Just the observations, please!
The new moon controversy

There seems no other topic so divisive in the Netzari, or "Messianic" faith - those who abide by YHWH's mitzvoth (teaching and instruction) and in Yeshua's atoning death for our sins (John 17:3) - than "when does the new month begin?"

Above: New Moons from Jerusalem (left to right) March, June, September, December 2010

It is doubtful the question can ever be settled to the satisfaction of all as the argument has been going on for centuries! Who am I to even dare to solve it? Well I don't desire to "solve it!" My hope is that each person looking into the question will not just blindly follow what someone else says, but will instead look into the matter with some wholeheartedness on their own. I am also not going to riddle this document with countless scriptural references but instead will present a case that simply asks you to consider the signs YHWH has provided in both Scripture and nature itself. This He confirms in Genesis 1:14-18; His Sun and Moon are for - "signs, seasons, days and years." And absolutely nowhere in scripture are we told how to determine the 1st day of the month! Truly! (If someone tells you one method or the other is "found in scripture", do not believe them! So on with this discussion.)

Two Schools of Thought

One camp says the month begins at the sighting of the thin, crescent moon, and only upon the sighting. I will refer to this camp as the “crescentists”, though I mean no disrespect by the term. The other camp says the month begins in darkness upon the lunar conjunction which testifies that the old month has ended, and the new month has begun even when a crescent is not observed and indeed, that it does not depend on the actual sighting of the new moon. This camp I will call the “conjunctionists”.

Just to be clear, I am (sort-of) in the second camp. But by saying so, I do not mean "day 1 of the new month begins the day of conjunction", rather I mean "day 1 begins with the sunset which follows the conjunction". It is very hard, in my walk, to believe or accept that as the Creator of all things, YHWH, would expect us to determine the beginning of the month by such an imprecise and variable SINGLE sign such as the sighting of the crescent moon!

On the other hand, I can certainly believe that the unknowing, the casual, or the passive would simply “accept”, without much thought, that the “new moon” means “the first crescent” since, after all, it is the first evidence we can possibly have (so it is assumed) to indicate a “new moon”! Actually, no! The first evidence is another sign. I contend the first crescent of the month is only a visible sign that the new month has already begun – i.e., that the new moon has already occurred, not that the new month begins the night of that sighting. I say this, because I am aware of a little known secret! That secret is that the crescent is visible at another time, providing an additional sign, actually more important than the sign of the 1st visible crescent of the new month! Though little known, that secret time indicates the current month is about to end and reveals the day of conjunction!

It is surprising how many people today have no clue the moon is visible throughout the entire month, every month (except when the moon is in conjunction). They also don’t realize the moon is visible in the wee hours of the morning, as the aged moon approaches the end of the current calendar month, when it also appears as a very thin crescent! It does! You can actually see this for yourself! If you took the time each month to pay attention to the phase and position of the moon every day, you would find that each month, just as the moon is about to pass into conjunction (when it is obscured in the brightness of the sun), there comes a day when, just before sunrise, the moon is still just barely visible, in the brightening dawn, when it appears as a very thin crescent – the “oldest” visible moon – utterly identical to the situation when the “new” moon after conjunction is just becoming visible just after sunset! The following morning, at sunrise, absolutely no crescent is seen because it is now too deep in the brightening dawn to be seen before sunrise! None of this is hidden from you! You can, all by yourself, validate all I am saying here by simply stepping outside each day and noting the position and appearance of the moon, though some days you will have to drag yourself outside at some very unusual hours, perhaps when you’d rather be sleeping.

So I pose to all reading this article the following question: If the first visible crescent of the new month, at sunset, marks the beginning of the month, then wouldn’t the last visible crescent at sunrise mark (or at least indicate) the end of the month? If not, why not? After all, if the sighting of the first crescent moon is a sign then so is the last, old crescent (of the current) month also a sign! Wouldn’t it make complete sense that if the spotting of the first crescent indicated the “new month”, then spotting the last crescent of the “old” month would be an equally valuable sign to indicate the last day of the “old month”? This is a serious question! Please think about it!

