Rosh Chodesh X Shabbat

OneTable is partnering with At The Well to bring you the intersection of Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat Dinner. At The Well connects women to body, soul, and community through wellness education and Jewish spirituality. This post is brought to you by At The Well’s Sarah Klegman:

Ah, the Horah. At first, the music starts, and a little voice in the back of your mind says “so I guess we’re doing this…” while another screams “YAS!!!!”

You’re torn, until someone pulls you into the fast-flowing, joyful river of stomping feet and clasped hands and suddenly you’re smiling, surrounded by people taking time to celebrate.

That’s sort of like the Jewish practice of marking time (stay with me here).

So, when Jews were freed from Egypt, one of the very first things G-d commanded was to mark time. Specifically, to begin each new month with the new moon (new moon = when you look up and there is no moon visible in the night sky).

This day is called Rosh Chodesh, and this action, taking ownership of time, was one of the Jewish people’s first assertions of freedom.

In his book The Sabbath, our guy Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Gallantly, ceaselessly, quietly, man must fight for inner liberty to remain independent of the enslavement of the material world.”

Freedom is dynamic. To be free means to control your own time, and how you spend it. To be free means to match the step of your worldly commitments and service (i.e. social and professional time) with the step of your personal and spiritual needs. Freedom is a dance, that much like the horah, is best done together.

Rosh Chodesh has since evolved into a monthly holiday where women gather in groups to talk, to listen, to learn and to support each other. It’s one of the most lawless holidays in all of Judaism – a fact that At The Well celebrates and embraces by empowering women all over the world to create their own groups (aka “Well Circles”) that come together every new moon, to mark time in their own way.

On the other hand, with no shortage of laws but with just as much freedom, is Shabbat.

Shabbat asks us to mark time, cease from work, and abstain from things that we usually are required to do. Rosh Chodesh also reminds us to mark time, and enjoy our freedom. They remind us to connect to those around us, and to take time to rest and reflect. Or take time to dance until the sun comes up! That’s the beauty of these holidays – there’s so much room to make them your own.

On Friday, July 13th, these two holidays will overlap – a rare event that happens only a twice a year. Especially when experienced together, these ancient holidays serve as spiritual wellness rituals that still offer great value to us today; Shabbat is just as much about freedom as it is about law, and just as much about community, as it is about the self.

With these two holidays combined, imagine the possibilities!

Learn more about the origins of Rosh Chodesh here.

Al Rosenberg (they/them) is the Chief Strategy Officer at OneTable. Al lives just north of Chicago, loves handmade candles and board games, is a board member emeritus at Mishkan, and hosts a monthly Rosh Chodesh Well Circle.

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