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Welcoming Rosh Chodesh with Women of the Wall

Welcoming Rosh Chodesh with Women of the Wall

"Wondrous God, in ancient days You led our people from bondage to freedom; redeem us now out of our exile from one another, making all Israel one united people!" -From the liturgy for Rosh Chodesh 
Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the beginning of the Hebrew month of Nisan. Rosh Chodesh, which literally means "head of the month," is the holiday that marks the beginning of each month in the Jewish calendar. 
Many communities meet to pray and celebrate Rosh Chodesh together each month. One such group is the Women of the Wall, a progressive prayer group that meets at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem. You may have been following our coverage of the recent events surrounding the Women of the Wall. In late 2009 Nofrat Frenkel was arrested for wearing a prayer shawl, or tallit, while praying at the Wall, and in January 2010, Anat Hoffman, who serves as director of the Israel Religious Action Center and leader of Women of the Wall, was interrogated and fingerprinted due to the actions of this group. 
Below the jump, you can find more information on the Jewish rituals associated with Rosh Chodesh, prayer resources to hold your own Rosh Chodesh service, and ways that you can get involved in supporting the Women of the Wall. If you're on Twitter, follow @womenofthewall and #kotelwomen tomorrow to track their t'filot in Jerusalem! 
Are you holding your own Rosh Chodesh Nisan event in solidarity with Women of the Wall? If so, email a description and photos to me and!

Each Jewish month begins at the time of the new moon. In ancient times, after the new moon was sighted, someone would go to the top of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem with a long pole of wood. He would set the end of his pole on fire and wave it around until he could see someone on another hilltop waving his own pole. The second person waved his pole until he could see a third person waving, and so on until the message reached Babylonia. 

In contemporary practice, Rosh Chodesh celebrations begin the Shabbat before the new month, with the recitation of birkat ha-chodesh at the conclusion of the Torah reading. Birkat ha-chodesh is a special prayer that articulates our hopes for the month to come, from peace and prosperity to success in business, good health, and piety. The prayer includes an announcement of the day or days on which Rosh Chodesh will fall, and the name of the month that is about to start. During t'filot on the actual first day of the new month, a special prayer, ya'leh v'yavo, is inserted into the Amidah. Hallel, pslams of praise, are also recited during a Rosh Chodesh service. 
The month of Nisan is characterized by the holiday of Passover, which is deeply associated with the ideal of freedom. When we join together in announcing, blessing, and celebrating each new month, we stand with the Women of the Wall and all those working for religious freedom and civil equality in Israel. Religious pluralism is at risk in Israel, and the Reform Movement has taken a central role in speaking out in support of the Women of the Wall. Our message is clear: The Kotel belongs not just to one individual, group, or denomination but to all Jews. 
From this month to the next, you can take a stand. It's not too late to hold a short service for Rosh Chodesh Nisan, or to plan an event for the next Jewish month, Iyyar, which will begin on April 14. For resources, educational programming, and ways you can get involved, visit regularly, or contact me by email or 202.387.2800.

Published: 3/15/2010

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