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New Moon

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(חֹדֶשׁ, cho'desh, strictly newness; fully רֹאשׁ חֹדֶשׁ, beginning of the month [as in Numbers 10:10; Numbers 28:11], since חֹדֶשׁ stands likewise for "a month" [q.v.]; Sept. νεομηνία or νουμηνίαι ; Vulg. calendce, neomeni), FESTIVAL OF, a regular observance among the Jews. Many ancient nations celebrated the returning light of the moon with festivities (Isidor. Orig. v. 33; Macrob. Sat. 1:15, p. 273, Bip. ed.; Tacitus, Germ vol. ii) offered sacrifices (Suid. s.v. ἀνάστατοι; Meursii Graecia Ferial. v. 211 sq.) and prayers (Demosth. In Aristog. 1:799; Horace, Odes. 3:23, 1 sq.), feasted (Hor. Ov. 3:19, 9 sq.; comp. Concil. Trul. can. 62; Mansi, 10:974), and made merry (Theophr. Char. 5; Doughtaei Annal. 2:133; Spencer, Legg. rit. 3:4, p. 1045 sq.). In the following account of this usage we bring together the Scriptural and the almidlical notices.

1. Celebration and Sanctity of this Festival. All that the Mosaic code says on the subject is contained in the two passages enjoining that two young bullocks, a ram and seven lambs of the first year as a burnt-offering, with the appropriate meat-offerings and drink-offerings, and a kid as a sin- offering, are to be offered on every new moon in addition to the ordinary daily sacrifice, and that the trumpets are to be blown at the offering of these special sacrifices, just as on the days of rejoicing and solemn festivals (Numbers 10:10; Numbers 28:11-15). It is, however, evident from the writings of the prophets, and from post-exilian documents, that the new moon was an important national festival. It is placed by the side of the Sabbath (Isaiah 1:13; Ezekiel 46:1; Hosea 2:3), and was a day on which the people neither traded nor engaged in any handicraft-work (Amos 8:5), but had social gatherings and feastings (1 Samuel 20:5-24), resorted for public instruction either to the Temple (Isaiah 1:13; Isaiah 66:23; Ezekiel 46:1; Ezekiel 46:3), or to the houses of the prophets and other men of God (2 Kings 4:23); and no national or private fasts were permitted to take place, so as not to mar the festivities of the day (Judith 8:6; Mishna, Taanith, 2:10).

The Hallel (q.v.) was chanted in the Temple by the Levites while the special sacrifices were offered; and to this day the Jews celebrate new moon as a minor festival. The day previous to it, i.e. the 29th of the month, which is called ראש חדש ערב , New Moon Eve, προνουμηνία (Judges 8:6), is kept by the orthodox Jews, in consequence of a remark in the Mishna (Shebaoth, 1:4, 5), as the minor day of atonement, and is devoted to fasting, repentance, and prayer, both for forgiveness of the sins committed during the expiring month, and for a happy new month. It is for this reason denominated יום כיפור קטן, since they say that, just as the great day of atonement is appointed for the forgiveness of sins committed during the year, this minor day of atonement is ordained for the remission of sins committed during each month. They resort to the synagogue, put on the fringed wrapper, or Tallith, (See FRINGE), and the phylacteries; whereupon the leader of the service recites Psalms 102, offers a penitential prayer (יום זה ), after which he recites Psalm viii, the prayer called Ashre (אשרי ), and the half Kadish. The scroll of the Law (ספר תורה ) is then taken out of the ark, ויחל, or Exodus 32:11-15; Exodus 34:1-10, with the Haphtarah (q.v.), Isaiah 4:6; Isaiah 56:1-8, are read, being the appointed lesson for fasts, after which other appointed penitential prayers, together with the ordinary daily afternoon service, conclude the vespers and the fast, when the Feast of the New Moon is proclaimed, which, like all the feasts and fasts, begins on the previous evening. On the morning of the new moon they resort to the synagogues in festive garments, offer the usual morning prayer (שחרית ), inserting, however, Numbers 28:11-15 in the recital of the daily sacrifices. and the prayer יעלה ויבוא in the eighteen benedictions.

