Rosh Chodesh in Midrash and Chassidus

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The holiday of Rosh Chodesh in scripture:
The commemoration of Rosh Chodesh as a joyful day is brought in scripture in the verse[1] “Ubeyom Simchaschem Ubemoadeichem Ubiroshei Chodsheichem”. This verse lists the day of Rosh Chodesh together with Shabbos and Yom Tov, which gives implication to its holiday status. We likewise find that Yehonason discussed with David whether he would be present by the Rosh Chodesh feast taking place in the house of Shaul.[2] Rashi explains that it was customary for Dovid to participate in the Holiday meals. From here we see that Rosh Chodesh was considered a Holiday. In various other areas of scripture, we likewise find reference to the Holiday of Rosh Chodesh.[3] The above verses however do not prove that the Holiday of Rosh Chodesh has the Halachic status of a Moed, as do the other Holidays. The Talmud[4] however concludes that Rosh Chodesh is considered a Moed, as the verse[5] states “Vekara Alaiy Moed” and this verse is going on Rosh Chodesh Tamuz. For this reason, the sacrifices of Rosh Chodesh receive laws similar to the laws of the sacrifices of the other holidays, such as its ability to be offered even in impurity.[6]

Is Rosh Chodesh of Biblical or Rabbinical status?[7]
Some Poskim[8] rule the Holiday of Rosh Chodesh is of Biblical status. Other Poskim[9] rule it is only of Rabbinical status.

Rosh Chodesh includes all the days of the month:[10]
The day of Rosh Chodesh includes all the days of that month, similar to that Rosh Hashanah includes all the days of the year. This means to say that just as on Rosh Hashanah the Divine light which supplies blessing for the entire year is drawn down, similarly on Rosh Chodesh, the Divine light that supplies blessing for the entire month is drawn down. It is for this reason that Rosh Chodesh is called “Rosh” which means the head and not simply “Hatchala” which means the start, as just as the head includes all the life-force of the body, similarly Rosh Chodesh incorporates all of the Divine vitality of the days of that month.

The Divine light received on Rosh Chodesh versus Shabbos and the weekday:[11]
Although Rosh Chodesh is not forbidden in Melacha, nevertheless it is also not considered by the verse one of the six days of work. We find this regarding the gates of the Heichal, in which during the six weekdays the gates were closed while on Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh the gates were open. This represents a special Divine light that Rosh Chodesh receives in contrast to the weekdays. During the week the ray of Chochmah must pass through the Middos in order to reach its destination in Malchus. However on Rosh Chodesh the ray of Chochmah travels directly to Malchus without any mediums in between. Shabbos however is of even a higher level, as on Shabbos the level of Malchus is elevated to Chochmah, and does not need to receive from it.

The level of world which Rosh Chodesh corresponds:[12]
The regular weekday corresponds to the world of Assiyah, the world of action. Rosh Chodesh corresponds to the world of Yetzira or Beriya. Shabbos corresponds to the world of Atzilus.

Extra soul:[13]
One is required to honor and respect Rosh Chodesh [with a festive meal] just as one would be required to do so for any Holiday, as on Rosh Chodesh there is an extra radiance of the soul. The Zohar[14] states that on this day the Jew has an extra soul just like on Shabbos.

No Gehinnom:[15]
On Rosh Chodesh the fire of Gehinnom is extinguished similar to Shabbos. In this aspect the day of Rosh Chodesh is even higher than Yom Tov, as on Yom Tov the fire of Gehinnom remains. The reason for this is because both Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh were given to the Jewish people from the beginning of creation, while the Holidays were given as a result of the miracles.

Auspicious time for Bittul:[16]
Rosh Chodesh is an auspicious time for each and every Jew to reveal the power of Bittul that he has in his soul.

Revelation of spark of Moshiach:[17]
On Rosh Chodesh the spark of Moshiach that is found in every individual is revealed. This is the spark of the general Yechida. 

Rosh Chodesh is a medium between Shabbos and the weekday:[18]
The weekday follows the natural order of the world while Shabbos follows the above order of above nature. During the week one is commanded to work while on Shabbos one is commanded not to work. Rosh Chodesh is the day that serves as a medium between Shabbos and weekday, as on Rosh Chodesh one is not commanded to work and is likewise not commanded not to work. Work is rather optional. This represents an elevation of the nature itself which serves as the stepping stool for the level of above nature represented in Shabbos. 

The Divine radiance of the twelve months:[19]
As we know, there are twelve months in the lunar calendar. In each month there is a different Divine light that shines. The twelve months correspond to the twelve combinations of the Tetragrammaton, the name of Havayah. Each month a different combination of the Divine name shines.

