12. Passover – Hasidic Practice I

Since the first century C.E., the most prevalent and popular view for the observance of Passover and the seven days of Unleavened Bread has been Hasidic System B—an interpretation first expressed by the ancient Hasidim.

This practice has the Passover sacrifice offered during during the afternoon of Abib 14 with the Passover meal eaten at the beginning of Abib 15. All leavening is removed from one’s home by noon on Abib 14. Abib 15 begins the 7-day Feast of Unleavened Bread and continues through Abib 21. There is a total of 8 days of Unleavened Bread counted from Abib 14-21.

The questions that must be asked are:

• What is the ancient evidence of this interpretation? Also, just how and on what days did they keep the Festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread?

• When did this Hasidic view of Passover and the seven days of Unleavened Bread first appear?

• What issues created their interpretation and how did they derive their understanding of בערב (be-arab; in the mixing of light and dark [twilight]) and its cognate term בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim; between/among the mixings of light and dark [twilight])?

Hasidic Roots
There is little doubt that the group who originated System B, the most enduring interpretation for Passover and of the expression “byn ha-arabim (between the mixings of light and dark [evenings]),” was the חסידים (Khasidim; Hasidim) of the early second century B.C.E.

It is important to recognize that the Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots, and other Jewish groups, including the later Rabbinists and Talmudists, are the spiritual descendants of the Hasidim.

The System B view, for example, is clearly manifested in the Hasidic work titled the Book of Jubilees,1 the earliest known Hebrew fragments of this text coming from the period around 100 B.C.E.2

Internal evidence dates the origin of the Book of Jubilees to “between 161–140 B.C.E.”3 It was at this time, in the 150th Jewish Seleucid year (162/161 B.C.E.), that Judaean independence was recognized by the Greek Syrian king, Antiochus V.4

The Hasidim are again mentioned in the 151st Seleucid year (161/160 B.C.E.), when some of them tried to make peace with Demetrius II, the Greek king of Syria, but were betrayed and murdered by him.5

The Hasidim, therefore, appear in Jewish history at a time of tremendous conflict and turmoil in Judaea.

It was a period when the Greeks exerted heavy influence upon the Jews, when various attempts at Hellenization were made (both by Greeks and Jews), and a time of wars.

The subsequent division among the early Hasidic groups into such parties as the Pharisees and Essenes (those retaining the name Hasidim)6 took place sometime between 160 and 145 B.C.E.

Copies of Hasidic material, such as the Book of Jubilees, were in turn retained and preserved by these new offshoots.

Hasidic Interpretation
Gesenius’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon notes that the phrase
בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim) is used to mark the space of time during which the paschal lamb was slain. It then adds:

The Pharisees, however (see Joseph. Bellum Jud. vi. 9, § 3), and the Rabbinists, considered the time when the sun began to descend to be called the first evening.7

This text goes on to say that in Arabic this phrase is referred to as “little evening” or “when it begins to draw towards evening” and is equivalent to the Greek phrase “δείλη προΐα” (i.e., deile proia; early afternoon).

It further adds that the Pharisees believed “the second evening to be the real sunset (Gr. δείλη ὀψία)” (i.e., deile opsia; late afternoon).8

Hasidic tradition defines the two periods of arab as “from the afternoon to the disappearing of the sun, the first evening being from the time when the sun begins to decline from its vertical or noontide point towards the west; and the second from its going down and vanishing out of sight.”9

This view merely reflects the strong influence of Greek culture upon the developing Hasidic schools after the conquest of Judaea by Alexander the Great.

Eustathius, for example, in a note on the 17th book of The Odyssey, points out that it was the early Greeks who had designated δείλη προΐα (deile proia) as the evening that commenced immediately after noon and a second evening, called δείλη ὀψία (deile opsia), formed the latter part of the day.10

The conservative Jewish schools, as we shall later demonstrate, rejected this scheme as a foreign innovation.

These two periods of arab are elsewhere defined by some of the Jewish Talmudists (the spiritual descendants of the Pharisees), by such scholars as Rashi and Kimchi, as ”the time immediately before and immediately after sunset, so that the point of time at which the sun sets divides them.”11

In his Lexicon, Kimchi states:

בין הערבים is from the time when the sun begins to incline towards the west, which is from the sixth hour [[= noon]] and upward. It is called ערבים because there are two evenings, for from the time that the sun begins to decline is one evening, and the other evening IS AFTER THE SUN HAS GONE DOWN, and it is the space between which is meant by between the two evenings.12

Rashi reports:

From the sixth hour [[= noon]] and upward is called between the two evenings (בין הערבים), because the sun begins to set for the evening. Hence it appears to me that the phrase between the two evenings denotes the hours between the evening of the day and the evening of the night. The evening of the day is from the beginning of the seventh hour [[= immediately after noontide]], when the evening shadows begin to lengthen, while the evening of the night is at the beginning of the night.13

With this background of the varying Hasidic views we must now address the questions:

• What scriptural issues caused these Hasidim (and later their spiritual descendants the Pharisees, Essenes, and others) to break from the earlier view held by the Aristocratic school with regard to the observance of the Passover?