Of course you can’t answer, as you have no answer. There can be no answer! Nowhere does scripture imply or require that the determination of the calendar month is by a single sign, or by the "1st sighted crescent of the new month"! Indeed, scripture is clear that the heavens provide signs - plural! It is simply folly to look for a "new crescent" to decide if the new month has begun when it means you have ignored all the other signs the sun and moon have to offer to determine the month!

As mentioned at the onset of this discussion, a very careful study of the Bible reveals that YHWH nowhere tells us that the month begins at “the spotting of the crescent after sunset”. Check this yourself! There are so many studies on this matter, I don’t think I can add any new insight. So it seems that YHWH left it up to us to determine when the month ends and when it begins! And what a mess we have made of it! We humans have not done so well when things are left up to us! From “Don’t eat of the tree in the center of the garden” to “Keep the 7th day Holy”, to “...observe Pesach at its designated time”, to “homosexuality is an abomination”, we can’t seem to follow the simplest of the mitzvoth!

Here is the deal. The sighting of the “first crescent” simply cannot mark the “new moon” or “new month” any more than the last visible crescent of the “old” moon marks the “end of the month”. It’s that simple. In fact, the moon is clearly renewed between those to visual signs! The first sighted crescent can only represent a confirmation that the new month has already begun, just as the last crescent indicates only that the month is about to end! Any skilled observer will conclude after just a few months of watching the moon that the last crescent in the morning and the new crescent in the evening marks nothing more than a simple pointer to the fact that the moon was renewed between them. The new month, therefore, begins in darkness!

Let no one therefore judge you in eating or in drinking, or in respect of a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths – which are a shadow of what is to come – but the Body of the Messiah.- Colossians 2:16 (ISR)

Yes, the new month begins in darkness! The day ends (and begins) in darkness, the week ends (and begins) in darkness, and the moed year ends (and begins) in darkness. (The moed year? Yes! One meaning of "Adar", the last month of the Hebrew year, is “to darken”.) It seems self-evident, does it not, that if our measure of the day, week, and moed year, end and begin in darkness, the month would end and begin in darkness as well? Indeed, darkness is very important to YHWH. The covenant with Avram was made in darkness (Genesis 15:7); Pesach took place in darkness (Exodus 12:12); Yeshua rose in the dark (John 20:1). In fact, YHWH dwells in darkness (Exodus 20:21, 1 Kings 8:12, Psalm 18:11), and the very creation itself began in darkness, (Genesis 1:2), and ends in darkness (Revelation 20:11).

(Don’t confuse this clear importance of darkness with the equal if not superior importance of light. YHWH said: “Let there be Light”, and saw that it was good (Genesis 1:3-4), and Yeshua said He is the “light of the world” and that whoever followed him would not walk in darkness [meaning without hope] and have eternal life. (John 8:12). Indeed, light triumphs over dark. (Revelation 21:23, 25). So both light and darkness have clear purpose and importance to YHWH.)

Further, crescent sanctification is condemned! Yes! YHWH wants us to venerate Him as Creator - not His creations (Deuteronomy 17:2-5). What’s more, the few times Scripture mentions crescent moons directly it is never about the start of the month but instead centers on pagan worship:

The men of Isra’el said to Gid’on: “Rule over us, you, your son and your grandson, because you saved us from the power of Midyan. Gid’on replied, “Neither I nor my son will rule over you; ADONAI will rule over you.” Then he added, “But I have this request to make of you, that each of you would give me the earrings from the booty you have taken.” For the enemy soldiers had worn gold earrings, like all the other tribes descended from Yishma’el. They replied, “We’re glad to give them to you.” They spread out a robe, and each man threw in the earrings from his booty. The gold earrings he requested weighed more than forty-two pounds; and this doesn’t include the crescents, pendants and purple cloth worn by the kings of Midyan and the chains around their camels’ necks. (Judges 8:22-26, CJB)

