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2. Observing the Moon: Astronomical and Cosmological Aspects in the Rabbinic New Moon Procedure

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Chapter Summary

The procedure of the sanctification of the new moon described in Mishnah tractate Rosh ha-Shanahhas received relatively little attention in modern research. The rabbinic procedure for the sanctification of the new moon relies primarily on the actual observation of the new moon. Philo was obviously sufficiently well informed about classical models of spherical astronomy to be able to 'observe' the passing by of the moon underneath the sun and its becoming visible again afterwards. The fifth halakhah returns to the initial topic of the proper treatment of the eye witnesses. It is obvious that the mishnaic court procedure for the sanctification of the new moon has a composite character. In a way, the Mishnah makes this composite structure of astronomical observations even more than explicit than in Philo, who also adduces theoretical astronomical knowledge in order to describe the observation of the new moon, but naively harmonized the two aspects.

Keywords: astronomical aspects; cosmological aspects; halakhah; Mishnah; new moon; Philo



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