Why we say Hallel specifically on Rosh Chodesh:[20]
The saying of Hallel is not just mere lip service but actually affects the world’s reception of Divine light. The prayer of Hallel is meant to draw down levels of above nature into the natural order of the world. Now, the weekday is meant to follow the natural order of the world and therefore is not fit for the recital of Hallel which represents miracle and above nature. Therefore, not only do we not recite Hallel during the week, but it is even forbidden according to Halacha. On Shabbos Hallel is likewise not recited being that Shabbos follows the order of above nature, and hence has no need for the above nature effects of Hallel. Rosh Chodesh however is a day in which work is optional, and thus, although it does not follow the natural order of the world which requires one to work, it is also not on the level of Shabbos. It is on this day that we say Hallel to draw down the light of above nature into the nature.

The connection between Rosh Chodesh and the Jewish people:
Raban Gamliel stated:[21] Just as the new moon is sanctified and renewed in our times, so too the Jewish people will be sanctified and renewed in the future.
Receive Bittul like the moon:[22] The Jewish people are compared to the moon. This is because of the attribute of Bittul witnessed in the moon. The moon has no light of its own, and all of its light is received from the sun. As the moon rotates and becomes closer to the sun, it loses more and more of its light until it becomes completely invisible. This is similar to the Jewish people, who are completely nullified to Hashem, and all of their learning and Mitzvos have no sense of self but rather contain a complete nullification to the Or Ein Sof. The closer one becomes to Hashem, the more Bittul one has.
Feeling the distance reveals the love:[23] The Jewish people are compared to the moon, as just like the moon shines specifically at a distance from the sun, similarly the Jewish people, when they contemplate the distance from Hashem that has been caused by sin, their inner love and yearning to attach to Hashem begins to shine.

The connection between Matan Torah and Rosh Chodesh:[24]
The verse states, “And on the third month of the Jewish people leaving Mitzrayim, on this day they came to Midbar Sinai.” What does “this day” refer to? Chazal derived from juxtaposition [Hekesh] of the word “Hazeh/This” that it refers to Rosh Chodesh, because where the commandment of Rosh Chodesh is written, it also says the word “Hazeh/This”. The question, however, arises as to why the verse doesn’t simply explicitly state that the day when we arrived was Rosh Chodesh? Why use hidden terms that require juxtapositions in order to reveal their true intent? The explanation is as follows: The juxtaposition of the verses is coming to reveal a deeper connection between the event of Matan Torah and the day of Rosh Chodesh. As explained above, the new moon contains the attribute of Bittul. Matan Torah likewise represents the aspect of Bittul. The power that we received at Matan Torah was to have Bittul to the point that the Torah we learn reveals what was said at Sinai. When one learns Torah for the proper motives, and feels nullified to Hashem through this learning, he causes that there will be no interference between the physical Torah and its spiritual root. When this occurs, the words of Torah that one is reciting are actually the words of G-d that were stated on Har Sinai. The person becomes nullified to G-d to the point that he is simply repeating after the words of Hashem, “Onah Achar Hakoreh”, as the verse states, “Taan Leshoni Imrasecha”, that my tongue repeats Your words. The renewal of the moon on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, which occurred when we arrived at Har Sinai, represents the radiance of the Or Ein Sof to the Jewish people, in preparation for receiving their full Bittul at the time of Matan Torah.

How the moon became small:
The Talmud[25] tells over a fascinating story regarding the moon’s size and how it came about: Rebbe Shimon Ben Pazi asked a query: At first the verse[26] states that Hashem made “Large luminaries” while later the same verse states that Hashem made a large luminary and a small luminary. Rebbe Shimon then explained: At first the sun and the moon were of equal size, each one being an equal luminary to the other. The moon approached Hashem and complained: Is it possible for two kings to use one crown? Hashem replied to the moon: Go diminish yourself. The moon replied: Just because I brought a proper complaint therefore I should diminish myself? Hashem said to the moon: Go rule by both night and day. The moon replied: What benefit is there for me to shine during the day, my light will be unnoticeable similar to the light of a torch in broad daylight. Hashem said to the moon: Go and the Jewish people will count their days and years based on you. The moon replied: How can that be! It is a necessity to count the years also based on the sun, as the verse states “They will be for signs, for holidays, for days and for years.” Hashem had enough with the moon’s replies and said: Go, I will call the Tzaddikim by your name, Yaakov the small, Shmuel the small, David the small. Hashem saw that the moon was not satisfied and therefore said [to the Jewish people “go bring an atonement on my behalf for diminishing the size of the moon.”    

The Sair sacrifice atoning for Hashem:[27]
Rebbe Shimon Ben Lakish said: Why is the goat offering of Rosh Chodesh different than all the other offerings in that it says by it “Sair Lahashem/A goat for Hashem?” The answer is that in this verse Hashem is saying to the Jewish people to bring a Sair on His behalf, as atonement for the fact that he diminished the size of the moon.

