Category: Jewish holidays
Rosh Chodesh or Rosh Hodesh (Hebrew: ראש חודש; trans. Beginning of the Month; lit. Head of the Month) is the name for the first day of every month in the Hebrew calendar, marked by the birth of a new moon. It is considered a minor holiday, akin to the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot.
The Book of Exodus establishes the beginning of the Hebrew calendar:
"And the LORD spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: 'This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.'" (12:1-2)
In the Book of Numbers, God speaks of the celebration of the new moon to Moses:
"And on your joyous occasions - your fixed festivals and new moon days - you shall sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being." (10:10)
In Psalm 81:3, both new and full moon are mentioned as a time of recognition by the Hebrews:
"Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day. For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the God of Jacob."
The occurrence of Rosh Chodesh was originally confirmed on the testimony of witnesses observing the new moon. After the Sanhedrin declared Rosh Chodesh for either a full month or a defective, 29-day month, news of it would then be communicated throughout Israel and the diaspora.
A custom was developed in which an additional day could be added to the month to ensure that certain holidays (such as Yom Kippur) did not fall on the days before or after Shabbat.
The Month of Iyar
Beginning of new Hebrew month of Iyar. Iyar (somtimes transliterated Iyyar) is the 2nd month of the Hebrew year. Corresponds to April or May on the Gregorian calendar.
Iyar is referred to as the month of radiance or budding, "ziv" in Hebrew. There are several reasons for this, and the more we look at the events that took place in this month, the more we will understand its unique power.
Although Iyar does not contain many “special days,” every single day of the month is included in the Sefirat HaOmer counting — the mitzvah to count each of the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. Sefirat HaOmer is a period of introspection and self-refinement, as we prepare ourselves to receive the Torah anew on Shavuot. Each day of Iyar represents another step in this spiritual journey toward Sinai.
Biblical Significance of Rosh Chodesh Iyar
The first Rosh Chodesh after the Exodus fell on Shabbat, and the Jewish People found themselves, after the great miracle of "Kriat Yam Suf," the Splitting of the Sea of Reeds, at Marah. That place was given its name, which means "bitter," by the fact that the water there was, in fact, quite bitter, and not drinkable.
The people, having exhausted their supply of water, turned to Moshe, and asked, "What shall we drink?" Seeing the legitimacy of their complaint, Moshe brought it, so to speak, to G-d’s attention. Whereupon, Hashem indicated to Moshe a certain tree, and told him to throw it into the water. This was very peculiar, because the tree itself was also bitter. However, once it entered the water, the waters turned sweeter than the best bottled water!
How is that possible, you ask? Bitter with bitter, yielding sweet? Two answers, of course, are possible. The first is that Hashem may have been working outside the realm of the Laws of Nature, and it was an "open miracle." Alternatively, having created them, the Creator was intimately familiar with the chemical make-up of both the tree and the water, and "knew," so to speak, that when this bitter ingredient reacted with the other bitter ingredient, the result would be sweet!
On the first of Iyar, in the second year after the Exodus, the first census of the Jewish People began, at the command of G-d. A unique feature of this census was that each member of the People of Israel knew and could trace his or her lineage back to the sons of Yaakov, some two hundred years earlier.
As a result of the census, each individual found his or her exact place in the tribe, and each tribe took its place in the four-fold formation of tribes. Each formation consisted of three tribes, and each had its own flag, reflecting the characteristics of its component tribes. The formations arrayed themselves around the Mishkan when they camped, and when the People moved through the desert, they marched in these formations as well, led by the pillar of cloud. A fantastic and formidable sight!
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