"New Moon after New Moon, and Shabbat after Shabbat" Isaiah 66:23

By Dr Annette Boeckler, June 26, 2014

A major festival happens this week, ignored by many, but in ancient times it ranked as high as Shabbat. This week Rosh Chodesh, the festival of the New Noon, falls on Shabbat (and Sunday).

Therefore the haftarah this Shabbat teaches about Rosh Chodesh. (The traditional haftarah is from Isaiah 66: Liberal congregations will read a different text). We count our days towards Shabbat, but we count our months after the exodus out of Egypt. This moment marks the first month of the year. Shabbat is a foretaste of a future that is only Shabbat and so teaches us about the ultimate purpose of life; Rosh Chodesh is the memory of redemption and reminds us of our freedom to do mitzvot.

The prophet Isaiah sees all nations coming to Zion to worship in peace and the people of Israel freed from all enemies. What Shabbat is for the Jewish individual, Rosh Chodesh is for the Jewish people: a commemoration that suffering is not the essence of Jewish life.

As the moon, whose waning and darkness is seen in our tradition as a symbol for exile and its pains, its waxing symbolises hope and renewal. Surely the moon will be bright again, illuminated by the sun, as the people of Israel will shine again among the nations illuminated by God's justice. In our days this may not only be for Israel as nation but also for Israel as state.

As Shabbat infuses us weekly with our Jewish identity, let us be reminded monthly of our togetherness as people, knowing that our fights against oppression, antisemitism, prejudices and hate will prevail as the moon will shine brightly one day again.

Last updated: 2:47pm, June 26 2014