The phylacteries which are worn at the ordinary daily morning service are then put off, and the Hallel, with its appropriate benediction, is recited, all the congregation standing; after which the scroll of the Law (ספר תורה ) is taken out of the ark, and Numbers 28:1-15 is read in four sections: the first section (i.e. Numbers 28:1-3) being assigned to the priest; the second (Numbers 28:3-5) to the Levite; the third (Numbers 28:6-10) to an Israelite; and the fourth (Numbers 28:11-15) to any one. If new moon happens on a Sabbath, two scrolls of the Law are taken out of the ark, from the first of which the ordinary Sabbatic lesson is read, and from the other Numbers 28:9-15, or Maphtir; and if it happens on a Sunday, 1 Samuel 20:18-42 is read as the Hatphtarah instead of the ordinary lesson from the prophets. Unlike their brethren in the time of the prophets (Amos 8:5), the Jews of the present day work and trade on new moon. The new moons are generally mentioned so as to show that they were regarded as a peculiar class of holy days, to be distinguished from the solemn feasts and the Sabbaths (Ezekiel 45:17; 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 2 Chronicles 8:13; 2 Chronicles 31:3; Ezra 3:5; Nehemiah 10:33). (See FESTIVAL).

The seventh new moon of the religious year, being that of Tisri, commenced the civil year, and had a significance and rites of its own. It was a day of holy convocation. (See TRUMPETS, FEAST OF).

2. Mode of ascertaining, fixing, and consecrating the New Moon. As the festivals, according to the Mosaic law, are always to be celebrated on the same day of the month, it was incumbent upon the spiritual guides of the nation to fix the commencement of the month, which was determined by the appearance of the new moon. Hence the authorities at Jerusalem, from the remotest times, ordered messengers to occupy the commanding heights around the metropolis, on the 30th day of the month, to watch the sky; these, as soon as they observed the moon, hastened to communicate it to the synod; and, for the sake of speed, they were even allowed, during the existence of the Temple, to travel on the Sabbath and profane the sacred day (Mishna, Rosh Ha-Shana, 1:4). These authorities also ordained that, with the exception of gamblers with dice, usurers, those who breed and tame pigeons to entice others, those who trade in the produce of the Sabbatical year, women and slaves, any one who noticed the new moon is to give evidence before the Sanhedrim, even if he were sick and had to be carried to Jerusalem in a bed (Rosh Ha-Shana, 1:8, 9). These witnesses had to assemble in a large court, called Beth Jazek (בית יעזק ), specially appointed for it, where they were carefully examined and feasted, so as to induce them to come; and when the authorities were satisfied with the evidence, the president pronounced the word מקודש, i.e. It is sanctified; whereupon all the bystanders had to repeat it twice after him, It is sanctified! It is sanctified! and the day was declared New Moon (Mishna, Rosh Ha-Shanam, 2:5, 7).

