Rosh Chodesh Davening: Something’s Missing

Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein

At the beginning of each Jewish month [with the exception of Rosh Hashanah, which is a full-fledged holiday beginning of the Jewish year, and also being the beginning of the Jewish month of “Tishrei[1]“,] we add the paragraph of “Yaale VeYavo” to our Amida on that day [while, on Rosh Hashanah, a more elaborate festive Amida is uttered,] fulfill the custom[2] of saying a not-full Hallel[3], read the portion from the Torah speaking of the special sacrifices brought that day in the Temple[4], and then add a special Musaf Amida[5] in order to commemorate the special sacrifices that were brought in the Temple on this day.
What’s this all about? After all, the day, externally, seems the very same like any weekday? In the words of Rav Solovetchik:

The procedure of sanctifying the day of Rosh Chodesh is not the external reality. Its sanctity doesn’t express itself in its form, doesn’t break barriers and doesn’t show itself externally. Rosh Chodesh is a regular and simple weekday. It had not prohibitions of Melacha[6], there is no obligation of Simcha/happiness or to honor and enjoy it [i.e.-Kibbud VeOneg,] it doesn’t make itself distinct from the day prior and had no imprint externally. A Jew is clothed in his weekday clothing, working and worrying for his living,…..The external world had a normative day, there is no difference between Rosh Chodesh and a regular weekday, except mentioning “Yaale VeYavo” in benching and prayer, the Musaf prayer and reading a non-full Hallel.” [Rav Solovetchik, Divrei HaGut Vehaaracha, Ben Tzion Hadar, printed by Defus Maor-Va’lach, Jereusalem, 1982, pp 165.]

Indeed, there seems to be a day on the calendar that, while making the daily morning service longer, and forbidden in fasting and eulogys[7], and even a praiseworthy custom to eat a bit more than usual in honor of it[8], has absolutely no ramifications on our daily routine, and makes on imprint on the home, office and community we function in.
So what experience shall a Jew feel each month other than prolonging the daily service? After all, this day did have special sacrifices brought in the Temple, and thus, it is a biblical special day. But what experience should a Jew emanate with, when nothing much seems to change on this day in the vicinity of his home-base?
Perhaps a passage from the interpretation of the Ramban on the Book of Mitzvot of the Rambam, can shed some light on this quandary:

…שהוא בכלל השמחה שנצטוינו בה, כמו שכתוב; “וביום שמחתכם ובמועדיכם ובראשי חדשיכם ותקעתם בחצוצרות על עולותיכם ועל זבחי שלמיכם”… ונצטוינו בשמחת השיר על הקרבן, ושלא בשעת הקרבן בכלל השמחה. אלא שמיעטו ראשי חדשים בגבולין, מפני שאינו מקודש לחג ואינו טעון שירה.  (השגות הרמב”ן לספר המצוות לרמב”ם שורש א )

…that this[9] is part of the “Simcha“/Happiness that we were obligated in, as it says “And on the days of your happiness, our special Mo’a’dim and on the Rosh-Cho’da’shim/Beginnings of the New month, you shall blow the trumpets on your burnt and She’lam’im sacrafices,”…we have been commanded to say the “song” [i.e.-Hallel] on the sacrifice, and at the time where the sacrifices is not being brought this [i.e.- saying Hallel] is also part of this [fulfillment of] “happiness.” But they have limited this on Rosh Chodesh OUTSIDE THE TEMPLE, as its not sanctified as a Holiday, and thus, there is no obligation of song. (Hasagot of the Ramban to the Rambam’s Book of Mitzvot, Shoresh 1.)

As we can see, the day of Rosh Chodesh was a proper and major holiday, but confined to the Temple, and as opposed to the other holidays, did not spill over[10] to our homes outside of it.
This leads a Jew around the world, in a time void [for now] of a Temple, to the monthly realization that something is missing, life is far from perfect. If on other Holidays, various practices happen in our homes to some extent [even if diminished a bit without the Temple in our midst,] on this one, there is nothing whatsoever, and thus, once a month, a Jew walks around with the healthy feeling that something is missing from our lives; the Temple.
Each of our daily Amida prayers end with a plea to G-d to return our Temple[11], and various practices have been ordained to remember what once was, all emanating from the obligation of recalling it, and yearning for it. In the words of the Talmud:

ומנלן דעבדינן זכר למקדש? דאמר קרא; “כי אעלה ארכה לך וממכותיך ארפאך נאם ה’ כי נדחה קראו לך ציון היא דרש אין לה=,” מכלל דבעיא דרישה. (מסכת ראש השנה דף ל עמוד א )

What’s the source that one must [make a ordinance] to remember the [practice] in the Temple? And the verse says: “I will lift you up, and from the blows I will heal you, says the Lord, as desolate they call it, it’s Zion and nobody speaks of it= thus, one is obligated to speak of it (Tractate Rosh Hashanah 30a.)

