If this term sounds familiar to the English speaker, it should. It comes from the Greek word from which our word, “idiot” is derived. It is in the plural form and means "the ordinary persons” and did not convey the negative connotations it would later assume. In the context of this mishnah it refers to the individuals who would appear before the rabbinic court in order to testify that they had seen the appearance of the new moon. If their testimony was accepted, the new month would be declared, and the determination of the dates of the holidays occurring in that month would follow accordingly. An initial sign of national liberation from Egypt was the declaration of our own calendar (cf. Exodus 12:2). Control of the calendar and by extension the dates for the Jewish holidays was a priority for the rabbis and presumably helped to legitimate their claims to authority.

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Dispute over the Calendar

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