26th of Tamuz, 5774
Parashat Masei


Rosh Hodesh Traditions

Rosh Hodesh (Rosh Chodesh) means “head of the month”. If the month that we are going from has 30 days in it then the 30th and the first of the next month will be celebrated as Rosh Hodesh, if the month has 29 days, then the celebration is on the first and is only one day.

Month Name Month Length Days of Rosh Hodesh
Tishrei 30 Days 1 Day Rosh Hodesh
Heshvan 29 or 30 Days 2 Day Rosh Hodesh
Kislev 29 or 30 Days 1 or 2 Day Rosh Hodesh
Tevet 29 Days 1 or 2 Day Rosh Hodesh
Shevat 30 Days 1 Day Rosh Hodesh
Adar 29 Days 2 Day Rosh Hodesh
Adar 1 30 Days 2 Day Rosh Hodesh
Adar 2 29 Days 2 Day Rosh Hodesh
Nisan 30 Days 1 Day Rosh Hodesh
Iyar 29 Days 2 Day Rosh Hodesh
Sivan 30 Days 1 Day Rosh Hodesh
Tammuz 29 Days 2 Day Rosh Hodesh
Av 30 Days 1 Day Rosh Hodesh
Elul 29 Days 2 Day Rosh Hodesh
Adar 1 & 2 occur only during a Leap Year.

During Temple times, before the calendar was set, people would look to the night sky to see the moon. When they saw just a sliver of the moon they went to the Sanhedrim (the religious court) and told them about what they saw. When at least two witnesses were confirmed as actually seeing the moon then it was declared a new month.

The day after, there would be celebrations announced by blowing the Shofar. People did not go to work. many went to Jerusalem where they sacrificed a special new-month offering. Afterwards they would gather for a family feast.

Women were given the day off from their labors. According to tradition this was due to their refusing to give their jewelry when Aaron made the golden idol.

Today Rosh Hodesh is celebrated with special prayers and customs. Usually the new moon blessing is done following the Havdallah service on Saturday night following the appearance. It is wonderful to do this outside in the open air so you can see the moon. The Shabbat before Rosh Hodesh is called Shabbat Mevarekhim (Shabbat of Blessing) this is also where the Yehi Ratzon (Prayer for the new month) is said.