage it is quit clear to me which part of an evening should be associated with the day, meaning the evening at the beginning, or the evening ending a day. It says in v. 32, "It is a Sabbath of rest to you, and you shall afflict your beings (to fast). On the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you observe your Sabbath." Yet, in verse 27 we read that we should observe Yom Kippur on the 10th day. So, the evening of the 9th day belongs to the end of the day, and not the beginning of the day - at least from what we read in this passage. For this same reason it should be clear to us what Scripture teaches concerning the Feast of Unleavened Bread. "In the 1st month, on the 14th day of the month at evening, you eat unleavened bread, until the 21st day of the month at evening." Shemoth / Exodus 12:18. My understanding of this passage, as illustrated with Yom Kippur is that we should therefore eat unleavened bread from the end of the 14th day (evening) until the end of the 21st day (evening). This is not so obvious though if you hold to the view that the evening is the beginning of a day - therefore the dispute whether one should observe Pesach at the beginning or the end of the daylight hours of the 14th day. Scripture says, "In the 1st month, on the 14th day of the month, between the evenings, is the Passover of Yahueh." Wayyiqra 23:5. To some "between the evening of the 14th" means at the beginning of the 14th (from the tradition of evening to evening Sabbath observance), and to others it means at the end of the 14th day, understanding this passage in the light of the Yom Kippur issue illustrated above.
I will not further discuss the viewpoints of whether the evening of a day belongs to the beginning or end of a day due to the so-called fact that many believers observe Sabbath from evening 'till evening. For the past 25 to 30 years this dispute has not been resolved.
Before we can resolve Dispute No. 1, which is critical for correct observance of Pesach, I wish to introduce a 2nd viewpoint regarding Sabbath observance. To some this will be a stumbling block. The issue at stake is this - Does a day start in the evening as we have been taught through traditional Sabbath observance? Where do we read in Scripture that we should observe Sabbath from sundown 'till sundown? In fact, nowhere! If you open your understanding to the following thought, the evening of the 14th will no longer be a stumbling block.
In Shemoth / Exodus 16 we read the following pertaining to the re-institution of the Sabbath day among the estranged Yisraelites. I quote from verses 22 to 30 with my own comments inserted in brackets.
And it came to be, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. (This happened on the morning or the 6th day.) And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Mosheh. And he said to them, "This is what Yahueh has said, 'Tomorrow is a rest, a Sabbath set-apart to Yahueh. That which you bake, bake; and that which you cook, cook. And lay up for yourselves all that is left over, to keep it until morning.' " (The morning of the 7th day). And they laid it up till morning, as Mosheh commanded. And it did not stink, and no worm was in it. And Mosheh said, "Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to Yahueh, today you do not find it in the field. (Why did He do this? Was it not to show them that the Sabbath starts in the morning of the 7th day?) "Gather it six days, but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, there is none." (They found manna every morning, but not on the morning of the 7th day - Shabbat). And it came to be that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And Yahueh said to Mosheh, "How long shall you refuse to guard My commands and My 'torah'? (They wanted to go out on the morning of the 7th day to gather manna, but found none. Yahueh taught them here that they will not have to seek food on Shabbat.) "See, because Yahueh has given you the Sabbath, therefore He is giving you bread for two days on the sixth day. (The morning of the 6th day until the morning of the 1st day - 2 full days). Let each one stay in his place, do not let anyone go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day. (They only went out on the 1st day of the week after the Sabbath to gather manna.)
So, if we understand the Sabbath to commence on the morning of the 7th day rather than the evening of the 6th day, we have no problem in the association of the even part of a day - it will always be at the end of the day, as shown in Scripture regarding Yom Kippur (Wayyiqra / Leviticus 23:27,32). I don't expect anyone to simply grasp this new teaching - no, study it for yourself and ask the Ruach ha Qodesh to show you if this is Truth from Yahueh. Should you wish further assistance in this regard, you are welcome to order further studies from us.
What does "between the evenings" mean?
