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Birchat HaChodesh

 

May it be Your will, Adonai our God and God of our ancestors, that You bring this new month to us for goodness and for blessing. Grant us long lives, filled with peace, goodness, blessing, sustenance, and physical health; lives characterized by fear of heaven and fear of sin; lives free of embarrassment and shame; lives of wealth and honor; lives characterized by love of Torah and fear of heaven; lives in which our heartfelt requests will be fulfilled for good. Amen, Selah.


May the One Who performed miracles for our ancestors—redeeming them from slavery to freedom—redeem us speedily, and gather in our dispersed from the four corners of the earth, so that all Israel may be friends to one another. And let us say, Amen.


The new month of (month) will begin on (day of the week); may it come to us and to all Israel for good.


May the Holy One, blessed be God, renew it upon us and upon all of God’s people the House of Israel, for life and health, for joy and gladness, for salvation and consolation, and let us say, Amen.


From the days of their desert wanderings, the Israelites—like the Muslims after them—regulated their lives by a lunar calendar. Each year was composed of twelve lunar months, measuring 29½ days each, the time it takes the moon to complete a cycle (from new to full and back to new). In practical terms, months alternated between 29 and 30 days in duration. A lunar year was 354 days long.

 


From the time they settled in the land of Israel, however, our ancestors needed a solar calendar. They had become farmers rather than shepherds, and agriculture—plowing, planting, tending crops and harvesting them—is measured by the seasons of the solar year, measuring 365 days.


A compromise between the history and tradition on the one hand, and the need to make a living on the other, resulted in a lunar calendar with solar adjustments. Seven times in 19 years an extra month is added to the lunar calendar. Before the addition of that extra month—Second Adar—in leap years, holidays occur “early” in the solar year, whereas following the addition of the extra month, holidays occur “late.”


The Muslims never made a solar adjustment to their lunar calendar, so that their observance of Ramadan occurs eleven days earlier in each successive year, traveling “back” all the way through the solar year.


On the Shabbat prior to a new month, the above prayer is chanted just before the Torah scrolls are re-deposited into the Holy Ark. Chanted in a beautiful melody, with many cantorial embellishments, this prayer invokes God’s watchful care upon us during the month that is about to begin.


This prayer is not recited on the Shabbat prior to Tishre, because the first two days of Tishre mark the beginning not just of a new month but of a whole new year. On those days—Rosh Hashana—innumerable prayers will be offered for God’s blessings during the coming year, and so the above prayer would be redundant.

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