The cycle of the moon, with its waxing and waning, is symbolic of renewal. It is a constant illustration of the fact that we too continually experience growth and decline as we journey through life. The observance of Rosh Chodesh (the head or beginning of each new month, signaled by the new moon) was the first commandment given to Israel as a newly formed nation (Exodus 12:2). Israel thus has a special identification with the moon. It serves as a reminder that Israel’s prominence may fade and seem to disappear but the nation will always re-emerge and grow to fullness, as does the moon. For Israel, and those who stand with her, the sighting and blessing of the new moon is an event of inspiration and provides an opportune time for special prayer and intercession for Israel. Interestingly, the importance of the recognition of each Hebrew month is underscored by the fact that its observance was forbidden in Eretz Yisrael during the rule of the Syrian-Greek King Antiochus, and also during that of the Romans, together with the prohibitions against the study of Torah, keeping the Sabbath and circumcision.
Exodus 12:2 references the first month set in place by God to mark the deliverance from Egypt, ‘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 Tanakh], the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings [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.”
Another similarity between Rosh Chodesh and the festivals, according to rabbinic tradition, is that it is permissible to fast on any day with the exception of Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Festival days and Chol Ha’Moed [the interim days of the weeks of Pesach & Sukkot].
It is written in the Torah that we be joyful on the Festivals and celebrate with festive meals but this is not the case with Rosh Chodesh, which is like an ordinary week day. It is, nevertheless, considered a day of gladness and great hope.
1. Zvi Ryzman, The Wisdom in the Hebrew Months, Mesorah Publication, Ltd., NY, 2009, 48.
2. Ibid, 53.