The Feminine Rosh Chodesh

Torah Reading With A Pointer

Rosh Chodesh – Women’s Reward

Rosh Chodesh is the time of renewal of feminine spiritual role, as is described by the Midrash: “Aharon said to himself: If I ask for silver and gold, they’ll bring it immediately. I know what I’ll tell them, “Bring me the earrings of your wives and children, and their idea will be voided. As it is written: ‘And Aharon said: Break off the earrings…'” The women heard and didn’t want to participate and they wouldn’t agree to give their earrings to their husbands. Instead they said, “To make this foul abomination that has no power to save makes sense to you!” And the Hashem gave them reward in This World, for they observe Rosh Chodesh more than the men observe. He also gave them reward in the Next World, that they will become renewed like the new moons, as it is written: He satisfies you with the good things in the prime of life so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Midrash Pirke d’Rebbe Eliezer)

Golden Cow Head on WallAccording to this Midrash, the women’s refusal to participate in the sin of the Golden Calf’s resulted in the promise of both the restoration and elevation of women’s spiritual status. The Midrash further compares the renewal of the feminine spiritual role with the renewal of the moon at the time of Rosh Chodesh. What is the connection between the sin of the Golden Calf and the feminine spiritual role? What is the connection between women and the moon?

Based on the story of Creation, the woman and the man were created equally in the same instant: “And G-d created Adam in His own image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them.” (Bereshit 1:27). And as explained by Rashi (based on the words of the Midrash): “The Midrash explains that the human, as first created, consisted of two halves, male and female, which were afterwards separated.”

Nevertheless, it is apparent from the words of the Torah that this entity, which consisted of a man and a woman, was not satisfied: “But for Adam there was not found a help mate for him” (Bereshit 2:21). Therefore Hashem separates the woman from this single unit: “And Hashem caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; and He took one of his sides, and closed up the place with flesh instead.” (Bereshit 2:22-23)

This is not a description of the actual creation of the woman, since the woman was created at the same time as the man, as was described above. Rather this is a description of the separation of the woman from the side of this single entity.

We learn from the above that man and woman were created equal. Nevertheless, it is apparent from the words of the Torah that the woman proceeds to disrupt the ideal harmony. She does so by persuading the man to sin: “she took of the fruit [of the Tree of Knowledge] and ate it; and she then gave it to her husband, and he ate it, too.” (Bereshit 3:6)

The punishment of the woman reflects the root of her sin. The woman, who convinced the man to sin, will from now and on be dominated by the man: “and you shall depend upon your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Bereshit 3:16)

The deterioration of the woman’s status and her punishment are reflected in the story of the creation of the Moon, as described in the Midrash: “And G-d made the two great lights;” but later it says: “the great light and the small light!” The moon had questioned Hashem: Master of the World, is it possible for two kings to share (literally: to use) one crown? G-d said to the moon: [You are right, so] go and diminish yourself!” (Yalkut Shimoni, Bereshit)

Originally, the moon had the same status as the sun. Yet the moon attempted to jeopardize the harmonious relationship between the two great lights by claiming its sole right to rule. Therefore the moon was punished by being diminished. Accordingly, the woman was equal to the man, but the woman’s attempt to dominate resulted in the lowering of her status.

Restoration of Women’s Status In The Future

Obviously, the inferiority of the woman is not the ideal condition, and does not represent the proper role of the woman in society. This is why, in the future, the status of women shall be fully restored, in the words of the prophet Yirmiya: “For Hashem has created a new thing on Earth: a woman shall court a man”, and as Rashi comments: “(in the future) a woman shall court a man and ask him to marry her”. (Yirmiya 31:21). This prophecy is a clear indication of the future restoration of the woman’s status. In the future, even behavior traditionally considered masculine, such as courting, shall be regarded as a feminine role, as well, since all of creation shall be restored to its original form.

The woman will merit to return to her original status as a result of her righteous behavior during the sin of the Golden Calf. Bnei Yisrael, when standing in front of Mount Sinai, at first reverted to the spiritual level of Adam Harishon prior to the sin of the eating from the Tree of Knowledge. The sin of the Golden Calf had the same effect as the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge – Bnei Yisrael were “kicked out” of Gan Eden for the second time. Only this time, the women did not participate in the sin. On the contrary, they struggled to prevent the sin from happening, as detailed in the Midrash above. The manner in which the women overcame the temptation to sin indicates that they became worthy of the return to their original status.

The restoration of the woman’s strength is celebrated on Rosh Chodesh, which symbolizes the restoration of the strength of the moon: “they (the women) will become renewed like the new moons…” (Midrash Pirke d’Rebbe Eliezer, ibid). We are drawing closer to a better world, as women regain their ability to fully express their spirituality. And just as the woman is returning to her original status, the moon will return to be a great light: “The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun” (Yeshaya 30:21). אמן כן יהי רצון.

Rabbanit Pnina Neuwirth
Rabbanit Dr. Pnina Neuwirth is Rabbanit of Congregation Ohel Ari in Ra’anana. She teaches Torah in several frameworks and was previously a professor at Stern College for Women. She also holds a Ph.D. Degree in tax law and teaches law at Haifa and Bar Ilan universities.


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