In that day יהוה takes away the finery of the anklets, and the headbands, and the crescents, the pendants, the bracelets and the veils, the headdresses, and the leg ornaments, and the sashes, and the perfume bottles, and the amulets, the rings, and the nose jewels, the costly robes, and the cloaks, and the shawls, and the purses, the mirrors, and the fine linen, and the turbans, and the large veils. (Isaiah 3:18-23, ISR)

A Lesson in Events of a Year

(Note: The following discusses events in 2010. The issue examined remains valid, even in the 2020's so read it for the issue, not the date. The problems with the many "calendars" are timeless and though "2010" sounds "dated", it is not!)

Continuing with our topic of the new moon let’s examine the real-world events of September, 2010. This month was significant not only because the New Hebrew civil year begin that month, but four great commanded mitzvoth happened in September. These were: 1 Tishri (the New Year), Yom Kippur, and the 1st and 8th days of Sukkot. The observances of all these mitzvoth depend on the month of Tishri beginning on the correct day.

The great controversy of “when did the new month of Tishri begin” in Sep 2010, was very prominent because the traditional Jewish (Hebrew) calendar indicated 1 Tishri began at sunset on September 8th (as observed from Israel.) But the New Moon was not spotted until sunset on September 10th! So which was correct? Traditional calendar or sighted crescent? Did 1 Tishri begin September 8th (the moon in darkness) or September 10th (with the sighting of the crescent)?

(Note: Just to be clear, in what follows I am not advocating that the modern Jewish (traditional) calendar is absolutely "correct"! It has its own issues! Many! But the central theme of this article it to show how seriously wrong the "sighted crescent" calendar is.)

For clarity, the following are two calendar months. The first is the traditional Jewish calendar for September, 2010, and the second is the “Crescentist” calendar which results from the spotting of the first crescent moon of the month. Refer back to these as I make reference to dates in the discussion which follows.

For those who accepted the calendar date, Sep 8, Yom Kippur began at sunset on Sep 17th. For those who accepted the sighting of the crescent moon, Yom Kippur did not begin till sunset Sep 19th. Similarly, the calendar recorded Sukkot began at sunset on Sep 22nd, but the crescentists did not start Sukkot until sunset Friday, Sep 24th, as they counted 15 days from sunset Sep 10th! Only one can be correct. But which?

Let’s focus a moment on Sukkot. Sukkot is decreed by YHWH as a holy day, to be observed the 15th day of the month of Tishri. See Leviticus 23:34. As an appointed time, marking a High Holy Day, it is pretty important that we begin Sukkot at sunset on 14 Tishri, because darkness that evening begins the day of 15 Tishri.

See For Yourself!

Let’s set aside the two camps for a moment. As you read the next few paragraphs there are neither crescentists nor conjunctionists for the signs should be the same for either. If you had been clever the evening of Sep 22nd, 2010, while watching at sunset in the west you would have seen the most amazing thing! Just as the sun set on the horizon that evening, had you turned and looked to the east, just opposite the setting sun, (assuming your eastern horizon was not blocked), guess what you would have seen?

You would have seen the nearly full moon just rising! If you don’t understand the significance of this to Sukkot, please continue reading!

Seeing the moon rise, just moments before the sun sets, means that the moon is almost full, or even “at” full. That night, the moon was so nearly “full” that it would be completely “full” in just a matter of a few hours! Therefore on the evening of Sep 22nd, in Israel (and most other parts of the world) this sight meant that the moon would be completely full sometime during the day which was just beginning (meaning the 24 hour period)! At sunset that night, according to the traditional Jewish calendar, it became 15 Tishri – Sukkot!

