Can We Know The Day?

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)


In this study I would like to explain a Hebrew phrase, used in Matthew 22:36, that suggests that we do not know when Mashiach ben David will be acknowledged as the King. There is no point in telling us something that we can not know. Since the scriptures conserve words, and since Matthew is written as drash, we would expect that there is something we can know about this day.


To begin to understand this enigmatic phrase, we need to understand that the calendar was controlled by the Sanhedrin, at the command of HaShem. The Great Court was commanded to sanctify the New Moons and to intercalate the year by adding an additional month seven out of nineteen years. This meant that the Sanhedrin was responsible for setting the date for each of the festivals. HaShem commanded, for example, that Pesach occurs on the fifteenth day of the first month. However, the Sanhedrin determined when the first month began, thus they actually set the date for this first festival.


The Sanhedrin of Yehuda HaNasi actually sanctified all of the new moons until a greater court should arise. Thus, all of our new moons are currently set on a fixed calendar.


Originally, however, the New Moon was not fixed by astronomical calculations, but was solemnly proclaimed after witnesses had testified to the reappearance of the crescent of the moon. On the 30th of each month, the members of the Sanhedrin assembled in a courtyard in Jerusalem, named Beit Ya'azek, where they waited to receive the testimony of two reliable witnesses; they then sanctified the New Moon based on their calculations and the testimony of these two witnesses. If the moon's crescent was not seen on the 30th day, the New Moon was automatically celebrated on the 31st day (which was the first day of the next month).


Normally we know several days in advance, the date of the next festival. However, there is one festival which actually falls on the new moon. The only festival that falls on a new moon is Rosh HaShanah, AKA Yom Teruah.[1]


Yom Teruah, therefore, is the festival that, "No one knows the day or hour that it starts, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father". Until the Sanhedrin sanctifies the New Moon of the seventh month, no one know when Yom Teruah will begin.


Now let's examine the scriptures:


I Thessalonians 5:1-11 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Yeshua Mashiach. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.


So, the righteous are not to be surprised by that day. This implies that the righteous may not know the year, but, they will know that he will return on Yom Teruah. They will, therefore, be looking for their Messiah on the 30th and the 31st day of the sixth month, the month of Elul.


Notice, in the following scriptures, that the righteous are to be awake, alert, and watching for the return of The Messiah:


Matthew 24:36-44 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; And they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.


Wait a minute! If I read the above passage carefully, I see that I am actually supposed to stay awake LOOKING for The Mashiach to return. I do not know about Yall, but I can not stay awake for more than a couple of days at most. I need my beauty sleep. If you think about the implications of Mashiachs command, then you can understand that we MUST know when to start looking.


Mark 13:34-37 It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"


Again we notice that even in the peshat[2], we must know when to start looking because we must stay awake and watch during this time. Notice how emphatic the command is.


Luke 12:35-37 "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, Like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.


In this remez level passage we still see the requirement to stay awake. Sleep is an experience that teaches us something about death, as I have written elsewhere. Sleep is also an analogy for the exile, as I have written elsewhere.


Solomon wrote:


Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.


This teaches us that one day a new Sanhedrin will begin sanctifying the New Moons based on the testimony of two witnesses. When this happens, then we will experience the uncertainty that Yom Teruah is the only festival that does not have a definite beginning point.


Revelation 16:15 "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed."


Yom Teruah is the ONLY festival (from the Hebrew 'moed' literally appointment) that we do not know the day or the hour in which to keep it. Therefore, we have to be on the alert, we have to be awake, and we have to be watching for it. Do you want to be asleep when Yeshua the King returns?


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As an aside:


How do we currently celebrate Yom Teruah if it has an uncertain start time?


Since we know that it will begin on one of two possible days, the only sure way to celebrate is to start at the earliest possible time and continue celebrating until the latest possible time. It is for this reason that Yom Teruah is always celebrated for 49 hours, as one long day. It is 49 hours, both in Eretz Israel and in the Diaspora.


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This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

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[1]Rosh HaShanah is also known as Yom Teruah and in English as The Feast of Trumpets.

[2]The Gospel of Mark is written at the peshat level of Torah interpretation, and has its own level of hermeneutic rules.