We read in Shemoth / Exodus 12:6b. "Then all the congregation of Yisrael shall kill it between the evenings." We also find this in Wayyiqra 23:5. "In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between the evenings, is the Passover to Yahueh." Once again, there is not consistency in the teaching as to what this phrase means - between the evenings. It is very important to know exactly what this means, otherwise we will not observe Pesach at the correct time.
There are a number of views on this. One viewpoint is that it is the time period between sunset and darkness. Another viewpoint is that it is the time period from sunset until sunrise. A third viewpoint , according to Jewish tradition, is from around 3pm until sundown. Some translations took the liberty to translate it as "at twilight", "sunset" or "afternoon", which clearly reflects the different viewpoints on this phrase.
The term "between the evenings" is most critical as to when the Passover lamb was/is to be slaughtered. To fully understand this, it will be best to take a closer look at times in Scripture when the Passover was observed. The first occurrence was when Yisrael departed from Mitsrayim.
They had to kill the Passover lamb "between the evenings". Shem. 12:6.
They had to take the blood of the lamb and put it on the doorposts and lintel before midnight, otherwise the Messenger of Yahueh would kill the firstborn. Shem. 12:7, 13, 29. From this we at least now know that "between the evenings" cannot be later than midnight - otherwise the firstborn of Yisrael would have died with those of Mitsrayim.
Devarim / Deuteronomy 16:6 sheds more light on when "between the evenings" could be. It reads, "...there you offer the Passover in the evening, at the going down of the sun, at the appointed time you came out of Mitsrayim." This verse clearly explains that the offering (more correctly slaughtering) of the Passover lamb takes place at the going down of the sun.
The Passover that Yahushua ate with His 12 was also at evening. Mt. 26:20 reads, "And when evening came, He sat down with the twelve." This was just after they asked Him where they should prepare the Passover, v. 17-19. The same event is recorded in Mk. 14:14-17 and Lk. 22:7-15.
Some historical background shows that from Josephus's, Wars of the Jews, vi, ix, 3, the slaughtering of the animals for Pesach took place between the 9th and 11th hour, i.e. 3 pm 'till 5 pm. "So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour to the eleventh, but so that a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice,..."
The same term "between the evenings" is used relating to the quails Yisrael received at evening. Way / Ex. 16:12. In practical terms they must have received the quails during the late daylight hours. Would Yahueh give them quails after dark ? They needed the daylight to catch and prepare the quails before they could eat them.
Should we observe Pesach only once a year?
According to all Scripture in the Tenach (Old Testament), the Passover should be observed on the 14th day of the 1st month (Aviv). This is clear from all the texts we have quoted above. If one wish to observe it any other time of the year, it cannot be called "Pesach". The Torah of Yahueh determines that we only observe Pesach on 14 Aviv. What about the institution of the bread and wine at the "Last Supper" - where Shaul quotes, "This cup is the renewed covenant in My blood. As often as you drink it, do this in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Master until He comes." 1 Cor. 11:26. When did Yahushua institute these figurative emblems? It was during His Pesach meal with His Talmidim (taught ones). He simply said here that every time (once a year at Pesach) you drink this cup, you will remember that I died for you. This passage does not say they we should observe it more often.
Should we observe Pesach as a family; with the congregation; with unbelievers, or how?
To determine this, we should have a look at the Scriptures where Pesach was instituted for the first time, and occurrences thereafter.
Shem. / Exod. 12:3 says, "...a lamb for a household." Verse 4 says, "And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next to his house take it according to the number of the beings, according to each man's need you make your count for the lamb."
After the lambs were slaughtered and roasted, they were to eat it inside their homes - not outside. Each family observed Pesach at his own house, but if a lamb was too large for one family, they shared it with their neighbours. Yahueh is practical and do not wish to waste animals.
Yisrael is the people of the Almighty. All Yisrael is family in Yahueh. If we believe in the atoning blood of Yahushua, we become His brothers and sisters. Yahushua observed Pesach with His 12 - they were His brothers and sisters.
Would it be wrong to invite guests to observe Pesach with you? What does Scripture say about this? What are the requirements according to Scripture to partake of the Passover?
