Monday, January 19, 2015
Parashat Bo- Rosh Chodesh & Happy New Years
Hachodesh hazeh lakhem rosh chodashim rishon hu lakhem l’chodshei hashanah.
This month will be for you the beginning of the first month for you of the months of the year. (Shemot 12:2)
Just a short time ago we celebrated the start of 2015. New Year’s Eve is also known as Saint Sylvester’s Day. Pope Sylvester served from December 31, 314 – December 31, 335. January 1 is marked liturgically as a feast celebrating the circumcision of Jesus. Pope Gregory chose it as the start of the year when he created the calendar used by most of the world today. Romans dedicated New Year’s Day to Janus, the two-faced god of gates who can look forward and back, and the one from whom we get the name of the first month, January.
Because of its beginnings in pagan, and later Catholic religion, many Jews choose to wish people a “Happy secular new year,” or skip any sort of wishes. They buy into the “Happy holidays” greeting adopted to deal with the December dilemma. How to greet people at this time of year is a discussion that graces out kitchen table every year. Rav Sean is a big proponent of living our lives according to the Jewish calendar. I agree. My year goes from September to September, (mostly) according to the Jewish calendar. My week runs from Shabbat to Shabbat. I also like to celebrate the new secular year. I generally say, “Happy 2015,” or whatever the year is, but I am also okay with “Happy New Year.” I like celebrations, big and small. Our secular New Year’s celebrations are low-key. We’re homebodies. We watch a movie, or two. We eat more than we should. We stay up late. I celebrate every birthday. I don’t care if the world knows how old I am. It’s better than the alternative. I want parties for every holiday. I’d celebrate Wednesdays if I could figure out how.
Rosh Hodesh marks the monthly passage of time. It’s a day that is special to women. According to legend, women refused to take part in the incident of the golden calf. For this, they merited a reward. They were given Rosh Hodesh as a day free from labour. The connection of the moon and our lunar calendar to women is also noted. I look forward to adding Hallel to celebrate on those days. I can be found singing the psalms out loud. I will admit to not being a great davener of Shacharit. I get through it. I am not a morning person, and it takes much of my concentration to focus any time before 9:30 AM. But Rosh Hodesh is different. Rosh Hodesh pulls me from my rote repetition of t’fillot to sing aloud. I celebrate the passage of time each Shabbat, each Rosh Hodesh, each holiday, and each new year. Anne Shirley, in Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, said, “tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it.” It’s a great reason to celebrate.