THE FEMININE IMPORTANCE OF ROSH CHODESH, THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE NEW MONTH, GOES BACK TO THE GOLDEN CALF, WHEN THE WOMEN DECLINED TO GIVE THEIR JEWELRY TO MAKE THE IDOL, SHOWING CONVICTION AND FAITH IN G-D. AS A REWARD, WOMEN WERE GIVEN ROSH CHODESH AS A DAY IN WHICH THEIR OBSERVANCE SURPASSES THAT OF MEN.
By Rabbi Ariel Yeshurun
Rabbi Yaakov Baal HaTurim, a medieval Jewish scholar, explains (Tur, Orach Chaim 417) the special connection between women and Rosh Chodesh. He writes that this dates way back to the episode of the Golden Calf, when the women declined to participate in the “fundraising” effort and refused to surrender their jewelry for use in making the idol. As a reward, they were given Rosh Chodesh as a day which they observe more than the men. Although both the Jewish men and women had spent more than two centuries in idolatry-steeped Egypt, a fact that explains the vulnerability of the men, the women remained resolute and determined. They were unrelenting in their faith and considered the idea of making an idol totally unthinkable.
Judaism is based on this strong pillar of Emunah: faith and conviction; and though at times our belief can become “fuzzy,” it is women who, in every situation, remain steadfast and pass it on to their children—the future generations, as the rabbis declare in the Talmud Tractate Sota 11b: “…in the merit of righteous women…Israel was redeemed from Egypt.” It was the women who never despaired of G-d’s redemption. In fact, while the men had lost heart and were dejected, having no desire to procreate, not wanting to subject their children to the hardships of slavery, the women were upbeat, confident that a better day was soon to come, so they continued to give birth and raised a generation of children who witnessed G-d’s miraculous salvation.
After the sea split, both the men and the women sang songs of praise to G-d. From the Torah’s description of the episode it is clear, however, that only the women’s song was accompanied by musical instruments. Why? Rashi (Exodus 15:20) in the name of the Midrash explains that the women, while still in Egypt, were so confident and had so much Emunah that they would be redeemed, that they prepared tambourines for the day when they would sing a song of thanks for their redemption!
According to the great mystic Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the Arizal, the souls of the final generation before Mashiach are reincarnations of the souls of the generation of the Exodus. Just as then it was in the merit of the women’s faith that the Israelites were redeemed, so too it will be in the merit of the righteous women of our generation, and their unwavering belief in the Redemption, that we will be redeemed once again.
Perhaps this provides another explanation to the unique connection women have with Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh celebrates the monthly renewal of the moon, after it wanes to the point of disappearance. Thus Rosh Chodesh celebrates the concept of perpetuity—notwithstanding life’s ups and downs, highs and lows, peaks and plunges. And it is the woman who—through her unyielding, unwavering and uncompromising Faith—ensures our nation’s survival; it is she who guarantees that no matter how much we wane, we will always be renewed, rejuvenated and revitalized!