The Torah portion of Bo contains the first mitzvah that the Jewish people received as a nation
– that of sanctifying the month.
This mitzvah includes the concept of the Sanhedrin (high court) establishing when each month starts which determined the dates of the Yamim Tovim (Jewish holidays) in that month, and calculating which years should be leap years, ensuring that the Yamim Tovim would fall out in the correct seasons.
Here is an insight about Rosh Chodesh by Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro of Dinov (1783 – 1841) from his famous sefer – the Benei Yissachar:
Changing the Energy of the Month
The 12 months correspond to the 12 ways that the name of G-d (Havayah) can be spelled.
The Kabbalists recommended that when praying Musaf on Rosh Chodesh one should bear in mind the spelling of G-d’s name that corresponds to that month.
The Hebrew word for month is chodesh (חֹדש). This word has the gematriyah (numerical value) of 312 which corresponds to the 12 ways of spelling the name of Havayah (ה+ו+י+ה) which is the gematriyah of 26 (12 x 26 = 312).
Each spelling of G-d’s name signifies a different blend of G-d’s kindness and mercy. Yet, despite the fact that every month is associated with a specific spelling of the name, the Jewish people have the ability to alter the Divine energy of the month and transform it from a month of judgment to one of kindness.
The Maggid of Mezritch explained that there are two ways G-d administers the world. One is the natural order which was set up by Him in the seven days of creation. According to this order, each month has a certain energy based on the Divine energy in the variant spellings of G-d’s name that flows through the heavenly bodies (see below) until it reaches this world. This energy is alluded to in the letter zayin (ז) which equals the number 7 and corresponds to the seven days of the week.
The other way in which G-d administers the world is based on the Jewish people’s behavior according to the Torah. When we behave in the proper manner, we can change the energy of a given time to a positive and blessed energy. The letters alef and tav (א-ת), which indicate the fulfillment of the entire Torah from beginning to end, allude to this system. This is one of the reasons that the Shechinah (Divine Presence) is called zot/זאת (this)
which is made of the three letters mentioned above, thus indicating that the Shechinah energizes the world based on both the two types of governance.
This is why the Torah says regarding Rosh Chodesh “זאת עֹלַת חֹדֶשׁ בְּחָדְשׁוֹ /This (zot) is the burnt offering of Rosh Chodesh on a monthly basis”.
This alludes to the fact that, in addition to the normal renewal of Divine energy that takes place on Rosh Chodesh (chodesh also means renewal), the Jewish people, through their Divine service (alluded to by the alef and tav in זאת) can add /or positively alter this energy.
Based on this, the Kozhnitzer Maggid (Rabbi Yisroel Hopsztajn, 1733 – 1814) interpreted one of the questions that we will all have to answer in the afterlife. The Talmud
lists seven questions which are posed to every person on Judgment Day in the afterlife. The second of these questions is “Kavata ittim LaTorah – Did you have fixed times for Torah study”? Based on the above, the Kozhniter Maggid interpreted this to mean “Did you establish the times of the world through the power of your Torah study and thus change times with negative energy to positive”?
This is one of the esoteric mysteries of the sanctification of the month that was given to the Jewish people. According to the natural manner in which G-d created the world, the weather patterns (and similar matters) depend on the exact time that the new moon becomes visible. The sages say, Divine energy is funneled to this world through the major seven heavenly bodies. (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the sun, Venus, Saturn, Mercury, and the moon) and that every hour of every day energy flows through one of these. It is a seven-hour cycle (in the above order) that starts with Saturn on the first hour of Tuesday
night (the day on which the heavenly bodies were created) and ends with the moon on the last hour of Monday
The weather (and more) of each month (should) depend(s) on the heavenly body that is associated with the first hour of that month. Specifically, Saturn is associated with dryness and cold like ice and frost. Jupiter with heat and moisture. Mars with dryness and heat like fire. The sun is also associated with dryness and heat. Venus is cold and moist. Mercury is a mixture of both cold and heat as well as dryness and heat. The moon is also a blend of cold and heat.
The rabbis, however, have the power to establish the new month on a different day than when the new moon first became visible. The day which they establish as Rosh Chodesh is accepted by G-d as the actual Rosh Chodesh even if their calculations were in error and even if they purposely established it on the “wrong” day.
In this respect, the rabbis have the ability to influence the weather patterns (and other aspects) of every month.
Here are various customs and laws regarding the Rosh Chodesh meal:
Rosh Chodesh Meal
It is a mitzvah to have a special meal in honor of Rosh Chodesh. By the letter of the law, one need not have bread,
but one is nevertheless encouraged to eat a nice meal.
In fact, the Midrash says
that the money one spends on his Rosh Chodesh meal will not be deducted from the income that G-d has allotted him for that year, i.e., if one spends a lot of money on this meal, G-d will make it up to him in another way.)
