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Early Pesach: Can Pesach Occur in Winter?

-Ari Storch

Introduction One of the duties that the Sanhedrin was charged with was ensuring that the beginning of Pesach would not occur in the winter. Should Pesach begin in the winter, it would be a violation of the biblical directive for Pesach to be observed in the springtime.1 In order to facilitate this, the Sanhedrin would add an extra month to the calendar in order to delay Pesach.2 It is interesting to note that there have been and continue to be instances when it appears that this rule is violated and the question arises whether this is due to oversight or if somehow there are exceptions to the rule.

Determining Spring Scientifically, spring commences at the vernal equinox. Due to the earths tilt, relative to the sun, the sun appears to be higher in the sky in the summertime and lower in the winter. The highest point is referred to as the summer solstice and the lowest as the winter solstice. When the sun arrives at these positions it is the beginning of summer and winter respectively. The middle points are referred to as equinoxes, one occurring in the spring and the other in autumn. The point in spring is referred to as the vernal equinox and marks the beginning of spring, the one in autumn is the autumnal equinox and starts autumn. There were two methods used amongst rabbinic authority as to how to calculate these points in time. One based its calculations on the assertion that the solar year is 365.25 days. The other is based on the solar year having just under 365.25 days. 3 The former calculation is identical to the basis of the Julian Calendar and the latter is very similar to the current Gregorian Calendar. The former calculation is used for certain halachic application, such as birchas hachamah,4 and the latter is the basis for the nineteen year cycles in the Hebrew Calendar including the determination for spring for the purposes of Pesach.5

1. Devarim 16:1. 2. Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 4:1. Pesach begins on 15 Nisan, spring must occur prior to 16 Nisan in order to be compliant. 3. Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 9:1. 4. Rambam Hilchos Berachos 10:18. 5. Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 10:1-7.

High Court vs. Calendar Initially, there was no standardized calendar. The High Court would determine when the new moon could be visible and rule accordingly.6 Additionally, much consideration would be taken into account by the High Court as to how frequently to add a thirteenth month to the year.7 Mosaic Law allows the High Court to abandon these original procedures when necessary due to persecution.8 The High Court had been utilizing the original method until the time period of Abaye and Rava, in the fourth century, and then it became necessary to implement the calendar.9 Constantius IIs tyrannical oppression caused the abolishment of the High Court. Under the leadership of Hillel II the current calendar went into use in the year 359 CE in order to preserve the Jewish festivals.10

Winter Pesach A concern that needs to be addressed is that when calculating the equinoxes for the years subsequent to the enactment of the calendar, one finds that Pesach occurred in the winter on several occasions. Having a fixed calendar, by definition, allows us to know with certainty the exact dates of Pesach throughout the years and by calculating the occurrence of the equinox one sees that Pesach was observed prior to the vernal equinox a number of times. According to the Rambam, the vernal equinox must occur prior to 16 Nisan11 and one notices that after 359 CE this rule was apparently not always kept. In fact, in the year 360 CE, the second of the new calendar, Pesach began prior to the vernal equinox.12 It is difficult to imagine that this was not taken into account by Hillel II. The question then arises as to whether the calendar was not fully implemented until a later point in time, whether Hillel II implemented the best possible system and the several instances that Pesach occurred in the winter during the formative years were a necessary evil, or whether there was some exception to the biblical rule that Hillel II was aware of and used.

Child Prodigy
6. See R. Bacheye Shemos 12:2 for a view that maintains that witnesses were not part of the process, a view vehemently disputed by the Rambam as seen in Rambam Peirush Hamishnayos Rosh Hashanah 2. 7. Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 1-4. 8. Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 5:2. 9. Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 5:3. See How Many Days of Rosh Hashanah Should be Kept in Eretz Yisrael? for a discussion of whether this change happened in Ravas lifetime or just after his passing. 10.Sefer Haibbur and Ramban Sefer Hazechus Gittin 34b. 11.Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 4:2. 12.It is also notable that in 360 CE and again in 376 CE that Pesach not only occurred prior to the equinox as determined by halachah, but also prior to the actual vernal equinox as determined scientifically.

