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Rosh Chodesh: A New Month is Born

Rosh Chodesh is the first day of every Jewish month—today, that month is Shevat. Celebrated as a festival in ancient times, Rosh Chodesh was observed when sky watchers would discover the first sliver of a new moon above, designating the new month.

The day after this skimpy crescent appeared, there would be family gatherings and sacrifices, and a shofar would be blown to mark the occasion. Given that this is nearly everyone’s favorite part of High Holiday services, how awesome would it be to hear the shofar blown once a month today?

In my family, Rosh Chodesh took on a different meaning, as at least three of us, for our bar/bat mitzvoth, recited the special haftorah reserved for erev Rosh Chodesh. In fact, my mom’s cousin Myra and I still remember how that haftorah begins:  Vayomer lo Yehonatan machar chodesh…

While researching the lesser-known “holiday,” I found it timely to read on that the Rosh Chodesh haftorah (not the erev Rosh Chodesh one recited by my family) “contains a section in which Isaiah imagines Zion as a pregnant woman and G-d as the midwife who delivers the son of Zion.” As I sit here, pregnant with my first-born son, I can’t help but marvel at the irony of finding this information now.

Some of us are still fascinated by the moon, particularly the full moon, while others take its brilliance for granted. I can imagine that in the days before astronomy and science were fully understood, the reappearance of the moon gave great comfort to those who may have feared it would not return.

As for me, I look at each new moon as a fresh start. Instead of waiting for an entire year to pass, once every 30 days we can revel in the idea that a new month is born, and with it, a new us.