While the other Holidays have various practices at home, though incomplete without the Temple, there is a still much done. Rosh Chodesh is the exception, and thus, one leaves this day feeling the sheer absence of the Temple, as, with the exception of a longer morning prayer service, nothing is left in our homes.
This may explain the wording of the Musaf Service on this say, unlike that used on the other Holidays; While the others begin on a positive note that “אתה בחרתנו מכל העמים, אהבת אותנו, ורצית בנו, ורוממתנו מכל הלשונות….וקרבתנו מלכנו לעבודתך….ותתן לנו ה’ אליהינו באהבה…. את יום”/”You have chosen us from all the nation, loved us and wanted us, elevated us from all the other nations…brought us close to your worship….you have given us with love….this day of…” and only then, after this positive interlude, speak of our sins that, ultimately, destroyed the temple [i.e.- “ומפני חטאינו גלינו מארצינו ונתרחקנו מעל אדמתינו”/”And due to our sins we have been exiled from our land, and have been distanced  from our land,”] then going on to say that “ואין אנו יכולים…[ו]לעשות חובותינו בבית בחירתך”/”We can’t…fulfill our obligations… in your Chosen Home,”] on Rosh Chodesh, we totally omit the positive introduction, and the paragraph starts right with the latter:

ראשי חודשים לעמך נתת, זמן כפרה לכל תולדותם, בהיותם מקריבים לפניך זבחי רצון, ושעירי חטאת לכפר בעדם; זכרון לכולם יהיה, ותשועת נפשם מיד שונא.  מזבח חדש בציון תכין, ועולת ראש חודש נעלה עליו;

Beginnings of the months you have given your people, a time for atonement for all time. And [once] they would sacrifice before you wanted sacrifices, and sin offering to atone for them, it should be a remembrance for all, and save them from their enemies. A new alter you shall built in Zion, and the offering of Rosh Chodesh we will yet sacrifice on it.

No positive intro, but rather delving right into what we’re missing. On Rosh Chodesh, we have a once-a-month experience in which, in our homes/schools/offices all looks the same, and thus, we ONLY express that something is [still] missing in our lives, and we yet yearn to fill in this gap.
Our complacency with a world void of a Temple comes to a halt each beginning of a month, when we have a longer prayers service, on the one hand, with almost no ramifications at home on the other!  This should force a Jew to wonder why this discrepancy exists, and thus, hopefully begin to think of how we can, slowly but surely, diminish each of the wrongdoings that led to this huge gap, hopefully to be shortened each year, till it will no longer exist.
Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein is the Director of Training and Placements at Beren-Amiel and Straus-Amiel. He is the author of Daven Your Age: An Adult Journey Through the Daily Prayer Service (Gefen Publishing House, 2013), which has just gone into a second printing.
[1] Bamidbar 29/1-6 describes the sacrafices on Rosh Hashana and [ibid 6] indeed mentions that these special sacrafices are “besides the burnt offering of the new month and its meal offering,” which indeed was sacrificed on this day, in honor of it being the beginning of the Jewish month. However, in the davening of the day, one only says “Yom HaZikaron/The day of Rememberance” and not the explicit mention of “Rosh Chodesh” [as usually done,] as the term “rememberance” covers both [Tractate Eiruvin 40a-b, Tosfot ad-loc d”h Zikaron, Code of Jewish Law, 582/6, Mishna Berura ad-loc 18.]
[2]  Tractate Archin 10b established that there is no obligation to say Hallel on this day, not including it in the requisite days one must say Hallel, but we follow the anchient Bablonion custom [Tractate Taanit 28b] to say it, albeit not the complete Hallel, in order to demanstrrate that it’s not an obligation [Mishna Berura, ibid, 422/12.]
[3] Code ibid 422/1-2.
[4] On a weekday Bamidbar 28/1-15 [Code ibid 423/2[, on Shabbat ibid 9-15, Code ibid 425/1.
[5] Code of Jewish Law, OC, 423, for a Rosh Chodesh that comes out on Shabbat   425/3.
[6] Tractate Chagiga 18, Tractate Megilla 22b and more.
[7] Code ibid 418, and 410, Code YD 401/5.
[8] Code ibid 419. But as it’s not obligatory to eat bread, as is the case on Shabbat [ibid 274]/Holidays [529/1], if one forgets to mention “Yaale VaYavo” he/she does not have to say the Grace after Meals again [ibid 424,] as opposed to Shababt/Holidays [188/5-6.]
[9] i.e.- the Ramban assumes that saying “Hallel” on the Holidays, with the exception of Chanukah, is a biblical obligation of fulfilling the Mitzva of SIMCHA/Happiness. Others disagree with this assumption [i.e.- the Rambam feels that it’s Rabbinic (Rambam’s Code, Laws of Megilla and Chanukah, 3/5-6,) the Chatam Sofer (Responsa YD 233) feels it’s Rabbinic on the Holidays, and actually biblical on Chanukah, while the the Sema”k (146) states it’s always biblical.
[10]  Rambam, Laws of Yom Tov, 6/15 and onwards regarding the Holidays, regarding Chanukah and Purim see subsequent chapters. Although there are customs on Rosh Chodesh, such as Women not engadging in Melacha, these are not obligitory [Code, ibid, 417/1,]
[11] Code of Jewish Law, OC 123/1 in the Rama.


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