In honor of Rosh Chodesh Tevet, the first of the Hebrew month of Tevet, read all about Rosh Chodesh and its special significance as a women’s holiday.
Rosh Chodesh, meaning “Head of the Month” in Hebrew, is a minor Jewish festival observing the start of a new month in the Hebrew calendar. It’s also a holiday commonly associated with women, with special customs and celebrations to honor women’s unique roles in Judaism.
Origins of Rosh Chodesh
The Hebrew Bible establishes the practice of distinguishing Hebrew months with a new moon, as well as the idea of doing something to proclaim and celebrate the arrival of a new moon, such as the blowing of a shofar.
While in ancient times a new moon would have to be confirmed by witnesses and announced by a Sanhedrin (a tribunal of elders), today we have a fixed calendar using scientific calculations for the appearance of a new moon in Jerusalem.
The idea of Rosh Chodesh as having a unique women’s connection first appears in the Talmud, which bans women from performing physical labor on this day.
Later Torah commentators from the early Medieval period give an explanation: They noted that women appear to have not participated in the incident of the Golden Calf, when the Israelites grew agitated with Moses and created an idol to worship instead of God. Commonly accepted interpretations state that women were opposed to this act, and were therefore rewarded by God for their piety with the holiday of Rosh Chodesh, both with unique restrictions that don’t apply to men as well as the reward of a special spiritual rejuvenation on this day.
Learn about another special Jewish ritual in honor of women, Eshet Chayil or the Woman of Valor hymn, along with the best Israeli-made gifts incorporating these beautiful Biblical verses.
Many women have traditionally abstained from household chores or other physical labors on this day, in line with the Talmudic prohibition. It is also common to have a celebratory meal with one’s family, including wine and meat.
In modern times, a practice has arisen in some Jewish communities of women gathering together on Rosh Chodesh to pray, meditate, share a meal, or discuss women’s issues.
Some religious women organize and participate in women’s-only prayer services, including religious practices that perhaps they would not be allowed to engage in otherwise in their traditional communities, such as wearing a tallit and reading from the Torah.
It is also not uncommon to honor one’s wife, mother, mother-in-law, or other special woman with a bouquet of flowers or other gift on Rosh Chodesh.
So take a moment this Rosh Chodesh to honor the special Jewish women in your life, or if you’re a woman yourself, reflect on your spirituality or celebrate with your friends!