13. Passover – Hasidic Practice II

In this second and final half of our discussion we will now look to the ancient records that demonstrate the Hasidic view regarding Passover.

The Book of Jubilees
The Book of Jubilees, originally composed in Hebrew by the Hasidim in the late second century B.C.E.,1 gives us the earliest representation of the Hasidic argument. To date, the most complete version of this text is found in the Ethiopian edition. It reports:

Remember the commandment which the sovereign commanded you concerning Passover, that you observe it in its time, on the 14th of the first moon, so that you might sacrifice it BEFORE IT BECOMES ARAB and so that you might eat it DURING THE NIGHT ON THE ARAB OF THE 15TH FROM THE TIME OF SUNSET. For on this night there was the beginning of the festival and there was the beginning of joy. You continued eating the Passover in Egypt and all of the powers of Mastema (Satan) were sent to kill all of the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh to the first-born of the captive maidservant who was at the millstone and to the cattle.2

Let the children of Israel will be ones who come and observe Passover on its moad (appointed time), on the 14th of the first moon byn ha-arabim,3 from the third (part) of the day to the third (part) of the night, because two parts of the day are given for light and one third for arab.4 This is what the sovereign commanded you so that you might observe it in the time of arab.5

In this text the Hasidic understanding of byn ha-arabim is defined. For Passover, the first arab is the last one-third of the 14th day (i.e., from the eighth until the 12th hour of daylight).

The last arab of byn ha-arabim begins at sunset and consists of the first one-third of the night (including twilight as part of night), i.e., from the first until the fourth hour of night. The lamb is slaughtered within the arab ending the 14th day and is eaten during the arab at the beginning of the 15th day.

This evidence also demonstrates that the early Hasidim began their legal day at sunset and had two periods of arab. The arab at the end of the day consisted of one-third of the daylight, i.e., from the eighth hour until the fulfilling of the 12th hour at sunset.

Following sunset was the arab of the night, which began the 24-hour day. The arab of the night consisted of one-third of the night, i.e., the four hours following sunset, the first through fourth hours of the night.

Philo, a mid-first century C.E. Jewish Pharisee and priest from Alexandria, Egypt,6 also expresses the Hasidic system when he writes:

After the New Moon comes the fourth ἑορτὴ (heorte; festival), called the διαβατήρια (diabateria; crossing-festival), which the Hebrews in their native tongue call Passover. In this festival many myriads of victims FROM NOON ἂχρι (akhri; TERMINATING AT)7 ἑσπέρας (hesperas; TWILIGHT) are offered by the whole people, old and young alike, raised for that particular day to the dignity of the priesthood.8

The Greek word ἑσπέρα (hespera), like the Latin term vespere, is properly a reference to the evening star, Venus. By extension it came also to refer to the time of the day when that evening star made its appearance—i.e., the period of twilight just after sunset and lasting until dark—as well as to the westernmost sky and lands.9

Philo uses this term to translate the Pharisaic idea of arab. The above statement from Philo shows that the victims were sacrificed from noon only up until the beginning of hesperas (twilight). Philo continues:

The ἑορτῆω (heorteo; festival) BEGINS at the middle of the moon, ON THE FIFTEENTH DAY, when the moon is full, a day purposely chosen because then there is no darkness, but everything is continuously lighted up as the sun shines from earliest dawn unto ἑσπέραν (hesperan; TWILIGHT) and the moon (shines) from ἑσπέρας (hesperas; TWILIGHT) terminating at dawn, while the stars give place to each other no shadow is cast upon their brightness.10

Notice that the moon shines from ἑσπέρας (hesperas; twilight = arab) until the dawn on the 15th day.

