Lunar Cycle, Rosh Chodesh: A Jewish Perspective

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Stephen Wise

Rabbi Wise has focused much of his rabbinate in striving passionately to connect Jews of all ages to their Judaism. Whether its through prayer services, learning or social action, each presents a gateway to stronger Jewish identity. Rabbi Wise has worked recently developing programming for young adults in their 20-30's, starting ongoing successful groups in NYC and Florida, reigniting their connections to Judaism. Rabbi Wise is the spiritual leader for Oakville's Jewish community, and his congregation is Shaarei Beth-El on Morrison Road.

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In summer I often find more time to gaze at the moon, as it waxes and wanes through the month.  Especially when you can get out of the city and into cottage country or camping, the moon seems larger, more powerful and more intimate.

In the Jewish calendar, we have always used the moon to mark the turning of the months and the holidays, as opposed to the sun in the secular calendar.  As the moon grew smaller and smaller, we knew the month was coming to an end and when there was no moon at all, we celebrated the beginning of the new moon and thus a new month, we call it Rosh Chodesh.

The roots of this celebration begin in the Jewish Bible as God called on Moses and the Jewish people as they wandered in the wilderness from Egypt towards Israel, to mark each lunar cycle.   Even after we set the calendar and didn’t need to look at the moon to know when the new month began, Jews continued to mark the new month with special prayers and a time for study.  Many, especially women, have formed “Rosh Chodesh” groups, focused on healing liturgies or special singing or the study of Torah. Many groups have been meeting regularly for years and have become a great source of spirituality and strength for their members.

In many ways, while our lives have ups and downs, sickness and health, sadness and celebration, the monthly cycle of the moon reminds us that the world continues to turn.  Rosh Chodesh gives us a monthly chance simply to get together with others and make something special.  It is worth it to give yourself some time to sit down with friends, remind each other what is important and what you have to be thankful for, and celebrate.


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