In Judaism, the New Moon ushers in a new month
|Halakhic texts relating to this article:|
|Babylonian Talmud:||Megillah 22b|
|* Not meant as a definitive ruling. Some observances may be rabbinical, custom or Torah-based.|
Rosh Chodesh or Rosh Hodesh (Hebrew: ראש חודש; trans. Beginning of the Month; lit. Head of the Month) is the name for the first day of every month in the Hebrew calendar, marked by the appearance of the new moon. Contrasted with the astronomical definition of new moon - which is not visible to the naked eye - the new moon in the Hebrew calendar is marked by the day and hour that the new crescent is observed. It is considered a minor holiday, akin to the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot.
"And the LORD spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: 'This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.'" (12:1-2)
In the Book of Numbers, God speaks of the celebration of the new moon to Moses:
"And on your joyous occasions - your fixed festivals and new moon days - you shall sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being." (10:10)
In Psalm 81:3 both new and full moon are mentioned as a time of recognition by the Hebrews.
The occurrence of Rosh Chodesh was originally based on the testimony of witnesses observing the new moon. When two reliable witnesses appeared before the Sanhedrin, the day was declared as Rosh Chodesh, either making the month a full month or a defective, 29-day month. After declaring the new month, news of it would then be communicated throughout Israel and the diaspora.
Rosh Chodesh is the day after the observation of the New Moon at the time of sunset, which in Israel is 18:00 Jerusalem time (16:00 Universal Time). The time of astronomically determined New Moons can be calculated today accurately to 10000 years before or after now. The further it is from today, the bigger is the Delta T, the uncertainty in converting Dynamical Time to Universal Time. However, Jewish religious rules often allows postponements (Dehioth) of the "head of the month."
Despite the existence of a fixed calendar, Rosh Chodesh is still announced in synagogues on the preceding Shabbat (called Shabbat Mevarchim—The Shabbat of Blessing [the new month]). The announcement is made after the reading of the sefer torah, before returning it to the aron kodesh, in a prayer beginning "May it be Your will... that You renew this month for us for good and for blessing." The name of the new month, and the day of the week on which it falls, is given during the prayer. Some communities customarily precede the prayer by an announcement of the exact date and time of the new moon, referred to as the molad, or "birth". Rosh Chodesh Tishrei (which is also Rosh HaShana) is never announced.
During the evening service of Rosh Chodesh, a prayer Ya'a'le Ve-Yavo is added to the Avodah, the prayer for the restoration of the Temple and a segment of the Amidah. During the morning service, Ya'a' le Ve-Yavo is again recited, and half Hallel (Psalms 113-118) is recited (except on Rosh Chodesh Tevet, which is during Chanukkah, when Full Hallel is recited). The Book of Numbers 28:1-15, which includes the offerings of Rosh Chodesh, is read. An additional prayer service, called Mussaf, is added to commemorate the original sacrifices in the Temple. The middle blessing here is "Rashei Chadashim". After the service, many recite Psalm 104. The Ya'a'le Ve-Yavo prayer is also inserted in the Grace after Meals (Birkat Ha-Mazon). Many have a custom to make sure to eat a special meal in honor of Rosh Chodesh, as the Code of Jewish Law suggests. This gives one the opportunity to recite the Ya'a'le Ve-Yavo in the Grace after Meals. Some Hasidic Jews sing Psalm 104 during this meal.
If Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbat, the regular Torah reading is supplemented with a reading of Numbers 28:9-15. The regular Haftorah is replaced by a special Rosh Chodesh Haftorah. The Mussaf prayer is also modified when Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbat. The central benediction is replaced with an alternate version (Ata Yatzarta) that mentions both the Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh. If Rosh Chodesh falls on a Sunday, a different Haftarah, Mahar Hodesh ("Tomorrow is the New Moon", I Samuel 20:18-42) is read. The Kiddush Levanah (sanctification of the moon) is recited soon after Rosh Chodesh, typically on the first Saturday night after Rosh Chodesh.
Rosh Chodesh and women
According to the Talmud (tractate Megillah 22b), women are forbidden to engage in work on Rosh Chodesh, and Rashi, in commenting on this passage, delineates the activities from which they must refrain: spinning, weaving, and sewing—the skills that women contributed to the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The midrash Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer explores this prohibition in chapter 45:
"Aaron argued with himself, saying: If I say to Israel, Give ye to me gold and silver, they will bring it immediately; but behold I will say to them, Give ye to me the earrings of your wives and of your sons, and forthwith the matter will fail, as it is said, "And Aaron said to them, Break off the golden rings." The women heard (this), but they were unwilling to give their earrings to their husbands; but they said to them: Ye desire to make a graven image of a molten image without any power in it to deliver. The Holy One, blessed be He, gave the women their reward in this world and the world to come. What reward did He give them in this world? That they should observe the New Moons more stringently than the men, and what reward will He give them in the world to come? They are destined to be renewed like the New Moons, as it is said: Who satisfieth thy years with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle."
Female-centered Rosh Chodesh observances vary from group to group, but many are centered on small gatherings of women, called Rosh Chodesh groups. There is often a particular interest in the Shekinah, considered by the kabbalah to be a feminine aspect of God. These groups engage in a wide variety of activities that center around issues important to Jewish women, depending on the preference of the group's members. Many Rosh Chodesh groups explore spirituality, religious education, ritual, health issues, music, chanting, art, and/or cooking. Some groups also choose to educate young Jewish women in their community about sexuality, self-image, and other women's mental and physical health issues.
- Hebrew calendar
- Solar year
- Lunar cycle
- Beth din shel Kohanim
- Jewish Feminism
- Yom Kippur Katan - Confessional ritual for the day preceding Rosh Chodesh
- Kosofsky, Scott-Martin. The Book of Customs: A Complete Handbook for the Jewish Year. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2004. p.91
- All passages from the Torah are taken from The JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh, Second Edition. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2003.
- NASA – Moon Phases
- Arthur Spier, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar: Its Structure, History, and One Hundred Years of Corresponding Dates, 5660-5760, 1900-2000 (New York: Behrman House, Inc., Publishers, 1952)
- Tehillat HaShem, Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, 1988 (Standard Lubovitch prayerbook)
- Kosofsky, p. 92
- Friedlander, Gerald, trans.Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer: The Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer the Great According to the Text of the Manuscript Belonging to Abraham Epstein of Vienna. New York: Hermon Press, 1965, p. 353-354.
- Gottlieb, Lynn. She Who Dwells Within: A Feminist Vision of a Renewed Judaism San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1995, see esp. Ch. 12: "The Initiation of the New Jewish Woman."
- My Jewish Learning: Rosh Chodesh
- Jewish Virtual Library - Rosh Chodesh
- Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, Peninei Halachah - Zmanim, Rosh Chodesh