Since we eat a meal every day, it is customary to add one dish to that meal specifically in honor of Rosh Chodesh. When Rosh Chodesh coincides with Shabbat, one should add a dish to the Shabbat meals to commemorate Rosh Chodesh. According to some customs, a kugel should be added on Shabbat in honor of Rosh Chodesh.
Some say that, in such a case one should postpone his Rosh Chodesh meal to motzoei Shabbat or Sunday
The Rosh Chodesh meal should be eaten during the day.
If one had it the night before on the eve of Rosh Chodesh, some say he has fulfilled his obligation while others say he should have another meal during the day.
The mitzvah of adding a meal (or a dish to one’s meal) on Rosh Chodesh applies to women as well.
Some say that it is best to serve fish and meat at this meal
Some people are particular to drink (and serve) wine at their Rosh Chodesh meal.
One who is poor should, at the very least, honor Rosh Chodesh by adding fruit to his meal in honor of Rosh Chodesh.
It is the custom of some Chassidim to sing the psalm of Barchi Nafshi (Psalms 104) during their Rosh Chodesh feast.
Some have a custom to light candles (or at least one candle) on the night of Rosh Chodesh in order to honor the day. They should be visibly different than one’s Shabbat candles.
When there are two days of Rosh Chodesh, one should add a meal (or a dish to meal) on both days.
The Mechaber (Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch) dedicated an entire subsection of the Shulchan Aruch to the mitzvah of having a meal on Rosh Chodesh – section 419. This, despite the fact that the subsection only contains five words (מצוה להרבות בסעודת ר”ח – It is a Mitzvah to feast on Rosh Chodesh.) It has been said that he did so to emphasize the importance of this mitzvah.
May we merit to have the next Rosh Chodesh feast with Moshiach in Yerushalayim!
See Rashi on Gen. 1:1 D:H Bereishit
Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 4
Benei Yissachar, Ma’amarei Rosh Chodesh, Ma’amar 1, ot 3
See Tikunei Zohar, 10b
Pri Etz Chaim, Sha’ar Rosh Chodesh, chapter 3 and Benei Yissachar, Ma’amarei Chodesh Nissan, Ma’amar, 1 ot 3
See Zohar vol. 1 (Introduction to the Zohar), bottom of 10a
This also answers the question as to why the Talmud words the question “Kavata ittim (in the plural) laTorah” when it could have said “Kavata et (in the singular) laTorah”? The explanation is that, through Torah study, one can change many of the times of the world.
See Rashi D.H. Dekayma Lei, Shabbat 129b
See also Magen Avraham and Machatzit HaShekel, 271:1 that, according to this calculation, the first hour of Shabbat is (sometimes) under the influence of Mars. This is the reason that some have the custom to not make Kiddush during that time (i.e., during the sixth hour after midday).
Sodi Razya (by Rabbi Eliezer of Worms, the author of the Sefer HaRoke’ach, 1176-1238), ot 9 and Shevilei Emunah, beginning of Netiv 4
But see Kaf HaChaim, 419:2 who cites opinions that one should wash and eat bread as well as have Lechem Mishneh (two loaves). He concludes that a G-d fearing person will try to satisfy all opinions and that the reward for loving mitzvot (i.e. going beyond one’s obligation in serving G-d) will be doubled and quadrupled.
O.C. 419 and Mishnah Berurah 1
Pesikta cited in ibid and Vayikra Rabbah, 30
The Babylonian Talmud (Beitzah 16a) only mentions that the meals of Shabbat and Yom Tov are not included in one’s allotted income. But see the Bait Yosef (O.C. 419) that Rosh Chodesh is included in “Yom Tov” for this purpose.
Mishmeret Shalom, cited in Minhag Yisrael Torah, vol. 2, page 170
See Ba’er Heitev 1 on O.C. ibid
See Aruch LeNer on Sanhedrin 70 D.H. BiGemara
Ibid in the name of the Ya’avetz
Mishmeret Shalom, cited in Minhag Yisrael Torah, vol. 2, page 170
This was the custom of the Steipler Ga’on (Orchot Rabeinu, vol. 1, page 177) based on the words of the Mishnah Berurah “Whoever… eats and drinks well on it is praiseworthy.”
Kaf HaChaim, 4 in the name of the Ben Ish Chai
Minhag Yisrael Torah, vol. 2, page 171
Kuntres Acharon on the Ta’amei HaMinhagim, Inyanei Rosh Chodesh, 12, citing the Yosef Ometz and the Avodat HaKodesh
Note on the margin of Kuntres Acharon on Ta’amei HaMinhagim, Inyanei Rosh Chodesh, note 11
Kuntres Acharon on the Ta’amei HaMinhagim, ibid, quoting the Tzadik of Lublin