• How did their view of byn ha-arabim affect their construction of the Festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread?

Scriptural Issues for the Hasidim
The advocates of System B believed that they had found a better understanding of just how they were to observe the Passover and the seven days of Unleavened Bread.

Two passages served to be the catalyst for all their interpretations: Leviticus, 23:5–8, and Numbers, 28:16–25.

In the first moon, on the 14th for the moon, בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim), is a Passover for Yahweh. AND ON THE 15TH DAY FOR THIS MOON IS A חג (khag; festival) OF UNLEAVENED BREAD FOR YAHWEH; SEVEN DAYS YOU SHALL EAT UNLEAVENED BREAD. On the first day is a sacred convocation for you, you shall not do any laborious work.14 And seven days you shall bring a fire offering near for Yahweh. And the seventh day is a sacred convocation, you shall not do any laborious work.15

And in the first moon, on the 14th day for the moon is a Passover for Yahweh, AND ON THE 15TH DAY FOR THIS MOON IS A KHAG. SEVEN DAYS UNLEAVENED BREAD SHALL BE EATEN. On the first day shall be a sacred convo­cation; you shall not do any laborious work.16 And you shall offer a fire offering, a burnt offering to Yahweh: two young bullocks, and one ram, and seven yearling lambs; perfect ones they shall be for you. And their food offering, flour mixed with oil, three tenth parts for a bullock, and two tenth parts for a ram you shall prepare; one tenth part you shall prepare for the one lamb, and for the seven lambs; and one goat for the sin offering to atone for you. Besides the burnt offering of the morning, which is for the continual burnt offering, you shall prepare these; in this way you shall prepare daily seven days, bread for a fire offering, a soothing fragrance for Yahweh; besides the continual burnt offering, it (the bread) shall be prepared and its drink offering. And on the seventh day shall be a sacred convocation for you; you shall not do any laborious work.17

In both cases the Passover is said to be the 14th day of the first moon, a day clearly designated as the time when the Passover lamb was sacrificed.18

The 14th is followed by the 15th, which is called “a Khag of Unleavened Bread for Yahweh.” This statement is in turn followed by the explanation, “seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.”

Meanwhile, the Israelites were commanded to eat the Passover victim “this night” with “unleavened bread.”19

Since the 15th was “a Khag of Unleavened Bread for Yahweh,” the Hasidim reasoned that the 15th was also the night of the Passover supper.

If the night of the 15th is the Passover supper, then the under­standing of the conservative priests (the Aristocratic school), which held that twilight after sunset was byn ha-arabim and the period that began the day, came to be judged as incorrect.

A New Understanding Sought
A new, or at least different, understanding of בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim) was sought. The logic of those developing and continuing the Hasidic views of System B reasoned the data as follows:

• The 15th was a Khag of Unleavened Bread. Therefore, the 15th must also have been the first day of the seven days of Unleavened Bread and a high Sabbath.

• The evidence was unequivocal that the lamb was sacrificed on the 14th, yet the Passover lamb was also to be eaten with unleavened bread. Therefore, they calculated that the Passover supper was on the 15th, the first day of the seven-day Khag of Unleavened Bread.

• As a result of the above conclusions, the statement found in Exodus, 12:18, had to be addressed. It states, “In the first (moon), on the 14th day for the moon, בערב (be-arab; within twilight) you shall eat unleavened bread until the 21st day for the moon בערב (be-arab; within twilight).”

Since the 15th day, and not the 14th, was determined to be the first day of Unleavened Bread, “within ערב (arab)” on the 21st day had to be explained as the period ending rather than beginning that day. In turn, the expression, “until the 21st day for the moon within ערב,” as the outer limit for these seven days, meant that the word “until” was inclusive of the 21st day.

• The Passover lamb was ordered to be eaten “on this night” immediately following the period called “בין הערבים (byn ha-arabim),” the time in which the Passover lamb was sacrificed.20 This circumstance brought into question the timing of “בין הערבים.”

If the 15th was the Passover supper, byn ha-arabim could not be twilight during the first part of the 14th day, for in that case the phrase “on this night” would refer to the first part of the 14th day (the Hebrew day beginning at sunset).21

Further, it would have been impractical to sacrifice at twilight on the 14th and then wait over 24 hours to eat the lamb at night on the 15th.

