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#67: Abib Pictures! New Moon: Two Approaches

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  • The Karaite Korner
    Karaite Korner Newsletter #67 In this issue: *Abib Pictures *Question About New Moon Abib Pictures Scanned images of Abib barley picked on March 11, 2001 are
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 18, 2001
      Karaite Korner Newsletter #67

      In this issue:
      *Abib Pictures
      *Question About New Moon

      Abib Pictures

      Scanned images of Abib barley picked on March 11, 2001 are now posted
      on the Karaite Korner website at:

      It should be noted that the barley was only scanned three days after
      it was picked and the salks have dried out causing their color to
      fade. Webmasters should feel free to use these images on their sites
      to help spread the truth about Abib.

      The same page also has a sound file that teaches how to pronounces the
      word Abib (Ah-veev). A second sound file contains a Hebrew reading of
      16,1, the verse that commands us to "Keep the
      Month of the Abib".


      Question About New Moon

      A few people have asked us how we could publish the date of the New
      Moon before it was actually observed. This is actually an important
      question. There are in fact two schools of thought on this very issue
      among the Karaites.

      Potential Visibility

      The issue at stake is really what does one do if modern
      astronomy tells us that the moon is easily visible but it is not seen
      because of clouds? Most Karaites are of the opinion that in such a
      case we must celebrate New Moon Day, even though the moon has not
      been sighted.

      It is worth considering an actual example of this. A few
      years ago on a particular occasion the moon should have been easily
      visible from Israel. Indeed, on the previous evening, the moon had
      already been sighted half way around the world in the US. Now there
      is a hard and fast rule that if the moon is visible in a given
      location it will be visible everywhere to the west of that location on
      the same lattitude. So if the moon was seen in the southern United
      States then it has to be visible in Israel (on the following evening).
      But on the evening in question, even though the moon was actually
      sighted in the US (on the prior evening), it was not seen in Israel
      because of heavy cloud coverage over the entire Land. In this case,
      it seemed absurd not to observe Rosh Hodesh (New Moon Day); the moon
      was visible, we just hadn't seen it.

      The question of course arises
      what to do when modern astronomy can't say with certainty whether
      the New Moon will be visible or not. This happens about once a year
      and we had an example of it last year in the 7th Month (Tishrei). In
      such cases, we have no choice but to go by raw observations, not
      taking the appearance of clouds into account. But when modern
      astronomy can tell us with a certainty if the moon will be visible
      then we observe that evening as Rosh Hodesh even if the moon was not
      sighted because of heavy clouds. In Karaite jargon this is called
      "Potential Visibility" (Efsharut HaRe'iyah), that is, the moon is
      potentially visible and will be seen assuming there are no clouds in
      the way. It is only in the
      past 10 years that truly reliable methods of determining Potential
      Visibility have been developed using modern astronomy. The concept of
      Potential Visibility is much older though, although in earlier
      centuries it only worked in extreme case where it was obvious to the
      ancients that the moon was visible on a particular evening. For
      example, if the crescent moon was sighted before sunset, the ancient
      Karaites believed that the moon must have been visible on the previous
      evening. It turns out that this belief, which was held by the
      greatest astronomers of that era, was in fact incorrect! Because of
      this we are very careful with our use of modern astronomy and only
      follow a method that has proven itself in repeated instances. And if
      there is any doubt then we go by raw observation.

      Actual Visibility with 30 Day Maximum

      The second school of thought was the opinion of the 8th century Anan
      ben David. Anan believed in going by raw observation, although he
      argued that even if the moon was not seen, the maximum length of a
      month was 30 days (so even if it is cloudy for several days in a row,
      the month is still no longer than 30 days). Of course, this maximum
      length for the month was itself based on the conclusions of some
      rather rudimentary astronomy. Truth be told, in Anan's day this was
      probably the best method. The astronomical caluclations of his day
      were at best a shot in the dark, being wrong as often as they were
      right. This was clear to anyone regularly observing the New Moon.

      But today our caluclations can tell us with incredible accuracy
      whether the moon will be visible or not. And they can also tell us
      when there is uncertainty, so that we can revert to the method of Anan
      in such cases.

      We at the Karaite Korner have no intention of telling our readers what
      to do. We urge you to follow the Karaite motto which says: "Search
      well in the Scripture and do not rely on anyone's opinion". We
      provide the information about New Moon sightings to those that wish to
      follow the method of Raw Observation. And for those who wish to
      follow the method of Potential Visibility, the New Moon sightings are
      an important reminder of how accurate our calculations are and more
      importantly what their limitations are. And since most months there
      are no clouds and the moon is seen on the calculated dates, one can
      remove any doubt when Potential Visibility turns into Actual

      To receive an official letter with the holiday dates based on
      Potential Visibility (for example to show to an employer) please send
      us your full name and address.

      Please forward this letter to a friend.

      Nehemia Gordon
      The Karaite Korner
      POB 7816
      Jerusalem 91078


      Please support The Karaite Korner by sending check or money
      order in US Dollars or NIS made payable to Nehemia Gordon
      and sent to POB 7816, Jerusalem 91078, Israel.


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