NEW MOON, BLESSING OF THE:
The periodical reappearance of the moon, like the reappearance of everything that is a benefit to mankind, such as fruits in their respective seasons, should be recognized by praise and gratitude to the Creator. The benediction in this case is recited in the open air, while facing the moon, preferably in a congregation of not less than ten persons (Minyan). The benediction is of early origin, and is mentioned in the Baraita (Soferim xx. 1, 2; Sanh. 42a). The present text, with slight variations in the various rituals, is as follows:
"Praised be our God Almighty, King of the Universe, who created the heavens by His word and the stars by His command. He implanted in them fixed laws and times. . . . And He ordered the moon to renew itself, as a crown of beauty over those He sustained from childhood [Israel], and as a symbol that they, likewise, will be regenerated in the future, and will worship their Maker in His glorious kingdom. Praised be the Lord who reneweth the moon!"
According to the Baraita, the ceremony should be performed on Saturday night, when the celebrant is dressed in Sabbath attire and is in a joyous frame of mind. Later authorities, while preferring Saturday night, would not in any case postpone the performance after the 10th of the month, for fear that cloudy weather might intervene up to the 16th, when the time for saying the benediction would have expired, since the moon is then no longer considered new. Maimonides fixed the period from the 1st to the 16th of the month; but later authorities make it between the 3d and the 16th, because during the first three days the moon's light is not perceptible on the earth.Exceptions.
In the month of Ab the ceremony should not be observed till after the Fast of Ab, and in the month of Tishri, not before Yom Kippur night; neither should it take place on Friday night or on the eve of any festival (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 426, 2). The Baraita mentions also the former custom of expressing joyfulness by dancing and leaping toward the moon. In later times the custom has been to raise the body on the tips of the toes three times, addressing the moon with the ancient formula: "As I dance toward thee, but can not touch thee, so shall none of my evil-inclined enemies be able to touch me." Then those assembled greet one another with "Shalom 'alekem" (= "Peace be to you!") and "'Alekem shalom" (= "To you be peace"), and say: "Good luck to us and to all Israel!"
The phrase "Long live David, the King of Israel!" is a later interpolation. It was the password between Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi I. and Rabbi Ḥiyya, the latter of whom was sent on a mission to "sanctify" Rosh-Ḥodesh (= the New Moon; R. H. 25a). In connection with the ceremony it served to revive the hope in the Messiah, who was to be a descendant of David, and whose kingdom it was promised should "be established for ever as the moon" (Ps. lxxxix. 37). Baer in his "Seder 'Abodat Yisrael" (ed. Rödelheim, 1868, p. 338) assigns as the reason for adding the phrase the fact that David is credited with fixing the moon's cycle, 29 days, 12 hours, 793 (out of 1,080) parts ("ḥalaḳim") of an hour ("Cuzari," ii. 64, iv. 29). The author of "Sha'are Efrayim" thinks that it was inserted because the numerical value of is equal to that of ("New Moon"), i.e., 819. The recitation of Ps. lxvii., cxxi., cxlviii., and cl. became part of the ceremony in later times.
R. Johanan said: "One who recites the benediction of the moon at the proper time is like one who is received in audience by the Shekinah" (the revealed Divinity). Abaye holds that the ceremony "shall be performed standing" (Sanh. 42a). These quotations, perhaps originally intended as references, were subsequently injected into the ceremony.
The superstitious belief, held by some, that one who recites the benediction for the new moon will not die during that month, is probably based on the mutual greeting of "Shalom 'alekem." The custom of shaking out the corners of the garments is most likely intended to illustrate the turning away of evil-minded enemies, who will be powerless to touch the celebrant.
- Maimonides, Yad, Berakot, x. 16, 17;
- 'Arama, 'Aḳedat Yiẓḥaḳ, gate 38;
- Löwysohn, Meḳore Minhagim, § 40;
- Reifman, Pesher Dabar, pp. 25-36, Vienna, 1845;
- Ha-Maggid, vii., No. 47;
- Eisenstein, Code of Life, xvii. 7.