The first possibility mentioned was that the calendar may have been initiated, but not fully implemented until a later date. There is some evidence of this in the Talmud. Ameimar allowed one to use medicines on the second day of ordinary festivals in the Diaspora. Festivals were kept for a two day period in the Diaspora because of doubt as to when the appropriate day for the festival truly was. The High Court was located in Yerushalayim and there was a delay until the news of the new months sanctification would reach the Diaspora. R. Ashi questioned this ruling and Ameimar responded that Elul had not had thirty days since the time of Ezra the Scribe. Thus, it could be assumed that the first day was the accurate one and the second one was being kept merely due to custom. In such cases, Ameimar allowed medicinal use.13 R. Ashi was born in the year 352 CE,14 making him seven years old at the time that Hillel II implemented the calendar. It would then seem that the discussion with Ameimar would have had to have occurred prior to R. Ashi turning eight years old. Nuances in the conversation imply that R. Ashi was respected as a scholar at this point in time. If one were to assume that the calendar was not fully implemented until a later date then one could reasonably assume that this discussion occurred later in R. Ashis lifetime. Although it does sound difficult to place this conversation prior to R. Ashis eighth birthday, it is not completely unreasonable to make that assertion. It is of note that R. Ashi was recognized as a Torah scholar even at a very young age as he was appointed to head the yeshiva of Pumbeditha at age fourteen.15 Additionally, one could assert that although the language used by Ameimar indicates that he was referring to a time when no calendar was in use, it could be that he was actually talking about the time post-calendar. Ameimar could have been stating that since prior to the establishment of the calendar the leniency to use medicine would have existed for the reason stated, even post-calendar it was continued. In fact, it seems that many rishonim took this approach.16 Thus, this proof is far from conclusive. There is some physical evidence, however, that indicates that that the calendar was not in use until a much later date, though. Documents have been found with dates that should not be possible based on the contemporary calendar. In fact, there is a letter
13.Beitzah 22a-22b. 14.See Kidushin 72b, also see Iggeres R. Sherirah Gaon. 15.See Iggeres R. Sherirah Gaon, also see Seder Hadoros. 16.Rosh Beitzah 22b. Also see Rambam Hilchos Yom Tov 1:24 and Ran Beitzah 17a. Also notable is that it appears that the rule to assume that Elul always contains twenty-nine days applies to assuming that the Adar prior to Nisan also contains only twenty-nine days otherwise this ruling would not be applicable to the Pesach. See The Major Calendar Conspiracy and Eluls Mysterious Thirtieth Day for a greater discussion of this topic. The seeming contradiction from Rosh Hashanah 19b is not problematic as that passage is discussing what can be done and not what actually was done in practice. The High Court could chose to make Adar thirty days even if in practice they rarely did. The proof to this point is Elul is discussed in that passage and the direct statement here is to Elul. Rashi Megillah 2a also indicates that the Adar prior to Nisan always contained twenty-nine days. Although one could counter this assessment by stating that Rashi was only referring to the first day of Pesach and that the second days observance is understood implicitly because the discussion regards those living in the Diaspora.