Since during the 14th to the 16th the moon makes its appearance before sunset, Philo has demonstrated that, in this case, by ἑσπέρας (hesperas = arab) he means the twilight on both sides of sunset, including the time when the star Venus would make its appearance as the evening star. Philo also adds:

Again, the festival is held for seven days to mark the precedence and honor which the number holds in the universe, indicating that nothing which tends to cheerfulness and public mirth and thankfulness to the deity should fail to be accompanied with memories of the sacred seven which he intended to be the source and fountain to men of all good things. TWO DAYS OUT OF THE SEVEN, THE FIRST AND THE LAST, ARE DECLARED SACRED. In this way he gave a natural precedence to the beginning and the end; but he also wished to create a harmony as on a musical instrument between the intermediates and the extremes. Perhaps too he wished to harmonize the festival with a past which adjoins the first day and a future which adjoins the last.

These two, the first and the last, have each the other’s properties in addition to their own. The first is the beginning of the festival and the end of the preceding past, the seventh is the end of the festival and the beginning of the coming future. Thus, as I have said before, the whole life of the man of worth may be regarded as equivalent to a festival held by one who has expelled grief and fear and desire and the other passions and distempers of the soul. The bread is unleavened, EITHER11 because our forefathers, when under divine guidance they were starting on their migration, were so intensely hurried that they brought the lumps of dough unleavened, OR ELSE because at that season, namely, the springtime, when the festival is held, the fruit of the corn has not reached its perfection, for the fields are in the ear stage and not yet mature for harvest.12

Philo further comments:

With the διαβατηρίοις (diabateriois; crossing-festival) he (Moses) combines one in which the food consumed is of a different and unfamiliar kind, namely, unleavened bread, which also gives its name to the festival.13

Philo’s interpretations are in accordance with the opinion quoted by S. R. Driver, “that the sacrifice if offered before noon was not valid.”14

But those supporting the Hasidic view, when translating the Hebrew thought into Greek, also used the term ἑσπέρας (hesperas) as a translation of their idea of the afternoon arab which ends the day.

For example, in another text Philo writes:

Why is the Passover sacrificed προς ἑσπέραν (pros hesperan; at twilight = byn ha-arabim)?15 Perhaps because good things were about to befall at night. It was not the custom to offer a sacrifice in darkness, and for those who were about to experience good things at night it was not (proper) to prepare it before the ninth hour (about 3 P.M.). Therefore it was not at random but knowingly that the prophet set a time between the turning προς ἑσπέραν (pros hesperan; at twilight = byn ha-arabim).16

 The Greek phrase πρὸς ἑσπέραν (pros hesperan; at twilight) was used by those holding to the Hasidic view as a translation of the Hebrew בען הערבים (byn ha-arabim), by which term they meant the arab of the afternoon.17

This interpretation must not be confused with the proper Greek usage of hespera (twilight after sunset and early dark) or the Aristocratic usage (twilight after sunset).

In this above instance from Philo, when we come to the idea of בען הערבים, he takes the standard Pharisaic line for the two periods of arab.

He therefore refers to each arab as a time of ἑσπέραν (twilight), and makes the first ἑσπέραν (twilight) occur at the ninth hour (about 3 P.M.).

This awkward usage of the Greek word ἑσπέραν (the period of twilight and early dark after sunset) for mid-afternoon is unique to the Greek-speaking Hasidim and other adherents to System B.18

With regard to Philo’s wording for the phrase “between the two evenings,” F. H. Colson, citing S. R. Driver on Exodus, 12:6, states, “For this [[phrase]] the traditional interpretation adopted by the Pharisees and Talmudists was that the ‘first’ evening was when the heat of the sun begins to decrease, about 3 P.M., and the second evening began with sunset.”19

The Jewish Pharisee priest Josephus, writing around 93 C.E., also gives us the Hasidic-Pharisaic view about Passover. We begin with his discussion of the Passover that occurred at the Exodus:

