Rosh Chodesh Reflections

A journey through the months of the Jewish Year


Each month of the Jewish calendar cycle offers its own unique lessons and soul work.  The Rosh Hodesh Reflections contained in this book were originally written within the context of a monthly gathering of women at Congregation Solel in Highland Park, IL celebrating the new month on the Hebrew calendar at the time of the new moon.  The themes were drawn from the season of year, the Jewish holidays during the month and the Torah portions read during the month.  Although they were originally written for women, the concepts seem to me to be universal.  Through reflecting on the year in this way I learned that there are wells of wisdom available in our Jewish tradition to help us discover meaning, and to open to bring blessing into our lives and the world around us.  Some of the poems have been retained in their original personal or feminine form.  Some have been broadened to be more inclusive.

The monthly holiday of Rosh Hodesh comes at the time of the new moon, when the sky is darkest, as an affirmation of coming light, as a time to focus on renewal.  Traditionally the coming of Rosh Hodesh is announced each month on the Shabbat before the first day of the new month and acknowledged during the Amidah prayer on the Rosh Hodesh.  Tradition says it is a holiday that was specifically given, by God, to women.  It is a day when women refrain from work such as laundry and cleaning.  It is a time for women to gather together and study and worship as a community of women, to draw strength from their time together, reenergizing themselves for the coming month.  A moment to step off the treadmill and breathe and sigh and sing, and start anew.

As women, we are designed with an internal monthly cycle, a reminder that we need to let go, to release the stored up “stuff” that no longer serves us – attitudes, tensions, worries, emotional and physical clutter – to prepare for the next cycle.  A reminder that we must allow life to flow through us.  Our strength is not only in our ability to contain it and hold it, but also in our ability to flow with it.  The holiday of Rosh Hodesh resonates with this monthly rhythm that is so much a part of us. 

The day before Rosh Hodesh is celebrated as “Yom Kippur Katan,” a mini-Yom Kippur.  A time to put down old baggage, tend to our inner soul work, and set things right in our relationships.  Rosh Hodesh is then a day to start clean again.  It is an opportunity for new beginnings and fresh starts within the context of a continuing cycle of growth and renewal.

I would like to thank my family, the Rosh Hodesh women of Congregation Solel, and Marsha Cohn for their support, inspiration, and guidance toward finding richness of meaning in the Jewish calendar cycle and finding my poetic voice with which to express it. 

May each new month bring for you blessings
of life and peace,
of gladness and joy,
of liberation and comfort.

Judith Golden
Highland Park, IL
March 12, 2009
16 Adar 5769