By: Kaufmann Kohler
The period of New Moon was, in pre-exilic times, celebrated by cessation of labor; it was superior even to the Sabbath-day, which formed but a part of it (see I Sam. xx. 18-34; II Kings iv. 23; Amos viii. 5; Hos. ii. 13 [A. V. 11]; Ezek. xlvi. 3); but it lost its importance during the Exile (see Sabbath) and was observed mainly as the determining factor of the calendar with its festivals. In the latter period only the women—who in pagan times were especially attached to the "queen of heaven" (Jer. xliv. 15-19)—refrained from work on New Moon, the reason given being that they were privileged to celebrate it because they had not been as willing to worship the golden calf as the men (Yer. Pes. iv. 30d; Pirḳe R. El. xlv.; Ṭur, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 917); the men were allowed to work (Ḥag. 18a; 'Ar. 10b). In the Temple, New Moon was celebrated by special sacrifices (Num. xxviii. 11-15; II Chron. ii. 4, viii. 13; Ezra iii. 5; Neh. x. 33) and by the blowing of the trumpet (Num. x. 10). Of the greatest significance, however, was the proclamation of New Moon ("Ḳiddush ha-Ḥodesh") by the president of the Sanhedrin (R. H. ii. 7)—originally, of course, by the high priest—just as in Rome the Pontifex Maximus fixed New Moon by proclamation (whence the name Calendar). The Sanhedrin was assembled in the courtyard ("bet ya'azek") of Jerusalem on the 30th of each month from morning to evening, waiting for the reports of those appointed to observe the new moon; and after the examination of these reports the president of the Sanhedrin, in the presence of at least three members, called out: "The New Moon is consecrated"; whereupon the whole assembly of people twice repeated the words: "It is consecrated" (R. H. ii. 5-7; Sanh. 102). The blowing of the shofar at the time of the proclamation of New Moon was practised also in the Babylonian schools (Sanh. 41b). The proclamation of New Moon was retained in the liturgy, but was transferred to the Sabbath preceding. The following is the formula:
The Reader (probably at first the most prominent man of the community): "He who wrought miracles for our fathers and redeemed them from slavery unto freedom, may He speedily redeem us and gather our dispersed ones from the four corners of the earth. So let us say, Amen!
"[Hear ye] All Israel ["ḥaberim"="members of the ḥaburah"]: The New Moon shall be on the . . . day of the coming week! May it come to us and all Israel for good!"
The Congregation: "May the Holy One, blessed be He! renew unto us and unto all His people the House of Israel for life and peace, for gladness and joy, for [Messianic] salvation and consolation! So let us say, Amen!"
In Sephardic congregations the prayer "Yehi Raẓon" is recited, of which one paragraph reads:
"May it be the will of our Father in heaven that good tidingsof [Messianic] salvation and consolation be heard and received by us, that He may gather our dispersed ones from the four corners of the earth. So let us say, Amen!"
The relation of New Moon to the redemption of Israel was expressed also in the benediction recited by the members of the "ḥaburah" at the New Moon banquet, and preserved in a late corrupt version in Masseket Soferim, xix. 9, from which the benediction at the sight of the new moon (see New Moon, Blessing of the) was probably derived at a later time (see Müller, "Masechet Soferim," 1878, p. 272). It reads as follows:
"Be blessed, O Lord, O God, King of the Universe, who hast brought up the teachers in the circle of the school and taught them the knowledge of the seasons. As Thou hast appointed the time for the circuit of the moon, so hast Thou also selected the wise who are skilled in the counting and fixing of the seasons, as it is said: 'He appointed the moon for seasons' [Ps. civ. 19]. For 'as the new heaven and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.' Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who reneweth Israel and the moon."
This is followed by Ps. cvi. and cvii., and II Chron. xx.-xxi.; at the close occurs a special prayer for the coming of Elijah and of the Messiah. Then comes the proclamation: "The New Moon be consecrated!" which is repeated in many strains by the ḥaberim.
Occasionally the messengers who announced the proclamation of New Moon to the Jews of the various lands were given mysterious watchwords alluding to the Messianic hope. Such was the one given by Judah ha-Nasi (R. H. 25a; see Apostle; New Moon, Blessing of the). The waxing and waning of the moon reminded the sages of Israel's renewal (Pirḳe R. El. li.), especially with reference to the prophecy that in the future the "light of the moon will be like the light of the sun" (Isa. xxx. 26), as well as of the Messiah, who for certain times is concealed and then again revealed (see Messiah). This view casts light also on the benediction prescribed at the sight of the new moon.
- Beer, 'Abodat Yisrael, 1868, pp. 232, 337-339;
- Brück, Rabbinische Ceremonial-Gebräuche, 1837, pp. 33-40.