Shir Tikvah, Portland Oregon
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Rosh Hodesh

Rosh Hodesh

a Jewish woman’s holiday

Rosh hodesh, literally “the head of the month” is the name for the beginning of each Hebrew month.

God said to Moshe and Aharon in the land of Egypt: this month shall mark for you the beginning of the months, it shall be the first of months of the year for you. (Exodus 12.1-2)

In the Tanakh Rosh Hodesh clearly is an important marking of time for the ancient Israelites; during the monarchy, it is a time when festive sacrifices and meals take place, and the young David, for example, must be ready to explain why he was not present at King Saul’s table for the Rosh Hodesh meal. To this day, there are special readings and rituals which are part of the beginning of the month on the Hebrew calendar, and a special Torah reading is added to the regular ritual reading cycle in the shul.

Rosh Hodesh has long been associated with women; often this is attributed to the midrashic tradition that women refused to take part in the worship of the Golden Calf. Their stand against idolatry was commemorated with the assignment of Rosh Hodesh as their special monthly holy day.

This idea of a monthly holy period for women is associated by scholars with women’s menstrual cycle, which closely approximates the moon’s monthly cycle. The waxing and waning of the moon is also compared to the fortues of the Israelites: from ancient times until today, the Jews have experienced good times and bad, not quite cyclically but clearly, over time, one sees good times followed with bad fortune, and then good returns again.

The Rabbis of antiquity proclaimed each month according to witnesses, who had to see evidence of the new moon and testify in Rabbinic court regarding that which they had seen. Curiously, the beginning of each month was assigned to women, who could not legally witness to the new month’s arrival in court* , as a holy day, on which they were not to work for half a day.

In the modern era, women have taken Rosh Hodesh as a time for women to gather, to reflect on being a Jewish woman, and to undertake Rosh Hodesh rituals.

Rosh Hodesh at Shir Tikvah is observed monthly on the actual date except when it occurs on erev Shabbat, when it is deferred to motza’ey Shabbat, the end of Shabbat a day later. We defer so as not to have to choose between davening with our community and observing our special Rosh Hodesh rites.

Save these dates for Rosh Hodesh gatherings in 2013 (you can also follow the dates and see the locations on our Shir Tikvah calendar):

Rosh Hodesh Tevet- Thurs Dec 13

Rosh Hodesh Shevat – Sat Jan 12
Rosh Hodesh Adar – Sun Feb 10
Rosh Hodesh Nisan – Tuesday Mar 12
Rosh Hodesh Iyar – Tues April 9
Rosh Hodesh Sivan – Thurs May 9
Rosh Hodesh Tamuz – Sat June 8
Rosh Hodesh Av – Sun July 7
Rosh Hodesh Elul – Tues Aug 6

* According to ancient Jewish law, women, slaves, and minors were not considered credible witnesses in court.



ONLINE RESOURCES: Click, Read, Explore, and Be Well (link to website)

Chabad (link to website)

Hillel (link to website)

University of Oregon (link to website)

AISH (link to website)


Shir Tikvah women are invited to be part of the Rosh Hodesh Book Group.  Please contact Anne Whitaker if you would like to be on the e-mail list.  Otherwise check the Week’s Worth and website.

To learn more about the Rosh Hodesh book group, click here: Book Group (link to website)