These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Think about the cycles…

Posted on January 17, 2014 by Andrea Wiese

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I presented this on our '14 trip to Turkey:

The first commandment Bnei Israel was given as a people was:

שמות יב:ב
הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם, רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים: רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם, לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה.

Exodus 12:2
This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.

Andrea WieseIt doesn’t sound like a commandment. But this is why we celebrate the first day of each Jewish month. Traditionally rosh chodesh has been viewed as a women’s holiday.

The special connection between women and Rosh Chodesh harks way back to the episode of the Golden Calf, when the women declined to participate in the “fundraising” effort and refused to surrender their jewelry for use in making the idol. As a reward, they were given Rosh Chodesh as a day which they observe more than the men (Tur, Orach Chaim 417).

I also for whatever reason really have a deep connection with rosh chodesh, maybe it’s because I’m female, maybe because my mom and I really like watching the moon together, or maybe because every month I go to the kotel and pray with other women and it’s very meaningful.

For me – Rosh chodesh is a time to reflect after a cycle – for us to stop and think and remember the cycle of our lives once a month. And not just at any time – on the darkest night – when there is no moon and no light, we stop and have faith. and we reflect.

So when the moon goes around the earth. and I go to the kotel. I try to think about where I was the month before and what has happened since last month. Am I the same, what changed me this month, how am I better?

This month at the kotel (Last Thursday morning) I thought about another thing coming full circle. The last time I lived in Turkey. Coming back to Turkey, to be with you, is really a full circle moment for me. When I lived here 6 years ago, I didn’t know how to answer my Muslim friends when they asked me questions about Judaism. In the years in between, I have studied a lot. I was a high school history teacher, I received a Masters degree in Middle East Studies and have studied at Pardes now for almost three years. So not only have I grown and changed as a person, I can really see how much I have learned about my Judaism and who I am and want to be.

Hopefully, not all cycles will take 6 years to be able to reflect and see growth, but hopefully it’s clearer now, as to why keeping rosh chodesh the first mitzvah God commanded Bnei Israel…

Because God is urging us to stop and think. To think about the circles, and cycles in our lives and to see and reflect on your progress and to be proud of where we were and where we are now. Because if we aren’t in a good and healthy place, if we aren’t always working on improving ourselves, nothing else matters, if we aren’t taking care of who we are as people, we can’t be there for others, we can’t be the people that God made us to be. So, at least once a month, God has commanded us to do just that.

My blessing for us, is that we take time to stop and reflect, to see the blessings in our lives, to see what wonderful things we are giving to ourselves, each other, and to the world. And to thank God and each other for all of these wonderful things, and if you happen to do it more than once a month, that’s okay too. =)