The effects of the diminished moon:[28]
Prior to the moon being diminished by Hashem, it was of the same size as the sun and retained its own light. Likewise, its orbit was similar to that of the sun, and hence its yearly cycle followed the same length as that of the sun. After the moon was diminished it also lost its source of light and likewise began running a faster cycle than that of the sun. This created the ability to sanctify the moon and created the necessity to add an extra month in a leap year in order to parallel the yearly cycle of the moon to that of the sun.

The moon in the future:[29]
In the future, when Moshiach comes, the moon will once again be reinstated to its former size and power of light, as the verse[30] states “Vehaya Or Helvana Keor Hachama/The light of the moon will become like the light of the sun.” Accordingly, in the future, the concept of sanctifying the new moon will no longer be relevant, as it will be alit throughout the month. Perhaps however this will only occur in the times of the resurrection, while in the times of Moshiach until the resurrection the light of the moon will remain dependent on the sun, and hence require the sanctification of the new moon.

The entries of the Heichal:[31]
Rebbe Yehuda stated: On Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh the Jewish people would stand and see the doors [of the Heichal] open [miraculously] on their own. Based on the opening of the doors they would know that the new moon has arrived. This was a sign that the Shechina dwelled on the Jewish people.

Visiting the Beis Hamikdash on Rosh Chodesh:
The prophet states:[32] Every Shabbos and every Rosh Chodesh the nation will come to bow before Hashem. The Midrash[33] states that the Jewish people beseeched Hashem during exile as to when they will once again merit visiting Him during the Shalosh Regalim. Hashem replied: My child, in this world [before the final redemption] you would only visit Me three times a year, however when your redemption will come you will merit visiting me every month.

How will all the Jewish people manage to travel to Yerushalayim every Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh?[34]
Rebbe Levi stated: Yerushalayim will spread out to the entire Eretz Yisrael. On Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh the clouds will come and carry all the people to Yerushalayim and they will Daven there in the morning. The clouds will then return them home after Davening. Alternatively, the clouds will carry them to Yerushalayim on Erev Shabbos.[35]


[1] Bamidbar 10:1-2, 10

[2] Shmuel 1 20/18

[3] See Melachim 2/4, 22-23; Divrei Hayamim 2/31; Moadim Behalacha [Zevin] p. 134

[4] Shavuos 10a; Pesachim 77; Taanis 29

[5] Eicha 1

[6] Mishneh Pesachim 76b

[7] See Michaber 418/4 and 570/1; M”A 418/1; Biur Halacha 418 “Rosh Chodesh Assur”; Kaf Hachaim 418/13

[8] Implication of Rambam, brought in Michaber and Poskim ibid regarding fasts

[9] Michaber ibid

[10] Sichas Chayeh Sara Mevarchim Hachodesh Kisleiv 1951; Vayeshev Mevarchim Hachodesh Teves 1951; See Mamar “Lehavin Inyan Erev Rosh Chodesh” said on Parshas Toldos 5714

[11] Likkutei Torah Vezos Haberacha 96; See also Derech Mitzvosecha Mitzvas Kiddush Hachodesh

[12] Or Hatorah Bereishis 22a; Sichas Chayeh Sara Mevarchim Hachodesh Kisleiv 1951

[13] Or Tzaddikim 31/1; Machazik Bracha 419/1; Kaf Hachaim 419/5

[14] See Zohar 81b; Tikkunei Zohar 421

[15] Mordechai Pesachim 166 in name of Pesikta; Birkeiy Yosef 419

[16] Sefer Hamamarim Melukat 4/260

[17] Sefer Hasichos 1992 1/123

[18] Sichas Chayeh Sara, Mevarchim Hachodesh Kisleiv 1951

[19] Pardes Peratei Hasheimos 15/16; Torah Or Shemos 1st Mamar; Or Hatorah Bamidbar 4 Pinchas 1116

[20] Sichas Chayeh Sara, Mevarchim Hachodesh Kisleiv 1951

[21] Pirkei Derebbe Eliezer 51

[22] Torah Or Yisro Mamar “Ubechodesh Hashlishi”

[23] Likkutei Torah p. 41a

[24] Torah Or Yisro Mamar “Ubechodesh Hashlishi”

[25] Chulin 60b

[26] Bereishis 1/16

[27] Shavuos 9a; Chulin 60b; Pirkei Derebbe Eliezer 51

[28] Toras Menachem 1984 3/1528

[29] Toras Menachem 1984 3/1528

[30] Yeshaya 30/26

[31] Pirkei Derebbe Eliezer 51

[32] Yeshaya end; Yechezkal 46/3

[33] Yalkut Shimoni end of Yeshaya

[34] Yalkut Shimoni Yeshaya 503; Tehillim 741; Rokeiach 229; Pesikta Raba

[35] See Mamar “Vehaya Midei Chodesh” 1977

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