Make It Yours: Rosh Hodesh Group Guide
Rosh Hodesh, literally translated as “the head of the month,” is the celebration of each new month of the Hebrew calendar.
At the time of the sin of the building of the Golden Calf in the desert, while the Jews were waiting for Moses to descend from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments, Aaron told the Israelite men to take the golden rings from the ears of their wives and children and bring them to him for the idol.
The women refused to hand over their earrings toward the building of a powerless idol. Thus, the women were rewarded with the holiday of Rosh Hodesh – in this world, that they alone do not perform work on the first day of the new month; in the world to come, that they will, in the future, be renewed as is the new moon.
Now, the most popular way in which women have reclaimed this women’s holiday is by forming Rosh Hodesh groups. In these groups, women celebrate together, whether through prayer, ritual, study, or discussion of relevant topics. Men are often included in these groups in today’s modern society.
Women of the Wall chose Rosh Hodesh as the day to gather as a women’s prayer group and celebrate through prayer at the Kotel and reading the special portion for Rosh Hodesh from the Torah scroll.
In December 1988, a first international congress of Jewish feminists was held in Jerusalem. On the last day of the conference, about 70 of the group’s women, wanted to hold a prayer service for the Welfare of the State of Israel at the Western Wall, including a Torah service. Ultra-Orthodox men and women tried to disrupt the reading of the Torah by cursing, screaming and acts of physical violence.
Refusing to accept that women can’t pray freely at the Western Wall, a group of women were inspired to commit to the custom of praying publicly as a women’s prayer group at the Western Wall every Rosh Hodesh. This cemented the formation of WOW and more than 3 decades later, the WOW community continues to meet on this day. WOW’s prayer service is a demand for equality at the Western Wall, related to WOW’s mission for women’s right to pray freely at the Western Wall, including singing, putting on tefillin
(phylacteries) and tallit (prayer shawl) and reading out loud from the Torah scroll.
In Sisterhood and in solidarity with WOW, communities are being encouraged to enhance the monthly prayer experience with Rosh Hodesh activities. There is no set way to celebrate Rosh Hodesh; each group is invited to create its own atmosphere and programming, considering carefully what will allow the growth and evolution of the Rosh Hodesh group.
WOW’s practice is to have a full morning (Shacharit) service with Hallel, Torah service and Musaf. Nine musical files are available for download so that individuals or groups can learn the WOW tunes if they wish.
Congregation Etz Chaim of Marietta, Georgia, has hosted a long-standing Rosh Hodesh program. In the webinar, members of the congregation will share their story with the hope that their success will inspire others to bring this tradition to their communities.
On behalf of the Staff and Board of WOW, we hope that women will be encouraged to gather and learn each month, taking special time to nourish their Jewish souls and strengthen bonds to Judaism, Israel, tradition and modernity.
Songs From WOW Services:
yevarech et beit yisrael – יברך את בית ישראל (From the Hallel)
Ahava raba (From the Shema)
Ashrei prayer – אשרי יושבי ביתך
Min hameitzar (From the Hallel)
Pitchu li shaare zedek (From the Hallel) פתחו לי שערי צדק
Shabechi yerushalayim – Praise Jerusalem
Vatikach Miriam – From the song of the sea