from the Babylonian exilarch that has been found in the Cairo Genizah that discusses that Pesach in the year 836 CE began on a Tuesday.17 This would have had the following Rosh Hashanah occurring on a Thursday18 even though based on the rule of molad zaken19 it should have been on a Shabbos that year.20 These proofs, too, are far from conclusive, though, as many of the initial rules of the calendar were disputed and there was much debate as to how to apply them. There is even evidence of debate specific to the molad zaken rule. In the famous dispute between R. Aharon b. Meir and R. Saadiah Gaon, R. Aharon b. Meir asserted that molad zaken is not to be employed unless the molad happens 642 chalakim after midday. R. Saadiah Gaon vehemently opposed this assertion and in the year 922 CE the communities of Eretz Yisrael observed their festivals on different dates than those in Babylonia. Ultimately, the opinion of R. Saadiah Gaon was taken. Thus, it is possible that the errant dates found in documents may have been the result of debate as to how to apply the rules of the calendar and not indicative that the calendar was not yet in existence. Perhaps more telling, though, is the dating of R. Achai b. R. Hunas passing by R. Sherirah Gaon. The date given is Sunday, 4 Adar in the year 506 CE.21 If 4 Adar would be on a Sunday then 14 Adar, Purim, would be on a Wednesday. The fixed calendar does not allow for 14 Adar to be on a Wednesday as that would cause Pesach, one month later, to begin on a Friday. This would have the following Rosh Hashanah commencing on a Sunday and Hoshanah Rabbah on a Shabbos. All these dates are not compatible with the current calendar. If one assumes the calendar was completely implemented by Hillel II then he must suggest that this rule was subject to dispute and those in charge of the calendar had not implemented it in the year of R. Achai b. R. Hunas death. Otherwise one must assert that there is a scribal error in the text of R. Sherirah Gaons writings.22 However, these are unlikely as there is other evidence of
17.See Stern, Sacha, Community and Calendar: A History of the Jewish Calendar, Second Century BCE - Tenth Century CE (Oxford University Press: 2001) 184-185. 18.The third day of Pesach always falls on the same day of the week as the following Rosh Hashanah. This is because all months between Nisan and Tishrei alternate as being thirty day and twenty-nine day months. Nisan is thirty days, Iyar is twenty-nine, Sivan is thirty, etc. 19.Molad zaken is employed when the molad, estimated lunar conjunction of Tishrei, occurs after midday. In such a case, Rosh Hashanah is observed the day following the molad. 20.The molad was after midday on Thursday which should have caused the molad zaken rule to be implemented. Friday is an unacceptable day to have Rosh Hashanah due to another rule of the calendar, so Rosh Hashanah should have been on Shabbos. Pesach should have been on a Thursday and this would have been accomplished by having both Cheshvan and Kislev of the year prior having thirty days. Cheshvan and Kislev are the only two months in the standardized calendar that do not have a set number of days. Both can either contain twenty-nine or thirty. 21.Iggeres R. Sherirah Gaon. 22.There are some texts that have the year presented as 505 CE. However, suggesting that the year was really the leap year of 505 CE and the Adar discussed is Adar I is extremely unlikely as the lunation cycles would not even closely resemble a calendar for that year that could have 4 Adar on a Sunday. Rather, if there is a scribal error it is more likely that the text should read Monday and not Sunday. See Stern, 182-183.

rabbinic thought that supports that the the ruling that 14 Adar not be on a Wednesday was not implemented until post-talmudic times.23 R. Sherirah Gaons writings strongly support this, although not conclusively. Had the calendar not been fully implemented in 359 CE then one could argue that they primarily were using the calendar, but when there was a conflict between the calendar and the halacha, or perhaps when there was a great need, the courts would override the calendar and sanctify the festivals on dates of their choice. As time continued and the courts no longer had the practical authority to rule accordingly, the calendar would have been the only tool for calculating the festivals and Pesach began to be erroneously observed in the winter on occasion.24 Although this would be in violation of the biblical rule of aviv, technically nobody would be held accountable because the commandment is imposed on the court that has the authority to proclaim the festivals, as opposed to the general populace,25 and no such court exists in the contemporary era.

Concerns Had the calendar not existed until after 359 CE one would need to resolve some major difficulties with the validity of the calendar in general. Both the Rambam26 and Ramban27 mention that in order to regulate the calendar one needs a High Court of individuals who had received the original semichah that had been transmitted from the times of Moshe Rabbeinu. The Ramban clearly states that semichah was abolished in the year 359 CE and this was why Hillel II instituted the calendar.28 Had the calendar been fully implemented at a later date it would not have validity according to these authorities. There exists evidence from some rishonim, though, that opinions were held that the calendar was not fully implemented until a later date. Tosefos question a calendrical practice they state as being contemporary as it was different from the one presented in the Talmud.29 Although the language used by Tosefos indicates that the practice was assumed to have occurred in post-talmudic times, it is possible that Tosefos is contrasting the practice of their era to that of the one mentioned in the passage they were commenting on. That passage contains a debate between R. Huna and R.
23.See R. Chananel Pesachim 58b. This will be analyzed in future paragraphs. 24.An example of Pesach occurring too early in contemporary times is the year 2013 CE when 15 Nisan occurs on March 25 at night, but aviv does not begin until March 27. 25.Sefer Hamitzvos aseh 153. 26.Ibid. Although slight ambiguity exists within the language used with regulation of the fixed calendar, as opposed to the passage discussing the time prior to the fixed calendar; it is unreasonable to read into the Rambams wording that individuals lacking semichah would have authorization to adjust the fixed calendar. 27.Hasagas Haramban LSefer Hamitzvos 153. 28.Ramban Sefer Hazechus Gittin 34b. 29.Tosefos Arachin 9a.

