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Rosh Chodesh (ראש חודש ) – New Moon

  |   Judaism

There is an ancient legend (a midrash) that says that because the Torah used only male forms in the history of the golden calf, it would be obvious that women were not involved in this sin and therefore God would have given women a present, as a special Festival – Rosh Chodesh.

 

The interesting thing is that, yes, Rosh Chodesh was a very important feast in the time of the Temple, but then the destruction of it – and in the time of that midrash – lost its value and today is marked only by some special traditions in the service liturgy (there is the Hallel, a special Amidah and special readings from the Torah). But it usually happens on a weekday, and so many synagogues are barely celebrating a Rosh Chodesh service.

 

But nowadays, the Women of the Wall (founded in 1988) brought the Rosh Chodesh back to be a women’s day, celebrating Rosh Chodesh’s services at the Kotel in Jerusalem. It was partly thanks to this group that many people outside the State of Israel also began to rethink the role of women in Judaism and especially in the liturgy. In Israel, this is a battle of a small group with a lot of courage, which includes members of our congregation actively involved – who try peacefully to fight for justice in Judaism. In November 2016, they were able, for the first time, to carry Torah scrolls for the purpose of a normal Torah service. In general, attacks by those who do not want women to take an active part in the liturgy occur. Being something normal in progressive Judaism almost 100 years ago, it is very strange for us to see situations in which half of humanity is excluded. Fortunately, we are experiencing a slow shift in other groups in Judaism, due to gender equality.

 

In many countries, both in Orthodox synagogues and progressive synagogues, there are “Rosh Chodesh groups”. These are women’s study groups. Women meet to study a theme related to the month or to have debates on topics that are relevant nowadays.

 

It remains for us to wish you a good month! Rosh Chodesh tov for everyone! 🙂

Annette Boeckler
Dr. Annette Mirjam Böckler is a professor of Jewish and Biblical liturgy at Leo Baeck University in London, where she is also a librarian. Writer and translator in Jewish matters (being the translator of the Seder HaTefillot-the first liberal prayer book after the Shoah in Germany), has developed the translation of the German edition of the comments of the Torah from W. Gunther Plaut.