No foreigner (more correctly, son of a stranger) shall eat of it. Shem./ Ex. 12:43.
A sojourner or hired servant shall not eat of it. Shem. 12:45.
No uncircumcised shall eat of it. Shem. 12:48.
The same law (Torah) applies to the native (Yisraelite by birth) and the stranger (visitor or he who is grafted into Yisrael).
What does it means to be circumcised in terms of partaking of the Passover? We know that besides the physical act, circumcision was introduced to indicate that Yisrael went into covenant with the Almighty. In real terms it therefore means that if we are outside the Faith - the belief in Yahushua , we would rather bring condemnation on ourselves. This is clearly indicated in the Messianic Scriptures in 1 Cor. 11:27-29, "So that whoever should eat this bread or drink this cup of the Master unworthily shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Master. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For the one who is eating and drinking unworthily, eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Master. "
Scripture therefore clearly indicates to us that we cannot observe Pesach with unbelievers, and it should be observed with other Yisraelites only - being part of the body of Maschiach.
Should we still "offer" a Passover lamb?
I have personally stumbled over this question for over 20 years. I have taken up debates with fellow believers more than once, and the longer I debated with them, the more convinced I became of my wrongdoing, of my twisting of Scripture. I have neglected this command for a total of 20 Passovers, and ask Yahueh for forgiveness for not fulfilling His command for 20 years.
If we profess to be part of Yisrael, we should be reminded of the Torah we should observe - the whole Torah, not just part of it. Regarding the Pesach, the Torah teaches the following simple command, "And you shall guard this word as a law for you and your sons, forever." Shem. / Ex. 12:24. Torah teaches us, saying, "There is one Torah for the native-born (Yisraelite by birth) and for the stranger who sojourns among you."
The word 'sacrifice' and 'offer' brings a misconception regarding the Pesach "offering". The Hebrew word used has nothing to do with an offering, but means to slaughter or kill. More correctly translated, we should speak of the Passover slaughtering. All offerings were done by the priests. They were of the tribe of Levi. The Passover however was slaughtered by each household, and roasted and eaten by each household. It was never an offering such as was performed by the Levitical priests.
The slaughtering and eating of a Pesach lamb commemorates the coming out of Mitsrayim (land of sin), where the first-born of Yisrael were spared, whereas the first-born of Mitsrayim died, and more important, Yahushua who died for us. In slaughtering a Pesach lamb we most definitely do not return to offerings, trampling underfoot the blood of Yahushua. No, we enhance His death - we commemorate that He died for our sins - we think of the cruel death He died in our stead.
It is difficult to return to the complete observance of Torah for many. We rather think of all the possible excuses why we should not observe certain aspects of Torah than to think of the reasons why we should.
Some of these excuses, which I also had for many years include the following:
"Offering" a lamb is denying Yahushua as Messiah?
The only Scripture quoted to support this argument is 1 Cor. 5:7, 8, which reads, "Therefore cleanse out the old leaven (sin), so that you are a new lump, as you are unleavened (without sin). For also Messiah our Passover was offered for us. So then let us observe the festival, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of evil and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
How can we deny Him if we observe the Torah? This is not possible. We have seen from the Torah that with the first Pesach institution, it was to be guarded (or taught) as a law forever. (Shem. / Ex. 12:24). Why do we still observe unleavened bread? Why do we still fast on Yom Kippur? Why do we eat kosher? - because the Torah teaches us to do so! For the same reason we should still observe the complete Pesach instituted in the Torah!
We can only keep the feast in Yerushalayim - where He has placed His Name ?
Where is the Name of Yahueh today? We know that He once placed His Name in Yerushalayim, and that is where His Name is supposed to be! Dev. / Deut. 16:5,6.
Yahushua said, "For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there I am in their midst." Matt. 18:20. If we observe Pesach as believers calling upon the Name of Yahueh, we are certain that we should observe Pesach as instituted in the Torah.
If you were blessed by this article, or if you have previously been under the same conviction regarding the Passover, please send us email with your testimony in this regard to firstname.lastname@example.org