On beholding the new moon from his own house, every Israelite had to offer the following benediction: "Blessed be He who renews the months! Blessed be He by whose word the heavens were created, and by the breath of whose mouth all the hosts thereof were formed! He appointed them a law and time, that they should not overstep their course. They rejoice and are glad to perform the will of their Creator. Author of truth, their operations are truth! He spoke to the moon, Be thou renewed, and be the beautiful diadem (i.e. the hope) of man (i.e. Israel), who shall one day be quickened again like the moon (i.e. at the coming of Messiah), and praise their Creator for his glorious kingdom. Blessed be He who renewed the moons" (Sanhedrin, 42 a). Of such importance was this prayer regarded, that it is asserted, "Whoso pronounceth the benediction of the New Moon in its proper time, is as if he had been holding converse with the Shekhinah" (ibid.). To this prayer was afterwards added, "A good sign, good fortune be to all Israel! (to be repeated three times). Blessed be thy Creator! Blessed be thy Possessor! Blessed be thy Maker! (repeated three times). As I leap towards thee, but cannot touch thee, so may my enemies not be able to injure me (said leaping three times). May fear and anguish seize them. Through the greatness of thine arm they must be as still as a stone; they must be as still as a stone through the greatness of thine arm. Fear and anguish shall seize them. Amen, Selah, Hallelujah. Peace, peace, peace be with you" (Sopherimn, 2:2). This prayer, which during the period of the second Temple was offered up by every Israelite as soon as he beheld the new moon, is still offered up every month by all orthodox Jews, with some additions by the rabbins and the Kabbalists of the Middle Ages, and is called in the Jewish ritual קידוש לבנה, Consecration of the New Moon. When the moon was not visible on account of clouds, and in the five months when the watchmen were not sent out, the month was considered to commence on the morning of the day which followed the 30th. According to Maimonides, the Rabbinists altered their method when the Sanhedrim ceased to exist, and have ever since determined the month by astronomical calculation, while the Karaites have retained the old custom of depending on the appearance of the moon. Astronomical knowledge was certainly acquired long after the destruction of Jerusalem; liless, with Michaelis and Jahn (Archaeol. 3:304), we find a trace of it, sufficiently obscure, in 2 Kings 25:27 (comp. Jeremiah 52:33. See also Paulus, Comment. 3:543 sq.).

3. Origin of this Festival. That the Mosaic law did not institute this festival, but already found it among the people, and simply regulated it, is evident both from the fact that the time of its commencement is nowhere stated, and from the words in which the sacrifices are spoken of ("And on your new moons ye shall offer," etc., Numbers 28:11, etc.), which presuppose its existence and popularity. Several causes cooperated in giving rise to this festival. The periodical changes of the moon, renewing itself in four quarters of 73 days each, and then assuming a new phase, as well as the fact that its reappearance in the nocturnal sky to ancient cities and villages the inhabitants of which were consigned to uttter darkness, great dangers, and "the terrors by night," during its absence, since they had no artificial means of lighting their roads combined together to inspire the nations of antiquity both with awe and gratitude when reflecting on these wonderful phenomena, and beholding the great blessings of the new moon. This is the reason why different nations, from the remotest periods, consecrated the day or the evening which commences this renewal of the moon to the deity who ordained such wonders; just as the first and the beginning of every thing were devoted to the Author of all our blessings. There seems to be but little ground for founding on these traces of heathen usage the notion that the Hebrews derived it from the Gentiles, as Spencer and Michaelis have done; and still less for attaching to it any of those symbolical meanings which have been imagined by some other writers (see Carpzov, App. Crit. p. 425). Ewald thinks that it was at first a simple household festival, and that on this account the law does not take much notice of it. He also considers that there is some reason to suppose that the day of the full moon was similarly observed by the Hebrews in very remote times.

4. Literature. Maimonides, Jad Ha-Chezaka, Hilchoth Kiddush Ha- Chodesh (translated into Latin by De Veil [Paris, 1669; Amsterdam, 1701] and by Witter [Jena, 1703]); Abrabanel, Dissert. de Princilio mnni et consecratione Novilunii (Hebrew and Latin, appended by Buxtorf to his translation of The Cosri [Basle, 1659, p. 431 sq.]); Knobel, Commentary on Exodus and Leviticus (in Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch zum Alt. Test. [Leipsic, 1858, p. 531 sq.], where a vast amount of classical information is brought together to show that this festival existed among many heathen nations of antiquity); Carpzov, Apparat. Hist. Crit. p. 423; Spencer, De Leg. Heb. lib. 3, dissert. 4; Selden, De Ann. Civ. Hebrews 4, 11; Mishna, Rosh Ha-Shana, 2:338, ed. Surenhus.; Buxtorf, Synagoga Judaica, cap. 22; Ewald, Alterthiimer, p. 394; Cudworth, On the Lord's Supper, cap. 3; Lightfoot, Temple Service, cap. 11.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'New Moon'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/n/new-moon.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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