By Cantor Lorna Wallach
I’d like to believe that I’m in good company with others who, like me, will put off starting something such as an exercise regimen or a diet until what seems like a more logical (or convenient!) time to begin. I find myself saying that I’ll make regular exercise one of my resolutions for the new year or I’ll start my diet the day after my birthday.
Rather than waiting for a once a year opportunity, the Jewish “calendar” gives us the opportunity every month to renew ourselves and to start over, just as the moon renews itself each month. And we are even given the chance to plan ahead. On the last Shabbat of each Jewish month, a special prayer to announce the specific date of the upcoming new month is added to the liturgy towards the end of the Torah Service.
Tomorrow we will bless the new month of Nissan. This blessing, called “Birkat Hachodesh,” begins with a paragraph attributed in the Talmud (Berachot 16a) to Rav, who used to recite it daily at the conclusion of the Amidah. Since it already contained a full gamut of people’s spiritual and physical needs, including a moving plea for a life of peace, sustenance, health and abundance, and a life based on love of Torah and awe of God, a phrase was added later relating it to the new moon. The second paragraph refers to God as a performer of miracles and calls for Jewish unity, reminding those of us in the diaspora to stay connected to Israel.
From the time of the Middle Ages, community leaders wanted to be sure that everyone knew when Rosh Chodesh fell so that they could keep track of the calendar and be able to say the appropriate prayers such as Hallel. It has always been said on Shabbat simply because that is when the greatest number of people are congregated.
I pray that this new month which begins next week will hold the blessings of health, goodness and peace for everyone. And may it be an opportunity in our lives for a renewal of wonder, freedom, love, justice, friendship, compassion and holiness.