By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
Although Rosh Chodesh is referred to throughout rabbinic literature as a "festival" similar to Chol Hamoed and Shabbat, there is no requirement to abstain from work on Rosh Chodesh. Nevertheless, there exists an ancient custom for women to take advantage of Rosh Chodesh and refrain from certain forms of work on that day. In the event that Rosh Chodesh is two days long, some women refrain from work on both days, while others only refrain from work on the second day of Rosh Chodesh. Some authorities only require women to abstain from work during the daytime hours of Rosh Chodesh and permit work at night. Other authorities rule that women following this custom may not work during the day or the night of Rosh Chodesh.
It is explained that the women's attachment to Rosh Chodesh is meant to recall their unwillingness to contribute their jewelry for use in the construction of the Golden Calf. As a reward for this conduct, God assigned Rosh Chodesh to women as His personal gift to them.
Click here to read moreIt is explained that the women's attachment to Rosh Chodesh is meant to recall their unwillingness to contribute their jewelry for use in the construction of the Golden Calf. As a reward for this conduct, God assigned Rosh Chodesh to women as His personal gift to them. Similarly, the Torah implies that the women outdid the men in their enthusiasm to donate their most treasured possessions to help in the construction of the Mishkan. Originally, the twelve months were intended to correspond to each of the twelve tribes, however, due to the sin of the Golden Calf this association was taken away from them and given all the women of Israel instead. It is also noted that women are like the moon which renews itself each month, in that women immerse themselves monthly in a mikva, renewing their relationship with their husbands.
As such, it has become customary for women to refrain from weaving, spinning, and sewing on Rosh Chodesh in honor of their female ancestors. Some authorities include laundering as well. However, routine housework needed for the day is permitted on Rosh Chodesh. In some families, candles are lit in honor of Rosh Chodesh. In Yemen, it was customary to light candles in the home and synagogue; and in Algiers, gold coins would be placed inside the candles for good luck. In Europe, it was common for women gather and recite prayers on Rosh Chodesh, and some women collected charity for the poor on Rosh Chodesh of each month. It was also designated as a day when women would send gifts to their married daughters, gather in the synagogue to pray for their children. Those who were engaged to be married would receive gifts from their grooms on Rosh Chodesh.
Rosh Chodesh Nissan is inherently more connected to women, as it is the Yartzeit of Miriam the prophetess. Some women also designated Rosh Chodesh Nissan as the day they would begin Pesach preparations. Rosh Chodesh Tevet, which falls during the last days of Chanukah, was associated with the Chanuka heroine, Judith, and was referred to as "Chag Habanot", the girl's holiday. Rosh Chodesh Kislev has special meaning for the Jews of Ethiopia as the day before Rosh Chodesh Kislev is the holiday of "Sigd", a community celebration which includes women reaffirming their dedication to Jewish tradition.
Women should be careful to offer Rosh Chodesh at least some form of added sanctity or distinction, such as by preparing a special meal or wearing special clothes. One should not cry over a dead person on Rosh Chodesh. Women who are employed are expected to show for work as usual on Rosh Chodesh.
 Erchin 10b
 O.C. 417:1
 Tosfot Megilla 22a, O.C. 417:1, Kaf Hachaim 417:27
 Mishna Berura 417:4
 Biur Halacha 417
 Rashi;Megilla 22b, Tur O.C. 417
 Shemot 35:2
 Rabbeinu Bechaye Vayakhel, Mekorei Haminhagim, 38
 Kaf Hachaim 417:27
 Kaf Hachaim 417:27
 Rashi;Megilla 22b
 Eshel Avraham 417
 Berrin, Susan. Celebrating the New Moon. Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, 1996, p.51
 Minhagei Eretz Yisrael (Gellis) 21:16
 Celebrating the New Moon, p. 18
 Numbers 20:1; Adelman, Penina. Miriam's Well. New York: Biblio Press, 1986, p. 66
 Berrin, Susan. Celebrating the New Moon. Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, 1996, p.17
 Miriam's Well, p. 86
 Celebrating the New Moon, p. 19
 Ben Ish Chai Vayikra
 O.C. 419:1
 Kaf Hachaim 419:6
 O.C. 420:1
 Aruch Hashulchan 419:10
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin