Rosh Chodesh -- The Head of the Month
The first day of the Jewish month is called Rosh Chodesh, the "Head of the Month". Each month commences with the appearance of the Molad, the Birth. This is the first, small crescent of the new moon as it rises above the horizon shortly after sunset. Thus each month is symbolically born and emerges into the world. First, the head (in the form of the first crescent of the new moon) appears and then the rest of the month follows.
Rosh Chodesh itself is a minor holiday and since ancient times has been observed by refraining from physical labor and with a festive celebration. We see from the events in Samuel I 20:27-34 that the King would hold a special meal in honor of the day. Today as well, many people have a special meal with their family and friends for Rosh Chodesh. It is traditional for women, even more so than men, to refrain from work on Rosh Chodesh. This 'extra' holiday was given to women because they refused to participate in the sin of the golden calf. The short Hallel, (Psalms 113, 114, 115:12-18, 116:11-19, and 117), is recited and there is even a special reading of the Torah (Numbers 28:1-15), as well as an additional prayer (Musaph) added to the morning prayers to commemorate the special Rosh Chodesh sacrifice offerred in the Temple (as described in the special Torah reading).
The symbolism of birth and renewal inherent to Rosh Chodesh has been a source of hope and encouragement to the Jewish people. An ancient teaching likens the Jewish people to the moon and the great nations of the world to the sun. It states that throughout history there will be many great world powers. They will rise to great glory like the rising sun, blaze for a time and then set, never to rise again. The Jews, however, are like the moon. There are times when they shine with glory and there are times when they are not seen at all. Also, just as everyone begins to think that the Jews have disappeared forever, they begins to come back and rise to new heights.
The Rosh Chodesh that most exemplifies this is Rosh Chodesh Tevet. It always falls during the eight days of Chanukah. The miracle of Chanukah began during the closing days of the month of Kislev and the opening days of Teveth. The transition from Kislev to Tevet is also the transition from the Mazal (zodiac sign) of Kislev to Tevet. The Mazal of Kislev is the archer, a symbol of war. While the Mazal of Tevet is the ram, a kosher animal that is offered as a sacrifice on the altar. Thus during Chanukah we see a passage from a time of war and death to a time of divine service and rebirth. The special status of Rosh Chodesh Tevet is also seen by the fact that it is the only Rosh Chodesh (because of Chanukah) that the full and not the short Hallel is recited. Indicative of what the Prophets have taught, only after we have transcended war can we dedicate ourselves to divine service.
It is our hope that this Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh Tevet will herald the type of turn around in the world foreseen by our great Prophets.
The winner of the monthly Holy Half-Shekel drawing is Itzik from Kafar-Saba in Israel. All subscribers will again be in the draw next month for another Holy Half-Shekel, courtesy of Beged Ivri.
Beged Ivri is the source of the Restored Holy Half-Shekel, the Biblical wedding ceremony and clothing for the third Temple in Jerusalem.
Collecting Money in Jerusalem:
Those of you who have visited Jerusalem have not doubt noticed (with mixed feelings) that there seems to be a charity solicitor on every street corner. IsraelVisit Magazine went out to interview one of them and hear his story. So as not to embarrass anyone we will call our interviewee Levy.
israleVisit: What are you collecting money for?
Levy: I'm collecting for my children's school.
israleVisit: Why do you have to collect for their school? Don't they receive money from the Government?
Levy: Well they get something but it's really is not enough. The Menahel [principal] told me once that if he had to live on just what the government gave the school, there would be fifty kids to each class. Now they have about thirty-five kids to a class in the school.
israleVisit: But if you and the other parents want a better school for your children, why don't you pay for it yourselves? Why ask others to support your school?
Levy: We do! Boy do we ever pay. I have eight kids and the tuition I pay every month kills me. But it still isn't enough for the school. After all how much can people like me . . . we've all got large families . . . pay? I mean look at me. If people didn't help how could I educate my kids?
israleVisit: Maybe the school is over spending and could cut back and save money?
Levy: No way. Come, I'll take you to see the place. It's not exactly the King David Hotel [a luxury hotel in Jerusalem] that they have. Most of the money, Government, tuition, donations, goes to the Rebbes [the teachers] and they don't live any better than the rest of us. Most of them also have big families.
israleVisit: Is this your full time job? Do you do anything else for a living?
Levy: Well, yes and no.
israleVisit: What's yes and what's no?
Levy: It's like this. I have a seasonal job and I have this.
israleVisit: What kind of seasonal job?
Levy: I bake Matzos and I do this.
israleVisit: You mean that aside from this you also work for a few weeks before Passover?
Levy: It's not just a few weeks. More like four months. And I put in a ten to twelve hour day. I work the extra hours to make the pay last.
israleVisit: Why so much time to bake Matzos?
Levy: Hey, there's a lot of people who eat Matzos on Peasach [Passover]. Somebody has to make it all for them, right. So everyone starts around Chanukah time. Sometimes I can get work doing the harvesting of the wheat. But that's not so easy to get.
israleVisit: So the rest of the year you collect for the school?
Levy: That's right.
israleVisit: Do you get a salary or a commission?
Levy: Salary? You got to be kidding. No, everyone works on commission. You know just like a salesman. The more I "sell", the more I make.
You can beautify the mitzva of giving charity, tzedaka,
with a beautiful tzedaka box from one of the artists featured