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Dear Refiner's Fire...

Someone recently wrote to The Refiner's Fire to ask our opinion of the "Aviv Barley Search", citing the following example/question that was sent to Nehemiah Gordon of Karaite Korner:

Dear Nehemiah: Has there ever been record of a drought year in which there was no barley at all? If so would that mean we should not observe the Passover nor count the Omer? Shalom Thank you, Karen in California.

Nehemiah's response:

This is a particularly important question this year when Israel is facing a serious drought. In all the years I have been looking for the Aviv I never experienced a situation where there was no barley. Drought usually means that there is less rain than normal and in drought years the barley yield may be lower than usual with stunted plants. However, barley is a very resilient crop that can survive on miniscule amounts of water and much of the barley still reaches full maturity. Ancient varieties of barley were just as resilient as they are today. Proof of this can be found in the 2,000 year old sickles discovered in excavations at Qumran on the shore of the Dead Sea, which are on display at Israel's national museum. The Dead Sea valley is one of the driest places in Israel, yet even in this extremely dry environment, barley was grown in ancient times and harvested for food. Therefore, the answer to the above question is that there is always some barley that survives a drought and hence always a first sheaf (omer) of the harvest to mark the beginning of the countdown to Shavuot. More information on the countdown to Shavuot is available at: http://www.karaite- shavuot.shtml

The Aviv Search goes into full swing next Thursday but it is not too late to send in your support to help cover the expenses of the search. Every donation helps, no matter how small. In these difficult economic times, if all you can afford is $10, it will be received as a blessing. You can send in your support by check or money order made out to "Makor Hebrew Foundation" and sent to: PO Box 769, Pineland, TX 75968 or by clicking on the link at: http://www.karaite- donate.shtml

Our Response...

Nowhere in Scripture is there a single example of folks examining barley to set the calendar....So, let's be realistic: The month of Aviv (Spring) is going to come in whether the barley is ready or not - for the "month of spring" is set by the sun and not by the barley!

Nehemiah Gordon is a Karaite (author of a book entitled, "The Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus" - even though he does NOT believe in "Jesus"!) and this whole Aviv hunt thing is largely a Karaite invention. The Karaites are a group of Jews established in the Middle Ages who broke with nearly all Rabbinic tradition. Their name is likely derived from the Hebrew karet, or "to cut out", as in cutting away the oral traditions that they felt were added to Torah. While the Karaites may be a relatively modern group, many of their positions are based upon ancient writings.

The ironic thing about the Karaites is that, while they have some interesting points worth exploring on occasion, they criticize the rabbis for adding oral traditions only to replace them with their own traditions! Nowhere in Scripture is there a single example of folks looking for barley to set the calendar. The barley is a secondary sign that is merely commented on and never is it a deciding factor. It's kind of be like saying "the ice cream trucks come in summer" and another person thinking they must actually see that truck for summer to officially start....

(Consider the year 2016. Groups within the Karaites could not decide if the barley was abib or not! Some Karaites held that the barley was abib, while others held that it was not! Ask yourself: "Why would YHWH command such an uncertain factor to determine the calendar when Genesis 1:14 clearly states that the sun, moon, and stars determine the calendar, and there is no mention of an "earth sign" (barley) to establish the month of spring?")

The calendar "stuff" that the website "intellects" argue over - including the exact dates (seconds, minutes, hours and how to convert them from the Hebrew to the Gregorian calendars, etc.) is unnecessarily divisive, and we suggest people NOT bother with - let alone, donate - to those websites. YHWH is interested mainly in our willingness to obey by DOING His Feasts and keeping His Shabbats.

Here is further info on the issue borrowed from an appendix in the Aramaic English New Testament:

The first season of year is of course, Spring, called Aviv in Scripture. The characteristics of Spring involve the earth returning to a state of greenness, which is why we are told in Exodus to observe that moment of the year as its beginning. The Karaites also believe, quite correctly, that the sign of Spring is the tender and green ears of the barley, the first of the produce to ripen in Israel. However, they are incorrect that Aviv has started when the barley ripens, at the end of the lunar year. Barley is the earth sign, but it needs the sky sign to precede it before the season can officially begin.

It is important to point out that the first two commands to "observe Aviv" don't take place in Israel. The first Aviv occurred in Egypt and the second was in the Wilderness. Such a pattern begs several questions of the Karaite position. Which barley "counts" since it ripens gradually over several weeks? Is one part of Israel superior to others? What about the places where the command was originally given, that were both outside of Israel? Where is the biblical procedure that tells us where we get the barley? Who does it and who judges?

There are, of course, basic answers to these questions. However, this is assumed by the Karaites who add their own details to Torah, even while criticizing the Rabbis for the very same thing! However, if we know there is a sky sign that will always point to when the barley is ripe, and this is in harmony with the Torah in places like Genesis 1:14-19, then no additional procedures are required. We simply wait for the sky sign, get the barley, and go!

What we can also say about the moedim (appointed times) is that once the time is set, the moon controls the ordering of the sacred festivals: "The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down." (Psalm 104:19) Philo has a very interesting commentary on this verse:

"And before now some men have predicted disturbances and commotions from the motions of the earth, from the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, and innumerable other events that have turned out most exactly true; so that it is a most veracious saying that "the stars were created to act as signs and moreover to mark the seasons." And by the word seasons the divisions of the year are intended. And why may not this be reasonably affirmed? For what other idea of opportunity can there be except that it is the time for success? And the seasons bring everything to perfection, and set everything right; giving perfection to the sowing and planting of fruits and to the birth and growth of animals. They were also created to serve as the measure of time; for it is by the appointed periodic revolutions of the sun and moon and other stars that the days, months and years are determined. (Philo Judaeus, On Creation, 59-60 p. 9 CD Yonge Translation)

However, the moon is still subject to the solar year, because without it these same holidays that are keyed to harvest and planting will occur out of season. So as long as those appointed times stay on track, the moon is in charge. When it needs help, however, to keep the festivals at their proper time, the sun takes over. In so doing, both the sun and the moon mark the year, again as Scripture says.