New Moon, New Light
And on your day of gladness, and on your festivals, and on your new
moons...." (Num. 10:10)
Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the lunar month, is called literally
"the head of the month" and not the "beginning of the month",
because just as the head contains the life-force for all the limbs, so
does the first day of each month represent the spiritual "life-force"
for the rest of the month. The second part of the name, "Chodesh",
is related to the word "chadash", meaning "new". In
simple terms, this refers to the renewal of the moon, the birth of the
new moon. In Kabbalistic sources, however, it is explained that every
Rosh Chodesh brings a new spiritual light, one that never illuminated
before throughout time. This light derives from a completely new general
revelation that takes place every Rosh Hashanah and that is divided up
for the twelve months of the year. When each Rosh Chodesh arrives, its
particular new light illuminates.
The renewal of the moon itself has a Kabbalistic dimension. The moon
corresponds to the sefira of malchut in that it "has no light of
its own" and shines with reflected light from the sun. Similarly,
the spiritual "light" of malchut is only what it receives from
the sefirot above it. Just as the moon becomes smaller and smaller until
it is not visible immediately before its rebirth, similarly malchut receives
its light from the sefirot above it by "nullifying itself" in
its yearning to receive this light. In the same way, the Jewish people
(who are compared to the moon) are able to become a vessel for G-d's light
through exhibiting the trait of self-nullification.
The association of newness with the word "chodesh" has important
implications for a person's spiritual service. The Jewish people are compared
to the moon, and "reckon by the moon" and "are destined
to be renewed like it" (Liturgy, Kiddush Lavanah; Sanhedrin 42a).
Through the "chidush", the new spiritual element that is accomplished
in the world through the service of the Jewish people, the Jewish people
achieve a new level higher than the one they occupied before coming down
into the physical world. This will be finally revealed in the future redemption.
One might say that each Rosh Chodesh there is revealed in each individual
Jew the spark of Mashiach that is within him, the level of Yechida, which
is a spark from the level of general Yechida, the soul of Mashiach. (See
Me'or Einayim, parashat Pinchas) This revelation accomplishes a chidush
in the person's whole existence and everything that pertains to him; the
level of Yechida permeates him.
The spiritual character of Rosh Chodesh can best be explained by contrasting
it with Shabbat. Each of these two days expresses one mode of a basic
two-fold pattern in spiritual service, a pattern that is also built into
the structure of Creation: elevation and drawing down. Rosh Chodesh, on
which work is permitted, represents drawing down the spiritual into the
earthly and mundane; Shabbat, on which work is forbidden, represents elevation,
as the mundane and the earthly become more spiritual.
The two modes of this pattern also have a reciprocal relation: An elevation
brings a corresponding drawing down, and a drawing down brings a corresponding
elevation. The Shabbat elevation of the physical world and all the levels
of the spiritual realm is followed by the drawing down of spiritual delight.
The drawing down of a higher level of G-dliness on Rosh Chodesh brings
an elevation to the life-force creating the world.
Although Rosh Chodesh is unlike Shabbat and Yom Tov in that work is permitted,
Rosh Chodesh is not considered a regular work day and retains a separate
identity. It is actually on a higher level than an ordinary weekday, which
is why an additional sacrifice was brought in the days of the Temple,
called the Musaf offering, to which the Musaf Standing prayer that we
say now corresponds. This is also the reason we say the prayer of Hallel.
In Kabbalistic terms this means causing a descent of malchut into the
midot, corresponding to the work of sifting and purifying, and contrary
to the spiritual character of Shabbat, when malchut ascends to chochma
(Torat Shmuel 5630).
On Shabbat, by contrast, it is forbidden to do work, for spiritually
Shabbat is higher than the level of "in six days G-d created, etc."
Then a divine light shines that is not clothed in nature. By violating
the prohibition of work on Shabbat, we cause G-d to contract Himself.