Mesharshiya who preceded Hillel II. R. Yishmael equated certain procedural aspects of offering the Paschal Lamb on Shabbos to those of when it is offered on a weekday. The expression used is that it is offered in similar fashion on Shabbos to the way it is offered on a Monday.30 R. Chananel notes that it would have been more reasonable to say that it is comparable to when it is offered on a Sunday; the reason that Monday was mentioned is because they must have objected to allowing 15 Nisan to occur on a Monday. Since the offering was brought on 14 Nisan, it could not have been on a Sunday. Therefore, says R. Chananel, this disproves those that assert that the calendrical rule to disallow 15 Nisans occurrence on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday was a post-talmudic injunction.31 Perhaps the opposing opinion would counter that elsewhere the standard practice is to begin delineating the week from Monday as seen with regard to permissible days to read the megillah.32 Therefore, although the comparison from Shabbos to the following day, Sunday, makes sense; it is also acceptable to say Monday which is referred to as the beginning of the week. R. Chananel could respond that Monday was chosen as the starting point for discussions about the megillah because it is the first day of congregating of the week and such days have extra importance with regard to reading the megillah.33 Also notable to this discussion is the fact that the Mishnah considers all days of the week valid for Purim.34 Considering that it would be exceptionally rare for the Adar preceding Nisan, the one in which the megillah is read, to have thirty days;35 this would then indicate that there was no preference to disallow Pesachs observance on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. This, however, is not conclusive as it is possible that all possible cases are being listed including those upon which Purim was almost never observed. Nevertheless, it does still seem a bit odd that Monday is offered as the first day considering that if Purim were to be observed on a Monday that Pesach would be on a Wednesday. This would be in violation of the rule cited by R. Chananel. It would be difficult for R. Chananel to respond that this Mishnah is a much older text than the passage of R. Yishmael that was cited in Pesachim and the rule to disallow Pesachs occurrence on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday was implemented after the recording of the Mishnah, but before R. Yishmaels time; because there is a talmudic opinion that the author of the Mishnah was R. Akiva who was contemporaneous to R. Yishmael.36 Another difficult passage for R. Chananel is that of Ravina who clarifies Reish Lakishs statement that a Gentile who observes the Sabbath has violated a capital
30.Pesachim 58b. 31.R. Chananel Pesachim 58b. 32.Megillah 2a. 33.See Ran Megillah 2a. 34.Megillah 2a. 35.See footnote 16. 36.Megillah 2a.