The deity, having revealed that by yet one more plague he would constrain the Egyptians to release the Hebrews, now bade Moses instruct the people to have ready a sacrifice, making preparations on the 10th of the moon Xanthicus (Abib/Nisan) over against the 14th day—this is the moon called by the Egyptians, Pharmuthi, by the Hebrews Nisan, and by the Macedonians termed Xanthicus—and then to lead off the Hebrews, taking all their possessions with them. He accordingly had the Hebrews ready betimes for departure, and ranging them in fraternities kept them assembled together; then when THE 14TH DAY was come the whole body, in readiness to start, sacrificed, purified the houses with the blood, using bunches of hyssop to sprinkle it, AND AFTER THE MEAL burnt the remnants of the meat as they neared freedom. Hence comes it that to this day we keep this sacrifice in the same customary manner, calling the festival Passover, which signifies ‘passing over,’ because on that day the deity passed over our people when he smote the Egyptians with plague. For on the selfsame night destruction visited the first-born of Egypt, insomuch that multitudes of those whose dwellings surrounded the palace trooped to Pharaoh’s to urge him to let the Hebrews go.20

In another place Josephus writes:

In the moon of Xanthicus, which with us is called Nisan (Abib) and begins the year, ON THE 14TH DAY BY LUNAR RECKONING, the sun being then in Aries, our lawgiver, seeing that in this moon we were delivered from bondage to the Egyptians, ordained that we should year by year offer the same sacrifice which, as I have said, we offered then on departure from Egypt—the sacrifice called Passover. And so in fact we celebrate it by fraternities, nothing of the sacrificial victims being kept for the morning. ON THE 15TH THE Passover IS FOLLOWED BY THE FESTIVAL OF UNLEAVENED BREAD, LASTING SEVEN DAYS, during which our people subsist on unleavened loaves and each day there are slaughtered two bulls, a ram, and seven lambs. These are all used for burnt offerings, a kid being further added as a sin-offering, which serves each day to regale the priests.21

Josephus reports that, during the first century C.E. (up until the destruction of the city of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E.), at which time the Hasidic practice was the state religion, the hour for the Passover sacrifices was as follows:

Accordingly, on the occasion of the festival called Passover, at which they sacrifice FROM THE NINTH TO THE ELEVENTH HOUR, and a little fraternity, as it were, gathers round each sacrifice, of not fewer than ten persons—feasting alone not being permitted—while the companies often included as many as twenty, the victims were counted and amounted to two hundred and fifty-five thousand six hundred; allowing an average of ten diners to each victim, we obtain a total of two million seven hundred thousand, all pure and sacred. For those afflicted with leprosy or gonorrhea, or menstruous women, or persons otherwise defiled were not permitted to partake of this sacrifice, nor yet any foreigners present for worship, and a large number of these assemble from abroad.22

Based upon these views, Josephus then concludes:

Hence it is that, in memory of that time of scarcity, WE KEEP FOR EIGHT DAYS A FESTIVAL called the Festival of Unleavened Bread.23

Supporting the idea that Passover was counted as one day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread followed by seven more days, Josephus, in a discussion of Hezekiah’s celebration of the Passover festival, writes:

Now, when the Festival of Unleavened Bread came round, they sacrificed the Passover, as it is called, but then they offered the other sacrifices for seven days.24

Josephus also notes that the entire eight-day Pharisaic observance (actually seven and one-quarter days) was called Passover. In the events of the year 65 B.C.E., he reports:

But as this action took place at the time of observing the Festival of Unleavened Bread, WHICH WE CALL Passover, the Jews of best repute left the country and fled to Egypt.25

Josephus also comments, “While the priests and Aristobulus (II) were being besieged, there happened to come round the festival called Passover, at which it is our custom to offer numerous sacrifices to the deity.”26 These numerous sacrifices refer to the entire festival period. Similarly, in his history of the death of King Herod the Great during the spring of 4 B.C.E., Josephus writes:

At this time there came round the festival during which it is THE ANCESTRAL CUSTOM OF THE JEWS TO SERVE UNLEAVENED BREAD. IT IS CALLED Passover, being a commemoration of their departure from Egypt. They celebrate it with gladness, and it is their custom to slaughter a greater number of sacrifices at this festival than at any other, and an innumerable multitude of people come down from the country and even from abroad to worship the deity.27

In another book, while discussing the same event, he writes:

And now THE FESTIVAL OF UNLEAVENED BREAD, WHICH THE JEWS CALL Passover, came round; it is an occasion for the contribution of a multitude of sacrifices, and a vast crowd streamed in from the country for the ceremony.28

