by Ariella Bracha Waldinger
Behold the glory of Rosh Chodesh, because in ancient times, it occupied an exalted position in the matters of public life. The Hebrew word for month is “chodesh,” which also means newness. Rosh means head. If you think about it, the head of anything denotes great importance i.e., the head of a company, the head of the Sanhedrin. Therefore, the day of Rosh Chodesh, which serves as the head or beginning of the month, declares its newness, as the day approaches and also instructs us about its importance.
In Temple times, the day itself was declared in a festive manner. The head of the Beit Din would declare, “Sanctified” and all Jews in attendance would declare “SANCTIFIED, SANCTIFIED!” (Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 3:1). Afterwards, the Rosh Chodesh sacrifices were offered on the altar in the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple). The offerings were accompanied by the amazing sounds of the silver trumpets piercing the airwaves, along with the extraordinary, uplifting soul song of the Levite choir. Additionally, the incense offering contributed to an extraordinary, visual air show, as its fragrance not only perfumed the air but rose upwards to Heaven for all to see. Can you picture it? The extraordinary festivities of the Jewish nation gathered together and the depth of meaning arising from the rituals being performed on this special and sacred day?
Rosh Chodesh was the first commandment given to the Jews in Egypt, even before they had been liberated (Shmot 12:2). It was an extraordinary and loving gift from G-d because it gave the Jews the gift of time, along with their own calendar. This signified G-d’s trust in them and His desire to empower them after generations of slavery. It also taught the importance of time.
Rosh Chodesh is also a monthly call to emulate the moon, to whom the Jews are compared. Just as the moon is renewed each month, so too the Jewish people are given a new opportunity each month to make amends, improve their lives and ultimately draw closer to serving the King of Kings.
What is so important about Rosh Chodesh? I will quote the exact words from the The Biala Rebbe in his book “MEVASER TOV, THE MERIT OF THE RIGHTEOUS WOMEN”, so I do not dilute its power, truth and beauty. He writes the following:
“There are two essential facets to Rosh Chodesh. One is that it encompasses the potential for all that will occur in the following month. Additionally and most importantly, Rosh Chodesh is a time of renewal, a new face to time, in which the world is transformed from one state of being to another. A new reality is conceived, which never existed before. The power of Rosh Chodesh is so great that it acts retroactively, bestowing on the day that precedes it, the title “Yom Kippur Katan” which means the small Yom Kippur.”
This teaching serves as an instruction for us to seek atonement, akin to the day of Yom Kippur itself, in order to become worthy recipients of the blessings and Divine light that will emerge in the new month.
According to the Rebbe, few people understand the extraordinary hidden power waiting to become manifest in the time frame of Rosh Chodesh. To my astonishment, The Rebbe writes that
“According to the Zohar (Terumah 150b), the fires of Gehinnom cease on Rosh Chodesh.” This is as a result of its nature as a powerful protective force. He continues, “Rosh Chodesh is not mundane at all and its spiritual influence is greater even than Yom Tov, as shown by its powers to cool Gehinnom. Rosh Chodesh touches the very roots of our soul, in a subtle and hidden way. It is the apparently mundane, hidden nature of Rosh Chodesh that enables its holiness to be transmitted through what would otherwise appear to be an ordinary day. At present its powers are concealed, thus magnifying its power.”
According to the Kabbalah, each month offers new energies which equate to new opportunities to actualize our potential. According to Sefer Yetzirah,(The Book of Formation), each month of the Jewish calendar has a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a Zodiac sign, one of the twelve tribes, a sense, and a controlling limb of the body that corresponds to it. Each of these aspects is a channel that opens and becomes manifest at the arrival of Rosh Chodesh. Through tapping into these openings, we can access the deepest wisdom and achieve transformation.
It appears that today, the celebratory aspect of Rosh Chodesh has lost its deep significance, due to the loss of the Beit Hamikdash. Rosh Chodesh however, should not be taken lightly, even with the absence of the Holy Temple and its importance should not be downplayed. Rosh Chodesh is likened to the festivals themselves. (Bamidbar10:10) Chazal teaches in Shavuos 10a that Rosh Chodesh itself is called a festival. The prophets compared it to Shabbat (Yeshaya 66:23).
The Mishnah Berurah writes that one who spends money on Rosh Chodesh feasts is praiseworthy. Also, in a chapter of the Shulchan Aruch that contains only one law, it teaches that “it is a mitzvah to enhance Rosh Chodesh meals.”
I believe that through our awakened comprehension of the greatness of the day, we can truly “BEHOLD THE GLORY OF ROSH CHODESH,” A Divine Gift from G-d Himself to the Jewish People. We can strive to restore it to an aspect of its former glory, by honoring it and celebrating the day in special and unique ways. We can tap into its hidden spiritual dynamite and dramatically benefit our souls and our nation and most importantly, deeply express our gratitude to The HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE HE.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: The next Rosh Chodesh is Friday night (Shabbat) April 8th.
With Blessings of love, light and awareness of all G-d’s magnificent gifts to us and all the world. Ariella Bracha Waldinger