offense.37 Ravina comments that this is not specific to his observance of Sabbath on Shabbos, rather, even if he were to observe Sabbath on Monday he would be in violation.38 The choice of Monday as opposed to Sunday is just as difficult in this passage as it is in the passage from Pesachim that R. Chananel used as his proof. However, this statement does not conclusively prove that Monday is sometimes chosen as the first day of the week as Rashi comments that Sunday was not chosen in this passage because Ravina wanted to mention a day on which the observance of Sabbath would not be considered service of another god. Sunday is observed by the Christians, therefore, Ravina chose Monday to state that this violation is even if the intentions are not for idol worship.39 Alternatively, it is clear that other rishonim had variant texts that mention Tuesday as opposed to Monday.40 It is interesting to point out that Ravina was a fifth century amora living under the rule of Yazdegerd I of the Sassanid Empire. During the first portion of Yazdegerds reign he was extremely benevolent to the Christians, however, during the latter part of his rule he persecuted them. This statement of Ravina, as explained by Rashi, seems more likely to have been made when Christianity held fairly significant influence as this would be more on the forefront of Ravinas mind and certainly more understood from his generic statement. It seems clear that, although R. Chananel objected, there was an opinion that certain calendrical rules were post-talmudic. However, it is unclear whether this opinion was held by geonim, early rishonim, or perhaps the Karaites. Although, as mentioned before, R. Sherirah Gaons record of the passing of R. Achai b. R. Huna on Sunday 4 Adar indicates a violation of this very rule.41 If Tosefos did mean that there were calendrical rules implemented after the completion of the Talmud, or the opinion rejected by R. Chananel was either geonic or rishonic, then one could theorize that there were either geonim or rishonim who disagreed with the Rambam and Rambans determination that construction and implementation of a calendar requires semichah. However, as mentioned earlier, although Tosefos language leads one to this conclusion it is not definitive. Additionally, the opinion cited by R. Chananel may not have been rabbinic as it is possible R. Chananel was countering an opinion outside of rabbinic thought. Thus, although there is strong evidence indicating a dissenting view, one cannot assert its authenticity definitively.

Exception to the Rule


37.Sanhedrin 58b. 38.Ibid. 39. Rashi Sanhedrin 58b. 40.Yad Remah Sanhedrin 58b. 41.Iggeres R. Sherirah Gaon.

A more in depth analysis of the Rambams writings on this matter leads one to believe that there is an exception to the rule that Pesach cannot begin in a season other than spring. In the first four chapters of Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh, the Rambam details the rules utilized by the Sanhedrin for declaring the firsts of the months and also for the processes of adjusting the calendar with an extra Adar. After detailing these rules the Rambam mentions that this was all applicable in the times when the Sanhedrin was charged with making these decisions on a monthly and yearly basis. In the times that the standardized calendar is utilized, however, they are not applicable.42 If so, then one could reasonably argue that the rule that Pesach cannot occur during the winter, which had been included in the first four chapters, is also not applicable in the time period when the calendar is being used.43 The Rambam would have been able to deduce this ruling from the fact that the historical record indicates that Pesach occurred in the winter. Without any evident source stating this exception, one would have to conclude that it must have been an oral tradition that had been transmitted since the times of Moshe Rabbeinu. The Rambam maintains that the ability to switch from the Sanhedrins regulations to a calendar is itself such a tradition.44

Earlier Evidence The reason to question that the mandate to observe Pesach after the equinox is only applicable when the High Court is determining the yearly festivals is that we have significant documentation proving that even prior to the year 359 CE, the year the calendar was instituted, that Pesach occurred prior to the equinox. In fact, we have significant documentation that during the early fourth century there was great debate amongst early Christians as to when to observe Easter. Many communities had been observing it based on the Jewish date of Pesach. Others argued vehemently that that was not correct because the Jews sometimes observe Pesach prior to the equinox and that was not deemed appropriate for Easter. They argued that in earlier centuries the Jews had been careful not to observe Pesach prior to the equinox, but that they had abandoned the true traditions. There are records of dates of the observances and it is clear that the Jews were sometimes observing Pesach prior to the equinox. This concern was one of the agenda items at the First Council of Nicaea in the year 325 CE.45 Thus, one cannot assume that there was a switch when changing from the High Courts rulings to the fixed calendar.
42.Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 5:1-2. 43.Although see Tosefos Rid Rosh Hashanah 7a. The wording used implies that the prohibition exists in within the standardized calendar, although it is not conclusive as he could be asserting that the main reason for the leap year is to keep Pesach in the spring even though its occurrence in a different season would not be prohibited. 44.Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 5:2. 45.Stern, 66-71.