The Mishnah (about 200 C.E.), being a written record of the Pharisaic oral laws and traditions, confirms that during the time of the second Temple the lamb was sacrificed shortly after the eighth and one-half hour (i.e., after 2:30 P.M.) on the “arab of Passover” (i.e., according to Pharisaic interpretation, the afternoon arab before the night of the Passover supper). It states:

The Daily Whole-offering was slaughtered at a half after the eighth hour, and offered up at a half after the ninth hour; (but) on the arab of Passover it was slaughtered at a half after the seventh hour and offered up at a half after the eighth hour, whether it was a weekday or the Sabbath. If the arab of Passover fell on the arab of a Sabbath, it was slaughtered at a half after the sixth hour and offered up a half after the seventh hour. AND, AFTER THIS, THE PASSOVER OFFERING (WAS SLAUGHTERED).29

The difference between the Passover of the Exodus from Egypt and those that followed are explained in this way:

Wherein does the Passover of Egypt differ from the Passover of the generations (that followed thereafter)? At the Passover of Egypt the lamb was obtained on the 10th (of Abib), sprinkling (of the blood) with a bunch of hyssop was required on the lintel and on the two side-posts, and it was eaten in haste and during one night [. . .]30 whereas the Passover of the generations continued throughout seven days.31

The heart of System B is the belief that the seven days of Unleavened Bread begin with the 15th of the first moon and last until the end of the 21st day.

It is also obvious from this evidence that, for the adherents to the Hasidic view (System B), the expression ערבים (arabim) represents two periods of the day: the afternoon and the evening twilight, with mid-afternoon or sunset at the end of a day dividing the two.

Another way of looking at this view is to make the early afternoon the first arab and the late afternoon, either ending at sunset (a legal day) or ending at dark (a common day), the second arab.

Sacrificing the Passover lamb at about 3 P.M., accordingly, accommodates all three Hasidic understandings.

Since the destruction of the Temple of Yahweh at Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., sacrifices required under the Torah of Moses, including the Passover sacrifice, have been dispensed with by the Jews.

Yet, many of the Jewish faithful look forward to the reintroduction of these sacrifices when a future third Temple is built in Jerusalem.

When these sacrifices are reinstituted, it is their belief that a Passover lamb should once again be sacrificed in the afternoon of the 14th of Abib and eaten during the night of the 15th.

This concludes our discussion regarding the Hasidic practice of Passover and Unleavened Bread.

Our next post will address the Aristocratic view which was observed by the messiah and the early assemblies. So be sure read on with:
14. Passover – Aristocratic Practice I.

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 OTP 2, pp. 43–45.

2 Jub. 49:1f. This passage is taken from the Ethiopic text—the Latin is lacking at this point.

3 That the Ethiopic term used here is equivalent to byn ha-arabim see HBJ p. 172, n. 8. The Latin gives ad vesperam, which is used in the Vulgate to translate byn ha-arabim (cf., Vulg. at Exod. 12:6; Num., 9:3, 5, 11; Lev. 23:5). It is emended by R. H. Charles to read ad vesperas (HBJ p. 173, and n. 5). Also see below n. 36 regarding the parallel Greek term ἑσπέραν (hesperan; twilight).

4 At this point the Latin text uses the term in vespere and, as reflected in the Ethiopic text, should read for the Hebrew “arab.”

5 Jub. 49:10f; Latin and Ethiopic in HBJ, pp. 172 and 173.

6 Jerome Lives, 11.

7 The term ἂχρι (akhri) is akin to the term ἂχρον (akhron), “through the idea of a terminus” and means, “(of time) until or (of place) up to:—as far as, for, in (-to), till, (even, un-) to, until, while” (SEC Gk. #891); “Prep. with gen., even to, as far as . . . of Time, until, so long as” (GEL 1968, p. 298)

