The Rosh Hashana Moon - The Circle of Life

Thursday, 15 September, 2022 - 12:15 pm

Before you know it, Rosh Hashana will be here and the Jewish holiday marathon will begin. If you are familiar with the Jewish lingo, you will hear that Rosh Hashana is late this year. What they mean is that Rosh Hashana is celebrated in late September instead of the beginning of the month, which is “early.” Truth be told, Rosh Hashana is neither early nor late. It is just on time.

Rosh Hashana, which translated means Head of the Year, is also always the new moon. The Jewish calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian one, is lunar centric, while the Gregorian calendar goes according to the sun. Therefore, regardless of whether Rosh Hashana is beginning, mid or late September, it will always be a moon.

One would think that Judaism with all its ancient, divinely inspired wisdom would use a solar calendar. After all, the sun is a constant; the sun represents life, light and warmth. The sun embodies God’s awesome strength and power. The moon does not have any of its own light but rather borrows from the sun. It is completely unreliable as it waxes and wanes and one cloud blocks it from doing its job. The moon is cold and Judaism teaches that coldness is the opposite of life. The moon seems like a horrible way of calculating the calendar year. Furthermore, the lunar month is not even a complete number as it is a 29 ½-day cycle. The sun is way more of an attractive choice, don’t you think?

355 DAYS
Another issue that comes up when you go by the moon is that the lunar year is 355 days and not 365 days. So, eventually Rosh Hashana gets earlier and earlier, and without a correction of a 30 day leap year every few years, Rosh Hashana will be in the spring as opposed to fall. Seems like a mathematical hassle to me.

The Rabbis teach that we go by the moon specifically because it has the aforementioned issues and quirks.

The moon is a better teacher of life than the sun could ever be. The Jewish people know full well what it means to wax and wane. We have waxed and waned in so many places that it is hard to keep track. Besides, it is unrealistic to only have good times. There are good and bad times and we have to celebrate the good and deal with the bad.

The waxing and waning itself is a powerful lesson. Even if life is particularly bad right now, we must learn from the moon to never give up. It may seem to disappear and give up. In reality, it knows that right now it is a meaningless sliver but it will grow again.

The 29 ½ fraction is also a lesson. We cannot live alone or be alone. We need people and we need purpose. We were not created to be a full-service human. We need other people to compliment us. You cannot be a doctor, lawyer, barista and mechanic. We cannot do it all. We are simply a fraction and not a complete entity.  

As far as the leap year goes, the lesson is inspiring. Sometimes we lose ground. While life and society should hopefully always improve, sometimes it goes south. We could be employed for 20 years and then we get the ax. The leap year does not build back 10 days over three years but rather 30 days in one shot. Yes, we may suffer the pain of losing a job, but it is possible that it was the very best outcome. You were hired by a new company with a much larger salary. What would normally take three years to gain seniority at your old place of employment, you were just promoted in the blink of an eye in the new firm. This is the lesson of the leap year. The future can change for the good, even if things look bad right now.

Join us for the High Holidays if you are able. Maybe we will toast the New Year with some moonshine.

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