ROSH CHODESH (The New Moon)
by Talya Wasserman, at age 12
Rosh Chodesh was the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people as a nation. The actual mitzvah (commandment) of Rosh Chodesh is for anyone who saw the new moon to come to the Beis Din (Jewish Court) the next morning, and the Beis Din would ask them questions to find out if they were telling the truth. If they were, the Beis Din would declare that it was Rosh Chodesh. We are obligated to do the mitzvah when we have Chachamim (sages) and a Beis Din. Today, without a Beis Din, we use the calendar that Hillel HaNasi established based on calculations that Moshe Rabbeinu received from Hashem (G-d) on Har Sinai (Mt. Sinai). When Hillel established the calendar, he sanctified all the future months because we are not allowed to while we are in Galus (exile).
A SPECIAL DAY FOR WOMEN
Rosh Chodesh is a special day for women. There is a custom for women not to work on Rosh Chodesh. There’s an opinion that Hashem (G-d) rewards the Jewish women for not participating in the golden calf both in this world and in Olam Haba (the world to come). He rewards them in this world by giving them Rosh Chodesh, and in Olam Haba by giving them the power of constant renewal, which is similar to the idea of Rosh Chodesh. According to Rav Yitzchak Abohav (who lived in the early 1400’s) in his Sefer the Menoras HaMaor, each one of the 12 months, or Roshei Chodashim, was originally supposed to be special for each one of the 12 Shevatim (tribes). However, that changed with the golden calf. When Moshe (Moses) didn’t come down from Mt. Sinai when the Jews thought he would, the men asked the women for their gold jewelry. The women refused to donate anything to make an idol. The Bailer Rebbe in Yerushalayim, Rabbi BenZion Rabinowitz, says that women have a special intuition, a special sense, which men don’t have. This intuition told the Jewish women that Moshe was alive, so they knew that doing building the golden calf was wrong. This same intuition tells the Jewish women today that Rosh Chodesh is a special day, even though it’s not a Yom Tov (holiday).
CHANGES IN DAVENING
On Rosh Chodesh, there are many changes in davening (prayer), including Hallel, Mussaf, and Ya’aleh V’Yavoh. Also, many people say a special “Shir Shel Yom” in addition to the regular one for the day of the week. The “Shir Shel Yom” for Rosh Chodesh is Perek 104 of Tehillim, which is also known as “Barchi Nafshi.”
SOME ROSH CHODESH FACTS
•It is a mitzvah to eat special, fancier meals and to wear special clothing on Rosh Chodesh.
•We are not allowed to fast on Rosh Chodesh.
•On the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the section of the Torah that contains the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh is read in shul. This section is known as Parshas HaChodesh, and it is read before Rosh Chodesh Nissan because part of the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh is to count the months starting with Nissan.