8 Philo Spec., 2:27 §145.

9 GEL 1968, p. 697. The Greek word ἑσπέρας (hesperas), “Lat. vespera, properly fem. of ἕσπερος . . . evening, eventide, eve” . . . ἕσπερος (hesperos), “of or at evening” . . . “esp. of the planet Venus . . . ἕσπ. θεός the god of darkness” (GEL p. 318; GEL, 1968, p. 697; NGEL, p. 579). Macrobius Saturn. 3:14f, “vespera follows” sunset. For the Greeks, ἑσπέρας (hesperas) properly represents the period from sunset until the first hour of darkness at night. It is the time of Venus as the evening star as opposed to Venus as the morning star (e.g., see Aristotle EN 5:1:15; Homer Iliad 22:317f; cf., Horace Odes 2:9:10f). James Donnegan’s lexicon defines it this way, “Hesperus, (the planet Venus) when it sets after the sun; Lucifer, Φωσϕόρος, when it rises before” (NGEL p. 579).

Leonard Whibley notes that the period of ἑσπέρα (hespera) was part of the period associated with darkness as opposed to those Greek terms associated with daylight (CGS p. 589, §626). To demonstrate further, the Greek writers make the evening star appear at the time of “ϕθιμενοις (phthi-menois; waning)” of the day (Gk. Anth. 670). Oppian defines this period of hespera when he writes, “ἑσπερίῃσιν ὅτ’ ηέλιος ζυγα κλίνει (hesperiesin ot helios zuga klinei; the time of hespera, at which time the sun’s team laid down), when herdsmen command their herds what time they travel homeward to their folds, heavy of breast and swollen of udder” (Oppian Cyneg. 1:138ff). The Greek idea was that the team that pulled the sun chariot across the sky during the day laid down to rest after the sun had been pulled beneath the horizon. According to Pliny, the day among all “the common people everywhere” extended “a luce ad tenebras (from dawn until the dark of night)” (Pliny 2:79). Therefore, the evening star appeared during the waning part of the day (after sunset).

Other markers demonstrating the Greek concept of the time of hesperas are as follows: In Acts, 4:3, this period is placed in context when we read that Keph (Peter) was placed in a holding cell “until the αὔριον (aurion; morning breeze; SEC, Gk. #839), for it was already ἑσπέρα (hespera),” in order that he might be brought before the rulers and elders at Jerusalem. Accordingly, he was placed in a holding cell after the government’s daily business hours. Homer, meanwhile, speaks of how some people “waited until hesperon should come; and as they made merry dark hesperos came upon them. Then they went, each man to his house” (Homer Ody., 1:422f). This statement clearly connects the time of hesperon with the darkening of light after sunset. In another place Homer writes that some people were to “gather at hesperious beside the swift ship,” and then subsequent to that event notes, “Now the sun set and all the ways grew dark. Then she (the goddess) drew the swift ship to the sea” (Homer Ody., 2:385–389). Therefore, the people gathered at twilight and only after it became dark did the ship set sail. Homer also notes that a man visited his fields and herdsmen and then afterward, when hesperios arrived, returned to the city (Homer Ody. 15:503–505). Homer also writes that it was at the time of hesperios that the ram longs to return to the fold (Homer Ody. 9:447–452). As any sheep rancher will advise, this occurs with sunset. He also reports the words of a man advising a stranger that, “The day is far spent, and soon you will find it colder ποτἰ (poti; toward) ἑσπερα (hespera)” (Homer Ody. 17:190f).

In another place Homer reports that certain people “took supper, and waited until hesperon should come” (Homer Ody. 4:785f). Men generally worked in the fields until the 11th hour (e.g., Matt. 20:1-13), after which they would return home to supper (cf., Ruth, 3:7). It would be fair to conclude that this also was the hour for supper among the Greeks. It is true that supper among the priests and upper class Jews was a little earlier, coming late in the afternoon, at various times between the ninth until the twelfth hours (EWJ pp. 44f). Yet this principle was in part guided by the fact that the ninth hour (3 P.M.) was the hour of prayer (Jos. Antiq. 14:4:2; Acts 3:1). Josephus notes that the Essenes had breakfast in the fifth hour (11 A.M.) and then returned to their labors until δείλης (deiles; afternoon), at which time they would have supper (Jos. Wars, 2:8:5). In either case, the supper mentioned in the Greek story took place at some point prior to the arrival of the hour of hespera. This detail places the Greek time for hespera later in the day than the Hasidic concept of an afternoon arab, despite the fact that the Hasidic writers used hesperon to identify an earlier period of arab.

