Mo'edim and Holidays

Mo’edim: Rosh Chodesh (“Beginning of the Month”) #NewMoon

New moon, beginning of a new monthly lunar cycle. Image credit: Creative Commons

Shalom, everyone! Rosh Chodesh, which means “new moon,” “head of the month,” or “beginning of the month,” is the name for the first day of each month on the Hebrew calendar. In ancient pre-exilic Israel, the event of Rosh Chodesh was triggered by the sighting of the first visible/waxing crescent moon each lunar month. Rosh Chodesh is considered a minor biblical holiday, similar to the intermediate days of the holidays of Pesach (Passover) and Sukkoth (Feast of Booths).

The Creator commanded B’nei Yisrael to mark the occasion of the new moon as a time of recognition. In the Book of Numbers, The Creator says to Moshe (Moses):

“Also in the day of your gladness, and in your appointed seasons, and in your new moons, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt-offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace-offerings; and they shall be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God.'” ~ Numbers 10:10

In ancient pre-exilic Israel, the occurrence of Rosh Chodesh was confirmed by the priests observing the new moon (first visible/waxing crescent). On the day after the new moon sighting, a festival was held to commemorate the occasion which included a convocation, the sounding of trumpets and special sacrificial offerings. Rosh Chodesh was a very significant festival in ancient Israel. The entire calendar depended upon the declarations of Rosh Chodesh; without these declarations, there would be no way of knowing when mo’edim were supposed to occur.

As a result of foreign influence by their Babylonian and Persian conquerors, the post-exilic Judeans adopted a similar lunisolar calendar of the Babylonians for marking time, assigning each month an Akkadian/Babylonian name. After the destruction of the Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the sighting of the first visible/waxing crescent moon was mathematically calculated using a fixed calendar developed by Rabbi Hillel II in the 4th century C.E. Over time, a custom developed whereby an additional day could be added to a month to ensure that certain holidays, for example, Yom Kippur, did not fall on days immediately before or after Shabbat (Sabbath/Seventh Day of the Week).

Rosh Chodesh (New Moon)
Lunar Month #
Given Name Name Meaning/Notes Season Gregorian Months
 First Month  Aviv Spring, green ears (of corn) Spring Mar – Apr
 Second Month  Ziv Light, glow, or bright (flowers) Spring Apr – May
 Third Month  Mattan Gift (of crops) Spring May – Jun
 Fourth Month  Zabah Offering (of produce) Summer Jun – Jul
 Fifth Month  Karar Heat (of summer) Summer Jul – Aug
 Sixth Month  Tsahim Shining (of the sun) Summer Aug – Sep
 Seventh Month  Ethanim Perpetual (streams) Fall Sep – Oct
 Eighth Month  Bul Rain (for crops) Fall Oct – Nov
 Ninth Month  Marpa’im Remedies (of plants) Fall Nov – Dec
 Tenth Month  Pagrim Corpses (of plants) Winter Dec – Jan
 Eleventh Month  Pe’ulot Labors (of late planting) Winter Jan – Feb
 Twelfth Month  Hayir I White (of frost) Winter Feb – Mar
 Thirteenth Month  Hayir II Note: A 13th new moon is only counted in years when the signs of Spring have not been fully confirmed by the end of the 12th lunar month.  Winter-Spring Feb – Mar

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