Rosh Chodesh: Marking Time with Friends

February 7, 2012Wendy Grinberg

Years ago, when I lived in Atlanta, my single girlfriends and I would get together for Rosh Chodesh celebrations. It was a wonderful time to get together, devote time to one another, acknowledge our spiritual and psychological growth and challenges, and just show each other some love and support.

This celebration of the new Jewish month was revived by Jewish women groups in the 1970s, based on the traditional association of women with Rosh Chodesh. We are commanded to celebrate the new moon in Exodus 12:2, right before the Israelites leave Egypt. A text in Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezar explains that women did not give their jewelry for the creation of the Golden Calf, and so were rewarded with the observance of Rosh Chodesh (Chapter 45).

The actual celebration is hardly mandated, so there is a lot of room for creativity in designing a ritual celebration. I used to consult with a few books, like Celebrating the New Moon by Susan Berrin; Miriam’s Well by Penina Adelman; and Moonbeams from Hadassah.

Here are a few of my own ideas about how you could start your own.

1. Invite your pals.

Ask around to see if you have a few friends who would be open to this sort of thing. Would they be able to make the time? What sort of support would they need? Find friends and friends of friends who would be willing to participate with an open mind and also feel comfortable contributing in some way (hosting, finding a reading, bringing some food).

2. Make a calendar.

Find out the dates of Rosh Chodesh (aside from Rosh Chodesh Tishrei, when we celebrate Rosh HaShanah) by checking a Jewish calendar. Bring a list of dates to your first (or second) meeting and ask people to sign up to host.

3. Come up with a basic framework.

To do so, consult a book or website, or just follow your intuiation. Ours went like this: 

  • Welcome and blessings (Shechecheyanu, “…for making me a woman”)
  • Candle lighting (each woman says her name in Hebrew, daughter of mother’s name)
  • Story or study for the month (this could include some thematic link to the holiday that month, a study of a famous Jewish woman, a poetic reading)
  • Marcia Falk’s Blessing for the New Month
  • Closing song
  • Food and fun activity

4. Give everyone a job.

The outline isn’t as important as looking for places to include people. Someone can buy or prepare the food. Someone can send out the Evite. Someone can research the month. Someone can host or find a place to host. If these jobs rotate, people will start to try out new roles and become invested in the group, and it won’t rely on the efforts of one person to continue.

When I asked my friends what they remembered about those celebrations, they each remembered something different: baking challah, planting flowers, laughing. Mostly they got sentimental about the time we spent together. We don’t often take the time in our day to day lives to create something special. It is worth it to give yourself some time to sit down with friends, remind each other what is important and what you have to be thankful for, and celebrate.

Wendy Grinberg, RJE, was, at the time of this writing, an adult learning specialist at the Union for Reform Judaism. She is now the lead researcher and innovating mind behind Jewish Education Lab.

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