No Prohibition The answer for this problem seems to be much more basic. Based on the verse in Devarim,46 we are instructed to make sure that Pesach is in the springtime.47 The wording for springtime in Sefer Devarim is aviv. Aviv by itself would not be translated as spring, rather, it is an agricultural reference to the time when certain crops are maturing.48 In order to determine the proper time for aviv, the High Court would primarily look at three items: the maturing of grains, the maturation of fruits, and the equinox.49 It is clear that if the grains or fruits were not going to be developed sufficiently by the appropriate time, that an extra month would not necessarily be added. Only if both would not be completed enough would the High Court take that into consideration to add an extra month of Adar.50 There is debate, however, whether the equinox on its own would be sufficient reason to postpone Nisan. The Rambam maintains it would,51 but the Remah argues and says that it would not.52 Thus, according to the Remah, Pesach could still be considered to be in the aviv even if it were observed prior to the equinox. So long as the grains and fruits had matured sufficiently, the time period would be called aviv. Thus, evidence of Pesach being observed prior to the equinox is not problematic for the Remah.

Answering for the Rambam There is a ruling that the High Court is not to establish a leap year during a famine or during shmittah as extension of this year would cause undue hardship on the populace.53 During shmittah working the land is prohibited. The Remah rules that even if the criteria for determining aviv will not be met during one of these years that the High Court is still not to add an extra Adar.54 Because the ruling not to establish a leap year under these circumstances is only rabbinic,55 it would seem that the Remah maintains that Pesachs observance in a time other than aviv is not prohibited. Otherwise, the High
46.Devarim 16:1. 47.Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 4:1. 48.This is quite obvious from the usage of this word in Sanhedrin 11b and Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 4:3. 49.Sanhedrin 11b and Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 4:1. 50.Ibid. 51.Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 4:2. 52.Hasagos Haremah Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 4:16. 53.Sanhedrin 12a-12b. In the standardized calendar shmittah is sometimes observed during leap years. It would seem that the nineteen year calendar system we use is the most accurate and it would be impossible to accommodate this rule while still achieving accuracy. Thus, the rabbinic determination not to allow for leap years in shmittah years was abandoned. 54.Hasagos Haremah Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 4:16. 55.Yerushalmi Shekalim 3b.

Courts rabbinic decision to observe the following Pesach prior to aviv would be a biblical violation. It stands to reason that the Remah understood that the Torah prefers Pesach to be during aviv but it is not prohibited to observe it prior to this time.56 Although the Rambam does rule that even during famine or shmittah the High Court is to render a leap year should the fruits and grains be mature enough, or the equinox will otherwise occur after Pesach;57 nevertheless, it is not clear that he maintains that violation of aviv is prohibited. In fact, it is notable that the Rambam never mentions that there is a prohibition involved with Pesach being observed outside of aviv, neither in his Sefer Hamitzvos, nor in Mishneh Torah. Thus, one can assert that in the early fourth century the High Court felt that there was sufficient need to allow Pesach to be observed on dates outside of aviv. Similarly, Hillel II may have felt that the need to establish the fixed calendar was sufficient to observe Pesach prior to aviv in a few very isolated instances. While it is clear the Torah prefers Pesach to be observed during aviv, it is not prohibited to observe it prior to aviv.

Disagreement Unlike the Rambam who never mentions a prohibition to have Pesach occur prior to aviv and unlike the Remah whose ruling clearly indicates that there is no prohibition, the Roshs student R. Yitzchak Yisraeli b. Yosef explicitly mentions that such a prohibition exists.58 However, based on how he understands the prohibition of aviv, the years post-calendar would not have been considered problematic because he only requires that the equinox occur prior to the end of 16 Nisan as opposed to the Rambams requirement of 15 Nisan. This small adjustment resolves the post-calendar years. With regard to the evidence that Pesach was observed prior to aviv before the calendars implementation, the Yesod Olams resolution would not suffice. In these earlier years, the dates given have more of Pesach occurring prior to aviv than even the more lenient approach of the Yesod Olam allows. Therefore, one must assume that the Yesod Olam would maintain that the Christian documents were commenting on errant communities that were not following the instruction of the rabbinic authority. Those following rabbinic authority would have observed Pesach on different dates in those
56.It is necessary to note that although it is clear from the Remahs application of these rules that there is no prohibition to observe Pesach prior to aviv, nevertheless, the biblical preference is not to be taken lightly. The Remah himself was bothered with the fact that the contemporary calendar allows for Pesach to occur prior to aviv and instead of stating that it is not prohibited, the Remah suggests that the calendar only allows the equinox to occur one day late, 16 Nisan. This, says the Remah in his Yad Remah (Sanhedrin 13b), proves that the biblical preference must be to disallow the occurrence of the equinox on 17 Nisan or later. This statement is in direct conflict with the Rambams criteria for aviv. 57.Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 4:16. 58.Yesod Olam Mamar 4 ch. 2. The Remah was of the same opinion as noted above. Also see Semag aseh 47 who indicates that lack of adherence of Pesach in aviv would be a violation of a positive commandment. Semak 103 also implies violation of a commandment in such cases although one could counter this assessment easily.

