Reclaiming Rosh Chodesh as a Women's Holiday

The first Mitzvah that is formally given to Moshe even before the Jewish people leave Egypt is the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh (the new moon).

"This month shall be reckoned to you as the head of the months. It shall be to you the first of the months of the year (Parshat Bo-Shmot 12:2)."

According to Rashi, God showed Moshe the moon at its renewal and said to him, "When the moon renews itself, let that be for you the beginning of a new month."

How did Rosh Chodesh become a women's holiday?

At the time of the sin of the golden calf, only the men participated and not the women. As it says in Shmot 32:2, "Aaron said to the men, "Remove the golden rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons and your daughters and bring them to me. All the people removed the golden rings that were on their ears and brought them to Aaron."

Rashi comments that Aaron thought to himself: the women and children fancy their jewelry, perhaps, the building of the calf will be delayed and in the meantime Moshe will arrive. But the men did not wait for the women and children and took their jewelry off themselves.

According to Pirkei D'Rebbi Eliezer, God rewarded the women with the observance of the holiday of Rosh Chodesh.

Many women took on the custom of not working on Rosh Chodesh. According to the Shulchan Aruch 417, it's permissible for women to work on Rosh Chodesh, but it is a meritorious custom for women not to. Biur Halacha states that every Jewish woman should refrain from some kind of work on Rosh Chodesh, so that there is a difference between that day and the other weekdays.

What about the men? According to P'ri Chadash, for the men Rosh Chodesh is like any other weekday and for men to refrain from work is a custom based on ignorance.

What was the true test to see if the women would give up their jewelry for a good cause? In the building of the mishkan, tabernacle, it says "The men came .al hanashim', after the women, all who were generous of heart brought bracelets, nose rings, finger rings and buckles- all kinds of golden vessels.(Shmot 25:32).

When it was for the sake of a mitzvah, the women were the first to give their jewelry.

Today, many women have revived the observance of Rosh Chodesh as a women's holiday. Throughout the world there are women's study groups that meet on or around Rosh Chodesh to celebrate the new moon and to focus on the significance of the month ahead.

Please contact us if you would like to join a Torat Reva Rosh Chodesh group in Jerusalem.