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#289: Purim Dates

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  • ngordon4
    Karaite Korner Newsletter #289 Purim Dates I have been on the road for over a week and when I finally checked my e-mail I found many people asking when to
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2007
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      Karaite Korner Newsletter #289

      Purim Dates

      I have been on the road for over a week and when I finally checked my
      e-mail I found many people asking when to celebrate Purim. I apologize
      for the confusion on this matter and for the delay in responding. The
      moon was not sighted on Sunday Feb 18 2007 due to heavy clouds in
      Israel. Based on modern visibility prediction criteria, we know that
      the moon would have been visible had there been no clouds. There are
      two opinions about what to do in a situation like this. The first
      opinion is the "potential visibility" approach which says that we
      should still observe a day as New Moon even if we have not seen it due
      to clouds, provided we can be certain it would have been visible under
      ideal conditions (i.e. no clouds or haze). The second opinion is the
      "raw 30-day sighting" approach which says we always look for the New
      Moon at the end of the 29th day; if the moon is sighted we observe
      that evening as New Moon and if the moon is not sighted FOR ANY REASON
      we wait until the next evening. According to both approaches a month
      can only be 29 or 30 days long. Both approaches also agree that the
      31st day becomes New Moon Day by default if the moon is not visible at
      the beginning of the 30th day; the only difference is what to do in a
      situation in which there are clouds. Obviously the ancient Israelites
      went by raw 30-day sighting because they did not have a means of
      accurately calculating potential visibility. These calculations only
      became reliable in the 20th century. I should point out that the
      potential visibility system says to revert to the raw 30-day sighting
      system in months in which modern visibility criteria cannot determine
      whether the moon will be visible or not.

      Based on potential visibility Purim would fall out on Sunday-Monday
      March 4-5, 2007. Based on raw 30-day visibility Purim would fall out
      on Monday-Tuesday March 5-6, 2007. Which system should you follow?
      That is not something I can answer for anyone. In my opinion both must
      be considered valid with our present state of knowledge and when the
      Messiah comes he will teach us which way is true. Since there is no
      Torah commandment to observe Purim this day of celebration can even be
      kept for three days.

      Nehemia Gordon
      Reporting from the road in the USA
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