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Chains of Consequences: The Importance of Dating Easter

Ciclavex

Baron Ciclavex of Grittsysborough in New Sweden
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Well, if @Thande insists...

Hitting on the points I see:

1. Zeroa is a lamb’s shankbone (or something representing it, usually a chicken bone, for families who don’t have access to a lamb’s bone), so calling it a “dish” being served is... questionable. It does represent the sacrifice; many Jews won’t even touch it because it might be interpreted as a sacrifice. Because a lamb is the sacrifice, it is considered today by most Jews to be verboten to serve lamb as the actual meal, because it resembles an unacceptable sacrifice (as it was not sacrificed at the Temple, for obvious reasons) too closely.

2. Expanding on leaven, though this is not a correction: not only does this mean what we usually think of as active leavening agents, but passive ones as well. Certain grains, when exposed to water and made into dough, have a tendency to leaven on their own from the organisms and chemicals that exist in the atmosphere — various types of bread in many cultures actually rely on this fact. Because of this possibility, there are strict rules the rabbis have developed to carefully prepare matzah - unleavened bread - before this process can begin. These grains are called the Five Grains — wheat, barley, oats (or possibly a different type of barley according to a different translation), rye and spelt. If these rules aren’t followed, any product of the Five Grains is considered leavened (and the rules are stricter than a biological study of this process in modern times would suggest they need to be — of course, if you were a rabbi in classical or medieval times without access to a modern understanding of biology, you would want to err on the side of caution, wouldn’t you?). Other rabbis went even further, banning the consumption of these grains if not made into matzah during Passover.

There is a further category called “kitniyot” which represents things which aren’t strictly leaven, but are considered to be also banned during Passover by many - primarily Ashkenazi - communities, historically because these items were stored alongside the Five Grains and thus could be contaminated with them in a leavened state, or because they resembled them too closely. This includes things like maize, lentils, rice and peanuts.

This is all just to emphasize just how much leaven is completely unacceptable.

3. I’m not certain, but I think it was Charles II who did away with the maundy ceremony of washing of feet; I think he did it earlier in his reign, and abandoned the practice later, and James II merely did not revive it. Ironically, of course, I think the official reasoning for abandoning it was that it was too Catholic, and of course Charles II was a secret Catholic and James II openly one.

4. Now, in terms of dating. Historically, the Hebrew calendar did not use a mathematical system to calculate the years; like many historical calendars - and a few today - they relied on observations year after year. Because Hebrew months very closely follow lunar cycles, and lunar cycles are not synchronized with the solar cycle, this meant that - like most calendar systems - it would fall out of alignment. Historically, these observations would be made from the Temple in Jerusalem, which would determine what month it was — most importantly, of course, being Nisan - Passover’s month - which is the first month of year. If the priests determined that the new moon that was supposed to be the first day of the first month, Nisan, was incorrect, and had drifted too early, they would declare the month of Second Adar, instead of the month of Nisan, to make sure Passover was celebrated in the Spring. And, to elaborate on this, yes, this meant that it wasn’t just this that was being declared — the beginning of every month had to be observed and declared at the Temple, which is why the First Diaspora (and many Jews in the Diaspora today) adopted the practice of lengthening certain holidays to an extra day, because messengers from the Temple could not necessarily reach Diaspora communities, and so these communities adopted a practice of celebrating holidays on either of the days it would have probably been declared on.

Observation from Land of Israel continued in fits and starts after the Second Diaspora began with the destruction of the Temple, but it was unreliable, due to wars, as well as due to, well, there being no central authority that everyone was listening to, and so the rabbis determined that a mathematical calculation would be more effective. The mathematical system ultimately adopted - after a very long time of debate - adopted a nineteen-year cycle in which certain years had twelve months, and other years had a thirteenth month - called First Adar - inserted before Adar. It took some time, but this system was ultimately universally adopted in the pharisaic-oriented Jewish Community (which, in modern times, is far and away the vast, vast majority of Jews; you might not expect it if you don’t understand the subtleties of pharisaism, but modern Messianic Judaism falls broadly within the pharisaic tradition, along with almost any other modern Jewish tradition you could name — but this was not the case until well into the medieval period).

And now, a problem.

When this mathematical calculation was created, they had to make decisions about how to determine which years would be leap years, and which ones wouldn’t, and they had to make an absolute rule and make choices about what mattered to them. In the end, the rabbis erred on the side of ensuring that the lunar and solar cycles would harmonize over the course of the year as much as possible, rather than any of the other astronomical observations that went into determining the month during the Temple period. These were a secondary concern, but placed lower than the primary one. Indeed, in this, they were wildly successful; the Hebrew Calendar has a far lower drift from the true solar and lunar cycles than the contemporary Julian calendar, and even a significantly (though much smaller than before) lower drift than the modern Gregorian calendar.

But a lot of Christians, even Jewish Christians (as this was during the period before Jewish worship practices had been suppressed by the Church Councils), had serious doubts about abandoning these other astronomical observations. They (like many non-pharisaic Jews at the time) treated the Spring Equinox as the key to determining the date of Passover (and not entirely unreasonably; the Spring Equinox was one of the major astronomical signals used during the Temple days as part of the observational process), and the fact that the new Hebrew system meant that the Equinox wasn’t the key aspect of the calculation meant that it was a bad calculation, and so, the new systems for determining the date of Passover which developed.

