Why is Rosh Chodesh special for women?
Rosh Chodesh means "head of the month." The month begins with the appearance of the new moon, thus we call the day Rosh Chodesh. According to an ancient tradition, the holiday was a reward given to the women of Israel because they refused to surrender their jewelry for the creation of the golden calf (Exodus 32). Because of their righteousness, the women were exonerated from working on Rosh Chodesh.
While this does not mean that Rosh Chodesh is a "women's holiday," any more than the other festivals are "men's holidays," Rosh Chodesh has taken on a special resonance with Jewish women. Indeed, Rosh Chodesh stands as a reminder to all Jews of the rhythm of the Jewish calendar. Many Jewish women and synagogues have chosen to revive the ancient tradition, to interpret and to observe Rosh Chodesh as a day that bears a particular significance for them.
As early as the 1970s, Jewish women have been marking Rosh Chodesh as a time for prayer and study. Women and congregations have formed Rosh Chodesh groups, meeting monthly to observe the new moon, joining in song and prayer. Some of these groups have focused on healing liturgies while others have focused on the study of Torah. Others have focused on liturgies written by women or that speak to women’s experiences. Many groups have been meeting regularly for years and have become a great source of spirituality and strength for their members.
Further reading: Celebrating an Historic Rosh Chodesh with Women of the Wall; The Binding: A Prayer for Rosh Chodesh and Women of the Wall; Rosh Chodesh: A Monthly Ritual; Rosh Chodesh: My “Girl” Gathering