Day of Atonement Argument
To prove that there were two periods of arab—one of which ends the day—those supporting the Hasidic view offered as proof Leviticus, 23:32.

This passage is part of the discussion about the Day of Atonement, which takes place on the 10th day of the seventh moon.22 In this particular reference, according to the Hasidim, the following statement is made:

It is a Sabbath of rest for you; and you shall humble your nephesh בתשעה לחדש בערב (be-teshuah la-khodesh be-arab), from arab until arab you shall keep your Sabbath.

The phrase בתשעה לחדש בערב (be-teshuah la-khodesh be-arab) is read by the Hasidim to mean “in the ninth of the moon at arab.”

Therefore, it is argued that one begins to keep the Day of Atonement from the arab of the ninth until the end of the arab on the tenth day of the seventh moon (i.e., exclusive of the ninth and inclusive of the tenth).

For those holding to the Hasidic view, this statement proves that there is a period of arab in the afternoon of the day.

Unleavened Bread Problem
For the Hasidic interpretation to work there was yet one more problem to overcome. According to Scriptures, one must not sacrifice the Passover with leavened bread.23

Therefore, unleavened bread must be used from the 14th of Abib בערב (be-arab; within twilight), when the sacrifice took place, to the 21st day בערב (be-arab; within twilight).24

Yet, there were only seven days of unleavened bread.

To solve this dilemma, the advocates of the Hasidic view interpret the command to eat unleavened bread for only seven days as relevant only from the 15th through the 21st.

Nevertheless, they remove leavening out of their houses before noon on the 14th, prior to the time of their sacrifice of the Passover.25 For this reason, they actually counted seven and one-fourth days of unleavened bread.

The Pharisaic priest Josephus counts it as a festival of “eight” days.26

Augustine similarly notes that these Jews (Pharisees) calculated Passover “from the 14th to the 21st day” of the moon of new corn (Abib), i.e., for eight days.27

Time for another break everyone. Be sure to continue with our second part titled 13. Passover – Hasidic Practice II.

For further reading see the publication by Qadesh La Yahweh press titled The Festivals and Sacred Days of Yahweh.


Click this link for Bibliography and Abbreviations.

1 Jub. 49:1-23.

2 OTP 2, p. 43; DSST pp. 238–245.

3 OTP 2, pp. 43–45; THS p. 283.

4 1 Macc. 6:20-63; Jos. Antiq., 12:9:3-7.

5 1 Macc. 7:1-18.

6 That Hasidim (Khasidim) was another name for the Essenes see 8. Passover – The Dark Period I, n. 32. Outstanding representatives of the Hasidim, also called “men of action,” were Khoni ha-Me’aggel, his grandsons Abba Hilkiah and Hanan ha-Nekhba (B. Taan. 23a), and Khanina ben Dosa, who lived at the end of the second Temple period and whom the Mishnah refers to as the last of the “men of action” (Sot. 9:15, while the J. Sot. 9:15, reading gives “Khasidim”). This evidence demonstrates that the Hasidim continued as a movement until at least the latter part of the first century C.E.

7 GHCL p. 652, #6153, s.v. ערב.

8 Ibid.

9 CBTEL 7, p. 735.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 HBL p. 277, s.v. ערב; CBTEL, 7, p. 735.

13 Rashi Com. Exod., 12:6; CBTEL, 7, p. 735.

14 Lev. 16:31, 23:24, 26-32, 39, all demonstrate that sacred gatherings are also called sabbathon days (i.e., high Sabbaths).

15 Lev. 23:5-8.

16 See above n. 14.

17 Num. 28:16-25.

18 Exod. 12:6.

19 Exod. 12:8; Num., 9:11.

20 Exod. 12:6-8.

21 The Hebrew legal day, which was controlled by the moon phases, begins when the sun has set and the new moon became visible (see THP p. 131, and n. 3; ADB 4, pp. 765f; EWJ pp. 15f, and n. 2, pp. 26f; HBC pp. 9f). Those defiled and unclean had need to bathe and then at sunset, at the beginning of a new day, were once again declared clean (THP p. 199, n. 6).

22 Lev. 16:29-34, 23:27-32, 25:9; Num. 29:7-11; Philo Spec., 1:35 §186; Jos. Antiq., 3:10:2f.

23 Exod. 34:25, cf., 23:18. Accordingly, this was also the understanding in the Mishnah (Pes. 5:4; Makk. 3:2).

24 Exod. 12:18-20.

25 Pes. 1:4–6; B. Pes. 11b–12b, 21a; JE 9, p. 550; CBTEL 7, p. 737.

26 Jos. Antiq. 2:15:1.

27 Augustine Epist. 55:9 §16.

One thought on “12. Passover – Hasidic Practice I

  1. What happened? Are we stunned into silence or really thinking about all this?

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