5. One final note — I talk about the Christians dating Passover.

This is intentional.

English is one of the few languages that draws a strong distinction between the two holidays of “Easter” and Passover. In Italian, the word for Easter is “Pasqua”; the word for Passover is “Pasqua”. In French, the word for Easter is “Pâques” and the word for Passover is “Pâque”. Russian, Turkish, Greek, Swedish, Dutch, Welsh... all of them have no or only a fairly small difference between the words for the festival of Easter versus the festival of Passover. German, like English, also has a strong distinction, but it is also an exception to this. Considering that, in origin, they are in fact the same festival being celebrated by different groups in different contests, the use of the two separate words creates a distinction between them that we as English-speakers (and German-speakers, and a few other languages) imagine that doesn’t actually exist to most of the people who celebrate it.



All that said, though, great article, Thande!
 
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Thande

UP THE WORKERS & Ukrainians
Published by SLP
Well, if @Thande insists...

Hitting on the points I see:

1. Zeroa is a lamb’s shankbone (or something representing it, usually a chicken bone, for families who don’t have access to a lamb’s bone), so calling it a “dish” being served is... questionable. It does represent the sacrifice; many Jews won’t even touch it because it might be interpreted as a sacrifice. Because a lamb is the sacrifice, it is considered today by most Jews to be verboten to serve lamb as the actual meal, because it resembles an unacceptable sacrifice (as it was not sacrificed at the Temple, for obvious reasons) too closely.
Just to be clear, I was aware of this, but I used this inclusive phraseology because I was informed that there is considerable diversity of opinions among modern Jews (an entirely unprecedented situation, obviously...) over what is acceptable to serve as a Zeroa, so I didn't want to be too specific and be told 'actually...'
 

Ciclavex

Baron Ciclavex of Grittsysborough in New Sweden
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Just to be clear, I was aware of this, but I used this inclusive phraseology because I was informed that there is considerable diversity of opinions among modern Jews (an entirely unprecedented situation, obviously...) over what is acceptable to serve as a Zeroa, so I didn't want to be too specific and be told 'actually...'
Fair enough. There certainly is diversity of opinions on pretty much any aspect of Jewish custom or practice. The only questionable part I had was calling it a "dish", but then again, I'm sure there are people who call it that, so you're likely fine.
 

Makemakean

Mr Makemean
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Logical, unlike those in German
I once dated Easter.

She was nice enough, and charming and intelligent, but in the end there was no chemistry between us.
 

Iopgod

Well-known member
I would like to note the 1928 Easter Act, which officially establishes Easter Sunday as the Sunday following the second Saturday in April (at least for UK secular purposes such as the back holidays, etc.). And it will come in to force just as soon as the PM of the day takes in to account the officially expressed views of the Church of England (and other christian bodies) and gets the agreement of both houses. So any day now, then.
 

Thande

UP THE WORKERS & Ukrainians
Published by SLP
I would like to note the 1928 Easter Act, which officially establishes Easter Sunday as the Sunday following the second Saturday in April (at least for UK secular purposes such as the back holidays, etc.). And it will come in to force just as soon as the PM of the day takes in to account the officially expressed views of the Church of England (and other christian bodies) and gets the agreement of both houses. So any day now, then.
Like how seventy or eighty years ago, Arthur Mee was so sure the House of Commons would get rid of the voting lobbies any day now that he put it in his children's encyclopaedia.
 

Iopgod

Well-known member
Like how seventy or eighty years ago, Arthur Mee was so sure the House of Commons would get rid of the voting lobbies any day now that he put it in his children's encyclopaedia.
Hey, they are talking about virtual committees.. virtual voting (presumably without at least the physical voting lobbies) can't be that far away, huh? And then regularising the date of Easter would be the entirely and utterly logical and justifiable next step. Any! Day! Now!
 

Francisco Cojuanco

Sometime traitor to his class
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Hey, they are talking about virtual committees.. virtual voting (presumably without at least the physical voting lobbies) can't be that far away, huh? And then regularising the date of Easter would be the entirely and utterly logical and justifiable next step. Any! Day! Now!
Of course, that would just mean all the Papists (well not all, but Eastern Catholicism is hard to explain even in passing, suffice it to say there are perfectly good Catholics who celebrate Easter on the Julian date*) like me would just celebrate it on the day that we always have.


*some, like Ukrainian Catholics in the diaspora, have it so that one parish in a given area has Easter on the Gregorian date, and another parish has Easter on the Julian date.
 

Iopgod

Well-known member
Of course, that would just mean all the Papists (well not all, but Eastern Catholicism is hard to explain even in passing, suffice it to say there are perfectly good Catholics who celebrate Easter on the Julian date*) like me would just celebrate it on the day that we always have.


*some, like Ukrainian Catholics in the diaspora, have it so that one parish in a given area has Easter on the Gregorian date, and another parish has Easter on the Julian date.
I would have no objection to that, any more than I have to those who already celebrate it on the Julian date, or those who celebrate New Year in February. Its just that you (they) wont (or at least might not) get the bank/school holidays to coincide with said celebration...
 
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