Blessing of the New Month – Birkat Ha’Chodesh
May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Cheshvan upon us for goodness and for blessing.
May You give us long life,
a life of peace – Shalom,
a life of goodness – Tovah
a life of blessing – Bracha
a life of sustenance – Parnassa
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God
– Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.
The cycle of the moon, with its waxing and waning, is symbolic of renewal. It is a constant illustration of the fact that, as we journey through life, we too continually experience phases of growth and decline, prominence and hiddenness. Every day, week, month and year are opportunities for new beginnings. Biblically, the number 7 indicates completion – the Shabbat crowns and completes the week. The number 8, as in the eigth day, indicates a new beginning in a special way and is seen by the Sages as representing Olam HaBa, (the World to Come or Eternity) once Olam HaZeh, this world, has reached its completion.
It is also worthy of note that the observance of Rosh Chodesh was the first commandment given to Israel as a newly formed nation (Exodus 12:2). Israel thus has a special, God ordained, identification with the moon. It serves as a reminder that Israel’s glory may fade and seemingly disappear but the nation will always re-emerge and grow to fullness, as does the moon. For Israel, and those who stand with her – particularly at this time of God’s restoration of the nation and the violent attempts of the enemy to prevent it – the blessing of the New Moon is an event of inspiration and importance.
After the Exodus from Egypt, the verse that references the first month set in place by God to mark the deliverance from Egypt reads,
“This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.”
Notice that He says it is for you! The months are set in place for our benefit. It is as though our Father has stored a gift for us at the start of each new month – a fresh opportunity of renewal – to strengthen ourselves in our relationship with Him and in our service to Him.
A connection is made between Rosh Chodesh and the festivals in all three sections of the Hebrew Scriptures – the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings [the Tanakh – Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim].
1. Numbers 29:1
“On the first day [New Moon] of the seventh month [Tishrei – Rosh HaShanah] you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets…”
2. Isaiah 66:23
“From New Moon to New Moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me”, says the Lord.
3. 2 Chronicles 2:3
“I am now about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God and dedicate it to him for offering fragrant incense before him, and for the regular offering of the rows of bread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the New Moons and the Appointed Festivals of the Lord our God, as ordained forever for Israel.”
The main differences between Rosh Chodesh and the Festivals are:
- On Rosh Chodesh work is permitted as if it was an ordinary workday; unless, of course, it falls on a Shabbat or a Festival. However, due to the particular identification of women with the moon (for many reasons, e.g., the menstrual cycle) it was long a tradition that women refrained from working to whatever extent possible. Today women are again discovering Rosh Chodesh and are creating ways to celebrate it together.
- It is commanded in the Torah that we be joyful on the Festivals and celebrate with festive meals, but this is not the case with Rosh Chodesh. It is, nevertheless, considered a day of gladness.
- A significant difference is that the Festivals are celebrated in a physically overt fashion. They are obviously different from ordinary week days; there is a transformation, an aura of holiness that encompasses these “holy” days. Rosh Chodesh, on the other hand, appears to be a regular weekday, with no special meals, dress or concrete actions taken. Like the shy moon, it quietly and softly comes and goes. This reticence, however, does not diminish its value and holiness. A renowned Torah teacher of this generation, Rabbi Yosef Dov Solovetichik, explains that Rosh Chodesh was celebrated more visibly in the times of the Temple. The Levites would sing and conduct the same ceremony as they did on the Festivals. Without the Temple, that external stimulus is lacking.
The Tribe of Menashe.
“According to the order of the encampments, Tishrei corresponds to Ephraim and Marcheshvan [Cheshvan] to Menashe [Manasseh]…”
(Bnei Yissachar: Maamarei Chodesh Tishrei 1:2)
In his writings, Rabbi Soloveitchik also describes the character of a person, whom he calls an Ish Rosh Chodesh – one who embodies the nature of Rosh Chodesh; one who knows how to combine holiness, especially hidden holiness, with the outwardly mundane. He notes that the first person to embody this synthesis was Yosef Ha’Tzaddik – the Righteous Joseph.
Joseph was a ruler in Egypt, adept in worldly matters of government, and he was holy and upright, imbued with knowledge of the God of Israel and His ways. Joseph’s inner purpose was to do the will of God in every circumstance, whether he was in a prison or a palace. As a result, all his actions were holy and to the glory of God.
Joseph loved his sons, Manasseh the firstborn and Ephraim the younger. He was surprised when his father Jacob, as he was bestowing his final blessing upon them, placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left on Manasseh.
Yad ha’Yamin, the right hand, is of great significance in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Why did Jacob favor Ephraim over Manasseh? Jewish sages comment that both sons were of sterling character and were great leaders. However, Ephraim, like his grandfather Jacob in his youth, was more inclined to “remain in the tents” and study the teachings of God, while Manasseh (who, as firstborn, no doubt accompanied his father and learnt of matters of governance) excelled in worldly, communal matters. Jacob was indicating that spiritual service to God came before material service to one’s fellow man.
The ideal is to combine the two, as did their father Joseph. No doubt, as they grew older and more experienced in the leadership they were given over a tribe of Israel, each young man would become an Ish Rosh Chodesh like Joseph. To this end, parents bless their sons on Shabbat to be like Ephraim, one who excels in the study of the Word of God and walks in His ways, and also like Manasseh, one who enjoys success in business and worldly matters.
In many ways, the Righteous Joseph is a forerunner of the Messiah, the Anointed one to come – Yeshua, the fully righteous one, in whom was found no sin and who lived only to do the will of his Father in Heaven.
“Let Your hand be upon the one at Your right hand, the one whom You made strong for Yourself” (Psalm 80:17).
Yeshua is the Son, seated at the right hand of the Father, where there is fullness of joy forever (Psalm 16:11; 110:1; Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62;16:19; Luke 22:69).
He is glorious in power (Exodus 15:6), the “right hand” extended to save; our help and the place of refuge from one’s enemies (Psalm 17:7).
In him is the victory (Psalm 98:1-2; Isaiah 41:10).
God exalted him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, that He might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31).
As High Priest, Yeshua intercedes for us before the Throne (Romans 8:34) and he pours upon us the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father (Acts 2:33).
He is the Lamb who was slain, who is worthy to receive the scroll with its seven seals from the right hand of the Father (Revelation 5). And the myriads around the Throne sing,
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
The author of Revelation, Yochanan (John), concludes:
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the One seated on the Throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and might, forever and ever!” (5:11-12)
Amen and HalleluYah!
- Artwork – Matt Doll