This juxtaposition, sunset beginning the 15th day of the Hebrew month and the full (or very nearly full) moon rising at the same time as sunset is very important. You see, the Hebrew month is “lunar” - based on the moon - and the “new month” is determined on the occurrence of the “new moon”. (Please do not presume the term "new moon" means "sighted crescent". Here, the term "new moon" refers to the time the moon itself is renewed and that is at conjunction). The number of days it takes the moon to go around the earth (which is known today as a “lunation” or the “synodic period”) is, on average, 29.53 days long, but our Hebrew months, must be tied to complete, 24 hour days, and therefore a month must be either 29 or 30 whole days. One can’t have a “1/2 day” day to match that of the moon’s “month”.

So what we do is permit our months to be either 29 days or 30 days, and we alternate between 29 and 30 so the moon passes from “old” to “new” on the 29th day of the month or on the 30th day of the month. This alternating 29 and 30 day months sufficiently accounts for the extra 1/2 day it takes for the moon to complete its lunation, its “month”. Have you followed this so far? Worded differently, ideally one month the moon will pass from old to new during the 29th day of the month, and the next month it will pass from old to new during the 30th day of the month, because we count whole days. If the moon’s age is 29.5 days, our calendar will, on average, show the date as either the 29th or the 30th.

Now the moon becomes full at the half-way point of the lunation, and since the lunar month is an average 29.53 days the full moon will occur at 14.75 days after new - on average. It turns out we can’t rely exactly on 14.75 days though, because the number of days of the moon’s age from new to full actually varies from 13.9 to 15.6 days! This is because the moon’s synodic period varies a bit month to month, in large part due to the eccentricity of the moon’s orbit, but partly due to the earth as its orbit around the sun is also not truly circular. Also the inclination of the moon’s orbit with respect to the ecliptic also plays a small role because it affects how high above the horizon the moon appears despite its elongation from the sun. All these characteristics combine to constantly change the exact time each month of both the new and full moons, as well as the point on the earth over which these two events occur!

These effects combine to reveal that the full moon can present itself between the 14th and 15th days of the Hebrew month, or between the 15th and 16th! For example, if there are 29 days in the current month, with the conjunction in the 29th day, then the 1st day of the new month immediately follows the 29th. In that case, the moon becomes “one day old” within the 1st day of the calendar month, and so on until the moon becomes full at lunar age 15 days, when the calendar shows it is the 15th about to become the 16th! The new month, which has now just begun, will have 30 calendar days, and this means the next new moon will be in conjunction on the 30th day of the calendar. Now when the moon has “aged one day”, the calendar will also show the “1st” day of the month and consequently the full moon will be seen during the transition from the 14th to the 15th, resulting in a 29-day calendar month. It’s all terribly confusing I know, and seems terribly inconsistent. But there is one relative “constant”, however, that we can rely on.

That constant is that no matter what astronomical conditions conspire to determine the precise day and time of a full moon, the very fact that the full moon happens when it is positioned opposite the sun as seen from the earth, means that when the moon is full or nearing full, it will necessarily rise in the east around the same time as the sun is setting in the west. Think of this as a teeter-totter. The fulcrum represents the position of the earth as in this illustration:

The child on one seat represents the sun, and the child on the other seat represents the moon. The long board connecting the two seats represents both the imaginary line between the sun and the moon, but also, when horizontal, it represents the horizon. Just as the “sun” is seen setting, the teeter-totter is horizontal, and the “moon” is seen rising. This is the condition of the full moon. (Of course, in reality, both the sun setting and the moon rising are due to the earth's rotation toward the east.) If, just as the sun is setting, we look east and see the moon already several degrees above the horizon, then the moon is not yet full. Conversely, if the sun has just set, and we look east and see no moon, and the moon rises quite a long time after the sun has set, then the moon is past full. (Note: In all cases, whenever the moon is opposite the sun at sunset, it will always look full and whether or not the moon is truly "full" is difficult to see. It takes a skilled eye to recognize the signs of the moon that is not yet full or it is past full.)

