1 Shevat 5774
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, 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.
Rosh Chodesh is the day after the observation of a 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.
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.
Wikipedia contributors, “Rosh Chodesh,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rosh_Chodesh&oldid=628567981 (accessed January 1, 2014).
“!!! new moon !!!” by محمد البدارين – Flickr: !!! new moon !!!. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
“Worship of Golden Calf” by Jan Steen, WikiArt