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Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at 9:55 PM
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Leap Year, Easter and Passover

DELIBERATELY DIVERSE | by Frances Sorrow

“Deliberately Diverse” represents the individual thoughts and opinions of a group of Taylor friends who almost never completely agree about anything but are gratified by the opportunity to stimulate deliberately diverse discussions in our beloved community. Today’s opinion is by Frances Sorrow, not the Taylor Press.

Usually Pesach (Passover), Easter and Eastern Orthodox Easter are bunched closely together. For example, Passover started April 5 in 2023. Easter started April 9, and Eastern Orthodox Easter began April 16th.

But in 2024 the holidays spread over almost six weeks. Easter falls March 31, Passover begins April 23, and Eastern Orthodox Easter begins on May 5th. Why this big difference? The Jewish Calendar is a lunar one. That means that each lunar year is about 11 days shorter than the solar year. The solar calendar also falls short by a few hours each year since the solar year is 365 1/4 days long.

Every four years we add an extra day, Feb. 29, to make up the difference.

2024 has that distinction. But 11 days are harder to handle. The rabbis’ solution was to add an extra month seven times in the 19-year solar-lunar cycle.

Western Easter canonical tradition celebrates Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox March 21. That full moon occurs Saturday, March 30, so Easter is Sunday, March 31.

Passover usually begins on the first full moon after the spring equinox, which is why we frequently have Easter occurring during Passover.

But 2024 is also a Jewish leap year, so a second month is added to the calendar. But Purim, the biblical Feast of Esther, occurs on the 14th day of Adar, with Passover falling on the 15th of Nissan.

Purim and Passover are required to be 30 days apart, and Purim falls March 23. The full moon after March 21, as mentioned above, is March 30. So, Passover would start March 30.

But that would put Purim and Passover a week apart. So, when this occurs the extra month is added those seven times mentioned before, and Passover begins at the second full moon after the spring equinox.

The Eastern Orthodox canon law requires that the Easter date start on the first Sunday after Passover ends. Passover ends April 30 so the next Sunday is May 5.

Just think, the rabbis, clerics, priests, etc., figured all this out without the internet or calculators. They used the observations of astronomers who closely studied the night sky.

I like to think that many of them had in mind Psalms 8:3-4: ‘When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place. What is man that you are mindful of him?”


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