This is the time of year where many of my friends are contemplating the trajectory of their lives, reviewing what worked and what didn’t in the past year, making goals or resolutions for the future, and sharing ways to make those goals stick. I love introspection and personal growth, and while it’s not always easy to be honest with myself about what needs to change (understatement much?), it’s such satisfying work when done.
But since the Jewish New Year, also a time of major introspection and growth, usually occurs sometime in September, I experience a little disconnect as the general public goes through this process three months after I have.
Don’t worry about me, though. The Jewish calendar gives me a chance to reflect and resolve every single month.
Each month brings with it the chance for a fresh start, an opportunity to connect with my goals and see what progress has been made, or what course changes would be helpful. It’s called Rosh Chodesh, the head of the month, and it’s a little mini-holiday at the beginning of every month.
On this festive day, it’s customary to wear slightly nicer clothing, have a nicer than average meal and, if you’re a woman, abstain from chores like laundry (can I just say that I love that aspect?).
Rosh Chodesh is determined by the cycle of the moon (the Jewish calendar being lunisolar - a combination of lunar and solar), and we can learn a few things from this minor holiday and its relationship with the moon.
The etymology of Chodesh is related to the Hebrew word “chadash,” which means new, change, and different. You’re probably familiar with the expression “the only thing that is constant is change.” I have certainly noticed that truth in my life, despite my occasional attempts to cling to constancy.
Within the name and the stature of Rosh Chodesh, we are reminded that not only is change inevitable, it is actually desirable. To remain at the same level one’s whole life would be considered tragic. What 40-year-old would want to have the same emotional or spiritual outlook as as a teenager (no offense to any teenagers reading this)? With the passage of time, we have a multitude of experiences, and thus, many opportunities to learn and grow.
This value is reflected in the Torah’s synonymous use of the word “zakein,” which means both old and wise. From this we see that we are expected to gain wisdom from our time here on earth, and from all the changes we face in our lives. Change is potential, something to be embraced and not feared.
The moon is an appropriate choice as a designating body, as it is constantly changing before our eyes. This waxing and waning gently reminds me that just as there are times when things don’t ever seem to work out, and frustration reigns supreme, there will also be times when things go more smoothly, and successes abound.
So when I’m in the middle of a difficult spell, maybe feeling down about it, I can look up in the night sky and see this symbol of the promise of change. And each month, I can tap into the spiritual energy of Rosh Chodesh, and celebrate the opportunities that change brings to my life.
Rivki Silver is an Orthodox Jew, coming to this religious practice later in life, after earning a not-so-practical degree in music performance. She has written on Jewish topics for various online publications, including the Jerusalem Life and Partners in Torah. More of her writing can be found on Aish.com, Kveller.com, WhattoExpect.com, and at her blog Life in the Married Lane. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Mostly, though, she can be found in Baltimore, with her husband and three small children, enjoying the hectic state of being that is marriage and motherhood, and occasionally performing music.