Greg Killian: A Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) - Welcoming the Shechinah

Article Index

Welcoming the Shechinah[27]

Since Kiddush Lavanah is considered to be an act of greeting the Shechinah, its blessing is distinguished from other blessings in the requirement that it be recited while standing, at a time of joy, while dressed in fine clothing, and in public, as if one were going out to greet a King.

The blessing for the new moon is generally recited on motzie Shabbat, before the tenth day of the month, or on the first day that the new moon is visible, in fulfillment of the principle that the diligent fulfill mitzvot at the first possible opportunity. During the winter, it is not advisable to wait for motzie Shabbat for fear of clouds.

In the month of Sivan, Kiddush Lavanah is recited on motzie Shabbat so as to combine the blessing with the joy of the festival.

Even if one recites the blessing during the week, rather than on motzie Shabbat, it is appropriate that he wear fine clothing in honor of this mitzva and that he purify his spirit and his heart before the act of welcoming the Shechinah.

During the month of Av, because of the spirit of mourning that prevails, Kiddush Lavanah is not said before the ninth of the month. The custom is to recite it after the end of the fast on the ninth of Av, but to eat something first. Similarly, because of our preoccupation with the anguish of our sins before they are forgiven, during Tishri, Kiddush Lavanah is not recited before Yom HaKippurim. Rather, we wait until the end of the fast and recite Kiddush Lavanah when we leave the synagogue and prior to eating. Among Sephardic communities, the custom is to recite Kiddush Lavanah before Yom HaKippurim so that one may have an additional source of merit prior to his judgment.

In accord with the view of the Vilna Gaon, it is customary in many Jerusalem synagogues not to wait for after Tisha B’Av or after Yom HaKippurim before reciting Kiddush Lavanah but to abide by the principle that the diligent fulfill mitzvot at the earliest opportunity.

Those who are especially careful in fulfilling the mitzvot make every effort to recite Kiddush Lavanah with a minyan, in fulfillment of the verse:

Mishlei (Proverbs) 14:28 The King’s glory is in the multitudes.

When reciting Kiddush Lavanah, one should not stand under a roof; nor should it be said while one is looking through a window or an open door. Rather one should go outside, as one would do were he greeting a king. However, if one finds it difficult to leave his home, the blessing may be recited inside, provided that the door or window through which he can see the moon is open and that there is nothing intervening between his eyes and the moon. If the glass of the window is clean and he can see through it clearly, one may recite the blessing without opening the window if he cannot open it because of the cold, etc.

Kiddush Lavanah is not recited before three full days and nights have passed from the time of the molad, the appearance of the new moon. Some authorities say, until seven full days and nights have passed. It may be recited until one half of the moon has passed; i.e., until the point that is halfway between the molad of that month and the molad of the coming month, since up to then the moon is in the process of renewal and achieving fullness. After half of the month has passed, the moon begins to diminish and Kiddush Lavanah may not be said.

Although Kiddush Lavanah is not recited on Shabbat, i.e. Friday night, or on festival nights, if it will be impossible to recite it on the next night, e.g. if Shabbat or the festival is the last night of the month on which one can recite it, it may be said.

Women do not recite Kiddush Lavanah.

When reciting the blessing, one should first look up at the moon so as to see it at the time of the blessing, but should not look at it while reciting the entire service, for we pray not to the moon but to the He Who created it. When reciting the blessing, one should stand in a manner befitting the service.

Among some communities, it is customary to sing and dance after Kiddush Lavanah.

The Psalm for Rosh Chodesh

Rosh Chodesh is a monthly festival, as is of course witnessed in the cycle of the moon. Renewal can be seen as starting over after a series of failings. Renewal can also be seen as a beginning at a new stage after the completion of a prior stage. In the psalm of Rosh Chodesh, Tehillim 104, we find a description of the functioning of the world. Every piece of creation has been set in its place. The water, land, and trees have all been set firmly. Animal life has been set into motion. Man again functions in his created role. This can be viewed as a renewal of creation as it was meant to be when the first Shabbat settled upon the earth. Hence it is renewal: we find that it refers not merely to the original creation, but to a future creation when sins will be wiped off the earth, and evil doers will be no more. This “back to the future” experience is the goal of Rosh Chodesh. This is a renewed world, a messianic view of the already existing world.

Tehillim (Psalms) 104:1-35 Praise HaShem, O my soul. HaShem my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent And lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; They flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth. He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate--bringing forth food from the earth: Wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. The trees of HaShem are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees. The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys. The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening. How many are your works, HaShem! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number--living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. May the glory of HaShem endure forever; may HaShem rejoice in his works-- He who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. I will sing to HaShem all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in HaShem. But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise HaShem, O my soul. Praise HaShem.

What blessing can't you say when you're on the moon?

Answer: Kiddush Lavanah, the blessing on seeing the New Moon. (In Sephardic communities it is called “Birchat Ha-Lavanah”, The blessing of the moon.)

The blessing said when sighting the New Moon can be recited only at night when you can benefit from the moon's light. Even at night, if it's cloudy and you see only a vague image of the moon you don't say the blessing, since you don't benefit from its rays. So too, if you were actually standing on the moon you wouldn't be able to say the blessing of Kiddush Lavanah, because you wouldn't be deriving benefit from the moon's rays![28]

* * *