In contrast, on Rosh Chodesh, nature itself is on a higher level. In
other words, Shabbat represents a mode that is higher than nature, a weekday
represents a mode that accords with nature, and Rosh Chodesh elicits that
which is higher than nature and allows it to permeate nature.
On Shabbat, the world exists directly from G-d's thoughts - the level
of thought is not hidden in the garments of nature. This is why we are
not allowed to work on Shabbat, since by working we cause a descent in
the world so that G-dliness is expressed through speech, which is a condensed
light that is clothed in nature.
On Rosh Chodesh, nature is created by a higher form of G-d's speech so
that nature itself takes on a higher form.
This is why we say the Hallel prayer on Rosh Chodesh, but not during
the week or on Shabbat. The verses of Hallel speak of how G-d conducts
Himself through miracles. During the week G-d wants us to conduct ourselves
according to nature, making a vessel, a natural way for G-d's blessings
to be manifested. We are not allowed to rely on miracles and therefore
the Talmud compares saying Hallel on a weekday to "cursing and blaspheming".
On Shabbat we don't say Hallel since we are not allowed to work. Shabbat
is a result of preparation (the work is already completed), as indicated
by the saying that "one who works before Shabbat is able to eat on
Shabbat". Rosh Chodesh, however, is an intermediate between Shabbat
and weekdays. We say Hallel to ask G-d to allow our work and weekday concerns
to be permeated with the spiritual, a uniting of the physical and the
spiritual, which is associated with miracles.
On Rosh Chodesh the saying of Hallel is a custom, unlike the recitation
of Hallel on Chanukah and Yom Tov, when it is a law. The reason is that
on Rosh Chodesh the miraculous permeates the natural and weekday activities
so that the weekday activities are revealed and the miraculous is hidden.
This is in contrast to Yom Tov and Chanukah, which are associated with
visible miracles, the military victory of the few over the many on Chanukah
Chassidic philosophy explains that Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat each have
an advantage over the other. The advantage of Shabbat is that it is spiritually
loftier than any weekday, and therefore it is forbidden to work. On the
other hand, that in itself is the advantage of Rosh Chodesh over Shabbat:
It is permitted to work, and the elicitation of G-dliness reaches farther,
all the way down into the workday world. This gives it an advantage in
achieving the goal of a "dwelling here below". On Shabbat, time
and space themselves are elevated, as if Shabbat is a different world,
but the ultimate objective is to draw down G-dliness into this world.
This concept is identical to the advantage of Purim over the rest of
the holidays. Even though from one perspective there is something lacking
in a miracle clothed in nature (and therefore we do not say Hallel),
from another perspective there is an advantage to this kind of miracle:
Since it is clothed in nature, it shows the greatness of the divine light
in even being able to permeate nature itself, and therefore the joy of
Purim is greater than on any other holiday.
The differences we have been talking about between Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh
apply to these two days as they exist now. However, in the future, when
Mashiach comes, the Torah states, "Then all flesh will come to bow
down before Me every Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat." (Isaiah 66:23) This
means that the pilgrimage up to the holy Temple associated with the holidays
in the days of the Temple will take place every Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh.
The spiritual revelation of Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh will have reached
a new and higher level.
 Last five paragraphs Torat Menachem 5711, vol.
1, pp. 83-84.
 The reason we do not say Hallel on Purim is that
"we are still slaves of Ahasuerus". This means that the miracle
of Purim is clothed in nature and we needed to present requests to Ahasuerus
and seek to influence him in order to nullify the decree against the Jews,
and afterwards we remained "slaves to Ahasuerus".
Rabbi Noson Gurary is an ordained rabbi and Jewish judge, with
a doctorate in Jewish Philosophy from Lomonosov University in Moscow.
He is currently Executive Director of the Chabad Houses in upstate New
York and has taught at State University New York, Buffalo, for the past
[Adapted from The Jewish Holy Days in Chassidic Philosophy (Jason