Hespera, therefore, is a reference to the time of a day connected with darkness, after supper, and when the Hesperus star appears, that is, the period of twilight after sunset.

10 Philo Spec., 2:28 §155.

11 Notice that Philo can only offer guesses as to why unleavened bread was used. The Jews were puzzled by this question. It was answered by the messiah and the disciples, who noted the unleavened bread represented the messiah’s body, truth, and sincerity (1 Cor. 5:8, 11:23-24; Luke 22:19; Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22); that is, unleavened bread represents the sinlessness of the messiah.

12 Philo Spec., 2:28 §156f.

13 Philo Spec., 2:28 §150.

14 BE p. 90, n. 6; also cited in Colson, Philo, vii, p. 627.

15 See Marcus, Philo, Sup. II, p. 20, n. d. The term πρὸς (pros), when used with ἑσπέραν (hesperan) means “at” or “on the side of” the time of hesperan (GEL, 1968, pp. 697, 1496f). More exactly, this phrase refers to the beginning time of hesperan (= arab). The Greek phrase πρὸς ἑσπέραν (pros hesperan) is used in the LXX as the equivalent of the Hebrew לעת ערב (la-ath arab; at the time of arab), cf., LXX at Gen. 8:11; 2 Kings (MT 2 Sam.) 11:2; Isa. 17:14; and the Hebrew בען הערבים (byn ha-arabim), cf., LXX at Exod. 12:6, 16:12; Num. 9:3, 11, 28:4, 8.

16 Philo, Exod., 1:11. J. B. Aucher renders this last line literally, “tempus mediocre ad vesperam vergens (the time between inclining toward vesperam)” (Marcus, Philo, Sup. II, p. 20, ns. d & h.).

17 See the LXX at Exod. 12:6, 16:12; Lev. 23:5; Num. 9:3. Interestingly, both the supporters of the Hasidic view and the Aristocratic view could look at the same words used in the LXX and come to entirely opposite understandings of what the word pros hesperan meant. For those of the Aristocratic school it meant twilight after sunset, while those of the Hasidic school interpreted it to mean the afternoon arab.

18 The Latin term vespere (vesparum; etc.), which has essentially the same meaning as the Greek term ἑσπέραν (hesperan), was also used by the supporters of System B for the mid-afternoon arab. Also see above ns. 30 & 36.

19 Colson Philo, vii, p. 627; BE, p. 90, n. 6.

20 Jos. Antiq., 2:14:6.

21 Jos. Antiq., 3:10:5.

22 Jos. Wars, 6:9:3f §423ff.

23 Jos. Antiq., 2:15:1.

24 Jos. Antiq., 9:13:2-3.

25 Jos. Antiq., 14:2:1.

26 Jos. Antiq., 14:2:2.

27 Jos. Antiq., 17:9:3.

28 Jos. Wars, 2:1:3.

29 Pes. 5:1.

30 The Gemara points out that there is a lacuna here in the Mishnah. In its place, the Gemara claims, it should state that the prohibition against leavened bread during the Passover of Egypt “lasted but one day,” and then the text continues as above (Gem. 96b).

31 Pes. 9:5.

2 thoughts on “13. Passover – Hasidic Practice II

  1. Looking forward to the proofs for the Aristocratic system as Passover and Unleavened Bread are coming up next. I’d like to be sure I am observing it the way Yahweh instructed us.

    I’m disappointed that there aren’t more postings. I think Yahweh’s sacred days would excite more people to comment.

  2. When I first studied close to 20 years ago how to do the Passover, it really was exciting. Although it’s still exciting even just reviewing it again. It does help once you get into the Scriptures of knowing how those different groups did it.

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