Greg Killian: A Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) - Customs

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"Originally, 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 High Court 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. If the moon's crescent was not seen on the 30th day, the New Moon was automatically celebrated on the 31st day."[30]

Entertaining the witnesses and taking their testimony, as well as the actual sanctification of the New Moon, all had to take place during daylight hours as this is a mishpat.

In addition to the witnesses, the molad for the new moon is also calculated by the Beit Din (Court) that has had their ordination conferred on them in a direct line from Moses. The Beit Din is the only body that is authorized by halachah to sanctify the new moon.

"But that it is not at all the planetary occurrence in the sky that fixes the beginning of the month, so that all that would be necessary would be for the law-officers to take note of such occurrence, is clearly evident from laws that refer to the case where on the 30th, while yet daytime, the new moon is visible and has been seen by the judges, the court, and by all Israel; or of the case where the thorough examination of the witnesses who come and testify that they have seen it, has been satisfactorily completed by day, but in either of these cases, if night has fallen before the judges have pronounced "it is consecrated", then the 30th ins not the first of the month, in spite of the fact that the new moon has actually been seen by everybody, or alternatively has been vouched for, and completely confirmed and established, the new moon only starts on the 31st. This is striking evidence that it is not the actual condition up above, but the consecrating declaration of the representatives of Israel that is the decisive factor on which the beginning of the month depends. This, the fact that the nation itself fixes the date of the beginning of the months is what the command refers to..."

"... It is not to be the conjunction of the moon with the sun; not the moon receiving the rays of illumination afresh, that is to induce the beginning of our months, it is not that, to which our celebration of the New Moon is to be dedicated. But each time the moon finds the sun again, each time it re eives its rays of light afresh, HaShem wants His people to find Him again and to be illuminated with fresh rays of His light, wherever and however, in running their course, they have had to pass through periods of darkness and obscurity. The moon finding itself again in conjunction with the sun is only a model for our finding ourselves again with HaShem, the rejuvenation of the moon a picture of and an incentive to, our own rejuvena ion. Moed is literally conjunction." Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch


Women do not have to work on the day of the new moon. A woman's cycle is the same as the moon's cycle. As a woman is renewed so too i the moon renewed. This intimate relationship is captured in the definition of “menses” from which menstruation is derived:

men·ses (mèn¹sêz) plural noun (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The monthly flow of blood and cellular debris from the uterus that begins at puberty in women and the females of other primates. In women, menses ceases at menopause. Also called catamenia. [Latin mênsês, pl. of mênsis, month.][31]

A month is, of course, related to the moon: A unit of time corresponding approximately to one cycle of the moon's phases, or about thirty days or four weeks.[32]

So, it becomes obvious the there is a relationship between women and the moon. No wonder, then, that there is a custom for women to abstain from hard work on Rosh Chodesh.

The Talmud rules that work is permitted on Rosh Chodesh, but describes a tradition that women abstain from work on the day. [compare also Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 45]

Rosh HaShana 23a Our Rabbis taught ‘Beacon fires are lit only for the new moon which has been seen at its proper time,[33] [to announce that] it has been sanctified. When are they lit? On the night following its announcement.[34] This means to say that we light beacons for defective months but not for full months. What is the reason? — R. Zera said: It is a precaution on account of a defective month which ends on Friday. [In that case] when do we light? On the termination of Sabbath; and if you were to insist that we should light up also for full months, this might give rise to confusion, since people would say: This month may be defective, and the reason why beacons were not lit yesterday is because it was impossible,[35] or perhaps it is full and they are lighting up at the proper time. But why should we not light up whether for a full month or a defective month, and when New Moon is on Friday not light up at all, so that since we do not light at the termination of Sabbath, in spite of the fact that we usually light for a full month, people will know that it is defective? — This nevertheless may lead to errors, since people will say, This month is full, and the reason why they have not lit up is because they have been prevented.[36] But why not light up for the full months and not at all for the defective months? — Abaye replied: So as not to deprive the public of two working days.[37]

Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat

The new moon and Sabbath seem to be somehow linked. Notice the scriptures that use them together:

2 Melachim (Kings) 4:23 "Why go to him today?" he asked. "It's not the New Moon or the Sabbath." "It's all right," she said.

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 66:22-23 "As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me," declares HaShem, "so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me," says HaShem.

Yehezekel (Ezekiel) 46:1 "'This is what the Sovereign HaShem says: The gate of the inner court facing east is to be shut on the six working days, but on the Sabbath day and on the day of the New Moon it is to be opened.

Amos 8:5 Saying, "When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?"--skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales,

Matthew 24:26-31 speaks of the messianic hope and the arrival of the Mashiach ben David. This expectation is exemplified in our Rosh Chodesh prayers where we sing: David Melech Israel, chai, chai, ve'chai ya...

Matityahu (Matthew) 24:26-31 "So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. "Immediately after the distress of those days 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Further our prayers for Mashiach reach a crescendo on the ultimate Rosh Chodesh, Rosh HaShana. On Rosh HaShanah, our shacharit prayers are divided into three sections: Malchiyot, zicranot, and shofarot. Malchiyot because this is when we declare the kingship of HaShem as manifested in Mashiach ben David.

At Yom Teruah we also have a Rosh Chodesh. The moon will be in the west! Will the moon reflect the Shechinah of the Son of Man when He returns?

Malachi 4:1-2 "Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says HaShem Almighty. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.