Thus, if we are counting our days correctly, the full (or nearly full) moon will always appear on the horizon as our calendar day passes from the 14th day of the Hebrew month at sunset, passing to the 15th day of the month, or the 15th passing to the 16th!

In this way we know for a fact that if YHWH declares His Holy day on the 15th of the month – will we see a full moon or nearly full moon! The dates for Sukkot, Pesach (Passover – Passover begins at sunset on Nissan 14, so the date changes to the 15th at sunset on the 14th), and Unleavened Bread are so declared – so on each of these Holy days, we know we will be blessed with a full moon during the observance, as a sign (Genesis 1:14). But more importantly, if the moon is clearly before or past “full” at sunset those important nights which begin the Holy day, we have done something wrong in our counting of the days.

Please note I have not cited one scripture demanding that a commanded Holy day occur on the “full moon”! This is because YHWH never says to observe the full moon, rather He says the observance is on the 15th of the calendar month, (or, in the case of Passover, at sunset on the 14th of the month). But the conclusion that the commanded feasts of the 15th of the month is also a full moon is inescapable because the calendar month is based on the moon.

I say above we will be blessed with a full moon “during the observance” (of the Holy day) because the moon becomes completely full not at the same hour of the same day every month, month after month. Nor does it always become completely full just as the moon rises. Nor is the moon visible to all the earth the moment it becomes completely full. So the illustration of the teeter-totter is not meant to imply that the moon must be absolutely full as the sun sets. Rather the moon becomes full at some time during the period between the 14th/15th, on the 15th, or between 15th/16th days of the Hebrew month. Thus, the fact that the moon did not rise precisely “full” at sunset on Sep 22, 2010 is not at all unusual. In fact, the moon became truly “full” during the 24 hours after it rose that night – that is, during the 15th of the Hebrew month - during the observance of the first day of Sukkot.

A Sliver of Truth

Now let’s turn our attention back to the crescentists who, in Sep 2010, did not see the crescent of the new moon until sunset Sep 10th. Because the new moon was not spotted until that date, their month of Tishri could not begin until sunset that evening! So all day Sep 11th was, according to them, “1 Tishri” (remember the traditional Jewish calendar for 2010 showed 1 Tishri began at sunset on Sep 8th, so Sep 11 was 3 Tishri.) Therefore, Yom Kippur, for the crescentists, began at sunset on Sunday, Sep 19, and Sukkot began at sunset on Friday, Sep 24th. (Each of these observed dates, according to the crescentists therefore fell two days later than the accepted calendar. Please refer back to the calendar illustrations, above.)

But let’s look closely at this. Sukkot, as we know, falls on 15 Tishri – this is a Biblically commanded date, and 15 Tishri, as we have seen above, means we should see the signs of a full moon at sunset on 14 Tishri. But the crescentist’s calendar tor Tishri began 2 days later than the traditional calendar, so what was seen by the crescentist calendar when the date changed from 14 Tishri to 15 Tishri?

Cresentist view: On Sep 24th, 2010 in Israel the sun set at 5:37 pm. The moon rose in Israel at 5:44 PM. As the moon rose that night, it not only rose 7 minutes after sunset, but the face of the moon was already noticeably waning gibbous*! This is a most important clue! The waning gibbous appearance of the moon that night was very clearly indicating it was no longer “full”, rather, it confirmed it was past full! Another confirmation that the moon was far past full was seen at sunrise, Sep 25th. The moon, now in the west, did not set till 7:16, almost two hours after the sun rose. That was another witness that Sept 25th was not 15 Tishri.

Traditional calendar view: On Sep 22nd, 2010 in Israel the sun set at 5:40 pm. The moon had risen at 4:47 PM. As the moon rose that night, the face of the moon was already visibly nearly completely full! But the time the moon rose clearly indicated that the moon's true "full" phase would not happen for several more hours. (It is not possible, visually, to "see" the moment the moon becomes its fullest. It always "looks" completely full for several hours before and several hours after.) This night, the moon, speeding toward its "truly full" phase, was visible all night, setting the next morning at about the same time as the sun rose. This sign of the moon's setting at sunrise is another indication that the moon was full on Sep 23rd, and it was, indeed, the correct day of Sukkot.