years.59 Such an answer is insufficient for the Rambam because the post-calendar dates would still be prior to aviv. However, it is possible that the Rambam felt that adherence to aviv was not important subsequent to the implementation of the calendar and the noted observances of Pesach prior to aviv in the pre-calendar era were errant communities. Alternatively, the Rambam may maintain that violation of aviv is not prohibited even pre-calendar.

Alternative Another possibility exists that could provide an answer for the Rambam. If we assume the pre-calendar practices mentioned above do not reflect rabbinic practices then the only concern is the post-calendar occurrences. The Shaarei Zemanim points out that the latest aviv can occur in the contemporary calendar is 11:01AM.60 If one assumes that the necessity for 15 Nisan to occur in aviv is non-specific to Eretz Yisrael then there is never a violation of this rule. When it is 11:01AM in Yerushalayim, it is 5:01PM the day before on the other side of the world. Thus, when aviv occurs at this time there are places in the world that will have 15 Nisan partially in aviv and not in violation of the Rambams principle.61 Similar logic is used with regard to the molad zaken rule when lunar visibility is calculated based on those eighteen hours behind Yerushalayim.62 A major concern with this approach is that the Talmud mentioned three signs taken into account when determining when to observe a leap year: the maturing of grains, the maturation of fruits, and the equinox.63 When determining based on the maturation of grains or fruits, the court would only look at the development of produce in Eretz Yisrael.64 The focus of these rules is clearly the area of Eretz Yisrael and while it is possible that with regard to the equinox other regions were considered, it seems very unlikely.

Conclusion There have been several instances when Pesach occurred in the winter according to the Rambam. Such instances are not violation of the biblical commandment to observe Pesach in the spring because the Rambam seems to maintain that that commandment is not mandatory. The High Court is authorized to allow for observance of Pesach in any season, it is only a strong biblical preference to observe it in the spring. Alternatively, it
59.See Stern, 80-85 for more about varying observances amongst different communities of this time. 60.Actually 11:01:36AM 61.Shaarei Zemanim 1:5. 62.See Hamaor Hakatan Rosh Hashanah 20b. 63.Sanhedrin 11b. Also see Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 4:1. 64.Ibid. Also see Rambam Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh 4:4.

is possible that adherence to the rule of aviv is not applicable when using a standardized calendar and the pre-calender observances of Pesach prior to aviv were of errant communities. The Yesod Olam, who maintains that aviv needs to be adhered to even when using the standardized calendar, is forced to state that aviv can occur as late as 16 Nisan. The Yesod Olam would also need to argue that the communities recorded to have observed Pesach too early in the pre-calendar era were erring. Others might maintain that aviv is necessary in a post-calendar era, but that the calendar was not fully implemented until a significantly later date. As such, it was assumed that the courts would make minor adjustments in order to disallow Pesachs occurrence prior to aviv. Once the courts practically were unable to make such declarations, the calendar continued without any such adjustments and Pesach erroneously began to be observed prior to aviv. There is evidence of such an opinion in rishonic literature and possibly even noticeable the Talmud. This opinion would also have to maintain that the pre-calendar reports of communities observing Pesach prior to aviv were records of misled communities.