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Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Moon is Shrinking Again; That Means It's Almost Rosh Chodesh

A couple of days ago, the moon was a full round circle, shining brightly in the night sky, but now, night after night it's smaller.  In less than two weeks, we'll hardly see a sliver of crescent and that will signify the beginning of the next Jewish month, Tevet.
The lunar month on the Jewish calendar begins when the first sliver of moon becomes visible after the dark of the moon. In ancient times, the new months used to be determined by observation. When people observed the new moon, they would notify the Sanhedrin. When the Sanhedrin heard testimony from two independent, reliable eyewitnesses that the new moon occurred on a certain date, they would declare the rosh chodesh (first of the month) and send out messengers to tell people when the month began.
The problem with strictly lunar calendars is that there are approximately 12.4 lunar months in every solar year, so a 12-month lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than a solar year and a 13-month lunar is about 19 longer than a solar year. The months drift around the seasons on such a calendar: on a 12-month lunar calendar, the month of Nissan, which is supposed to occur in the Spring, would occur 11 days earlier in the season each year, eventually occurring in the Winter, the Fall, the Summer, and then the Spring again. On a 13-month lunar calendar, the same thing would happen in the other direction, and faster.
To compensate for this drift, the Jewish calendar uses a 12-month lunar calendar with an extra month occasionally added. The month of Nissan occurs 11 days earlier each year for two or three years, and then jumps forward 30 days, balancing out the drift. In ancient times, this month was added by observation: the Sanhedrin observed the conditions of the weather, the crops and the livestock, and if these were not sufficiently advanced to be considered "spring," then the Sanhedrin inserted an additional month into the calendar to make sure that Pesach (Passover) would occur in the spring (it is, after all, referred to in the Torah as Chag he-Aviv, the Festival of Spring!).

For the past few years, I've observed the custom of making Rosh Chodesh a special Women's Holiday.  I celebrate it by praying in Tel Shiloh.  Shiloh has been a well-known location for prayers, especially women's prayers, for thousands of years.  In the time of the Bible, the Mishkan, Holy Tabernacle was located there for almost four hundred years.  It was the precursor of the Beit HaMikdash, Holy Temple, which later was built in Jerusalem.  The Biblical story of the barren Chana, who after praying at the Shiloh Mishkan gave birth to Samuel the Prophet is very well known and revered by Christians as well as Jews.

A number of women from various communities join me every Rosh Chodesh.

Next month, Rosh Chodesh will be Tevet.

Women's Prayers at Tel Shiloh
Rosh Chodesh Tevet
Friday, December 14, 2012
1 Tevet 5773 8:30am
Tour of Tel & Dvar Torah, Short Torah Lesson

Please come and invite family, friends and neighbors

תפילת נשים
ראש חודש טבת בתל שילה

יום ו' 14-12 א' טבת תשע"ג 8:30
יהיה דבר תורה קצר וסיור בתל
נא לבוא, לפרסם ולהזמין חברות, משפחה ושכנות

Tel Shiloh, Shiloh HaKedumah is open for visitors every day except Shabbat. Call 02-994-4019.

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