Another way to say this is that according to the visible age of the moon (not by any calendar), at sunset Sep 24th, one could quickly determine the date could not only just then be transitioning to 15 Tishri! Full moon had already happened! Therefore it had to be at least 16 Tishri! In fact, crescentist were two days off, as the moon rose nearly full at sunset Sep 22nd a clear sign that the time of the full moon would be within the following day. Again, a skilled observer would have known this. The crescentists, in Sept 2010, observed Sukkot (and Yom Teruah, and Yom Kippur) on the wrong day!

(* The term “waning gibbous” means the moon had already visibly moved past its “full” phase and was no longer truly “circular” or “disk-like” in appearance. The similar gibbous appearance before a full moon is called “waxing gibbous” – approaching, but not quite full.)

Left, the moon at moon-rise Sep 22, 2010, and right, moonrise on Sep 24, 2010

Above, left, the moon as it appeared just at sunset from Israel, Sep 22, 2010. At right, the same appearance after sunset Sep 24, 2010. An observer would readily recognize the Sep 24th appearance as noticeably gibbous, meaning full moon had passed. (Understandably these images make it difficult to assess how the moon would have looked to the eye, but the right-hand image is clearly no longer "full" illustrating the actual, past-full moon condition that night, which would have been clear to a skilled eye observing the actual moonrise.)

For those of you who missed moonrise at sunset Sep 22, 2010, it was a beautiful sight as 15 Tishri 5771 began! From our location in the United States, sunset was 9 hours after Jerusalem, so the moon was also 9 hours "older" (closer to full). At sunset, standing near our Sukka, we turned and looked to the east, and there was the bright, glowing, almost precisely full moon, just above the horizon! It was a most beautiful sign, just as YHWH said His Sun and Moon were for – “signs, seasons, days and years” (Genesis 1:14-18), confirming that the date was the 15th and that the Holy day of Sukkot had arrived. Baruch Hashem! The traditional Jewish calendar was correct that month!

A note on the complexity of observation: I am not claiming that the observation of the moon easily determines the 15th of the month. In Sep, 2010, the very next night, Sep 23, 2010, the moon also rose again just before sunset, and also looked very full to the naked eye, but was, in actuality, already past full. Relying only on the time of moonrise, one could therefore wrongly posit the argument that sunset Sep 23rd marked 14-15 Tishri! But it was not, and there was ample, other visible sings available to those paying attention to all the signs. First, the moon appeared about the same degree of “full” both nights indeed because the actual moment of “full” happened between the two sunsets (sunset Sep 22nd and sunset Sep 23rd). The moon became completely “full” during the daytime of Sep 23rd, which means the appearance of the moon at sunset Sep 22nd was just before full while the moon at sunset on Sep 23rd was just after full! Therefore determining the moon is full or not, based on a single observation, can be seriously misleading. (This is exactly analogous to the error of beginning each month by using only one sign, the sighted crescent.)

And why did the moon rise just before sunset two nights in a row when the diurnal motion of the moon (about 13 degrees per day) means the moon should have risen after sunset the evening of Sept 23rd? In other words, shouldn’t the moon have risen almost an hour later on Sep 23rd than it did on Sep 22nd? In fact the moon did rise 28 min later on Sep 23rd than it did on Sep 22nd! As mentioned earlier, it is widely assumed that because the moon is past full, it should rise after sunset, but this is not always true. Sep, 2010 brought about the exact orbital conditions where it is not true.

The curious occurrence of the nearly full moon rising before sunset on Sep 22nd and Sep 23rd, 2010 was due to the fact that in that month, the part of moon’s orbit when the moon was full, fell north of the ecliptic, and with the ecliptic itself tilted sharply to the south at sunset that time of year, the moon was positioned "above" the ecliptic both nights. This is the condition which permits the moon to appear above the horizon both nights at sunset even though the moon was just before full the first night (Sep 22nd), and just past full on the second night (Sep 23rd)! It's the same effect as if you were eye-level with the top of a fence (the fence representing the horizon), but standing 50 feet or so away from the fence and you could not see someone who is also eye level with the same fence but standing a distance away on the other side. But, if they step up on a step ladder, you would see their head appear above the fence. In the case of the moon on Sep 22 & 23, 2010, both just before "full" and just after "full", the moon was figuratively "above the fence" at sunset both nights.

The important thing is that a skilled observer would have seen the moon rise and set on all nights, and would have therefore known that the full moon happened between the two September nights. Only an unskilled observer would simply observe one of the two nights at sunset and consider that particular night the full moon. In either case, the moon rising at sunset Sep 24th (the night cresecentists observed the beginning of Sukkot) was clearly past full moon, and therefore the moon that night instead of being a witness to the beginning of Sukkot, instead illustrated that the crescent calendar was wrong.

I cite this real-world example of Sep 2010 to make a very important point. The proper Hebrew calendar must use all the signs to correctly determine the day of the new moon so the full moon each month falls on the correct calendar date. We have a serious conundrum regarding the commanded Holy days if we look at the moon and see it is full, but we have only counted 12 or 13 days into the month and our observance therefore falls 1 to 3 days late because we chose the wrong sign to begin the month! Indeed, referring to the two calendars for Sep at the top of this article, we see that the actual full moon for the crescentist’s version happened on what they would conclude was 13 Tishri! That was a very bad sign indeed!

Another issue is, from a Scriptural perspective, you can’t proclaim something in the heavens as “new” which has already gone forth for the better part of two days! In fact, when dealing with “newness” for all things in the heavens, Scripture is abundantly clear they begin in total darkness:

Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them. (Isaiah 42:9, JPS)

You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, 'Behold, I knew them.' (Isaiah 48:6-7, ESV)

For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. (Isaiah 65:17, JPS)

Returning to our main discussion, certainly you are now curious about the sighting of the crescent moon on Sep 10, 2010, when the traditional calendar said the new moon (1 Tishri) occurred on the evening Sep 8th. Why was the first crescent not spotted until the 10th?

Let’s first look at the last crescent moon of Elul, 5770, as observed on Sep 7, 2010, just before sunrise. It was a very thin, very faint crescent. (See illustration, below). The next morning, Sep 8th, no crescent was visible as the moon was much too close to the sun to be seen. Therefore at sunset, Sep 8th, no new crescent was seen, as the moon was still in conjunction, much too close to the sun. At sunset, Sept 9th, the moon, now well past conjunction, indeed it was very “new” and having ample elongation from the sun such that it should have been visible, but it did not have enough altitude above the horizon to be high enough in the sky at sunset to be visible! So the new moon that evening, Sep 9th, went unseen even though it was most decidedly “new”.

The last visible moon of Elul, 5770 (Sep 7, 2010) as seen from Israel, before sunrise. This crescent was well positioned at dawn to be seen indicating the month of Elul was coming to an end. Due to the postion of the orbit of the moon this month, the first crescent of the next month, Tishri, 5771, was not seen until Sep 10th. But the moon passed from old to new during the 24 hours from sunset Sep 7th to sunset Sep 8th, and the new crescent was not visible at sunset Sep 9th only because the altitude of the moon prevented its observation, not because it was not yet new.

A readily apparent sign that the new month was well underway was presented the following evening, Sep 10th, but missed by most observers. Instead, since it was the “first visible crescent” of the month, crescentists assumed that sunset began 1 Tishri. The missed many signs of the moon that night that revealed the moon was "new" the previous day. They did not notice that when the moon was visible at sunset that very evening (Sep 10), the sliver of crescent was noticeably larger than would be normal and expected, for a first-visible crescent of a month (see the images of the moon, below), and the moon appeared quite far to the south from the position of the sunset indicating that the elongation from the sun was already quite large. (Elongation is a significant clue to the age of the moon). This very "thick" crescent and the significantly tilted "horns" of the crescent was a dead give-away that something was amiss. A skilled observer, having watched these sunrise/sunset lunar events would have known that the new moon occurred between the 8th and 9th of Sep, and would have known that “declaring” the moon new by the first sighting of the crescent at sunset Sep 10th was dreadfully wrong. A new crescent should not ever be that large as the 1st day of the new month is beginning.

For clarity, below, left, is the way the moon looked in Israel, at sunset, on Sep 10, 2010. On the right, for comparison, is a more typical appearance of a very young, new moon from May, 2010.

Notice that the typical appearance of a very young moon, on the right, has a much more "slender" appearance of the crescent – the “sliver” of illumination appearing much smaller. Also notice that the appearance of the older crescent observed on September, 2010 in the left image, appears “rotated”, counter clockwise compared to the right-hand image. This rotated appearance is due to the tilt of the moon’s orbit and the ecliptic which caused the moon to appear quite low in the sky at sunset, yet at the same time to be quite “distant” from the sun, a measure of the moon’s elongation. In fact, this thick, low crescent was actually 2.24 days old! This is why, in the text, I explain that the new moon of Sep 8th, 2010 was not spotted until two evenings later.

The fact that the first visible crescent of Sep, 2010, was seen a day later than it should have been spotted was caused by the exact same orbital conditions that conspired to present a nearly full moon to rise before sunset two nights in a row as described earlier in this article! The orbit of the moon being so distantly aligned with the ecliptic such that when the moon was far enough away from the sun (i.e., its elongation) it should have been seen on Sept 9th, meant instead that the moon was not high enough above the horizon at sunset that night to be seen. Though the moon would not be visible until the next sunset (Sep 10), a skilled observer would have known well in advance that the moon was passing from old to new during the period of Sep 8th to 9th, and that its appearance on Sep 10th was only an indication that the month had already begun.


I indicated at the beginning of this article that the moon becomes new in darkness and that the new moon beginning in darkness is in line with the day, week, and year which also begin in darkness. I hope by the real-world example of the lunar events of Sep, 2010, this is now clear. Just as the first visible crescent of the new month only indicates that the month has already begun, the last visible crescent of the current month is contains all the signs that the old calendar month is about to end and reveals the day the moon passes from old to new. During the time between last crescent to first crescent, when the moon passes through darkness, the new moon is born. The new calendar month should begin at the next sunset. For centuries, from observation alone, its been possible to know the day in which the moon passes from "old" to "new", indeed, the time of the new moon can be calculated with great accuracy by observation alone. That invisible moment between the two crescents when the moon is renewed can be readily determined, therefore the mechanism to establish the proper calendar month has always been with us.

Today, we are blessed with great knowledge of orbital mechanics and possess computational tools which negate the need for detailed observations of the moon. We can determine the unseen moment of the new moon and we capture that information in our published calendars. So we can trust it when the calendar says sunset one evening becomes the first of the new Hebrew month even though we, ourselves, have not carefully observed the position and signs of the moon. Modern computations, if applied correctly, exactly reproduce the ancient method of simple observation and we can be certain that that very evening or the next, when the calendar says the new month has begun, we will be blessed with the sighting of the first crescent moon – but only as a sign, a confirmation, that the new month has already begun, as it was known and celebrated in ancient times.

And I shall give you the treasures of darkness and hoarded wealth of secret places, so that you know that I, יהוה, who are calling you by your name, am the Elohim of Yisra’ĕl. (Isaiah 45:3, ISR)

Revised Nov 8, 2020