(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Sun, 19 Mar 2000 20:10:18 -0500 (EST)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Kiddush Levanah (Sanctifying the New Moon)

<  <  Greetings.  Could someone please explain kiddush levanah to me? I saw it
mentioned in a recent post.  Thank you.>  >

I think the reference is to the prayer found in most prayer books
that Jews traditionally say once a month when the moon renews.

There are several things to say about this 'strange' custom. The great
secular Jewish poet Bialik once said "Jews are a strange people; they pray
for the coming of the Messiah (a great event) and they pray on the new
moon(a minor event)" (Cited by Rabbi Soloveitchick in his Saturday night
lectures in Boston).

Rav Hirsch explains that the 'new moon' was the first mitzvah because one
of the distinctions between Judaism and other religions is the emphasis on
mans capacity to Repentance. The moon is the only astral body that grows
and diminishes and hence it symbolizes repentance, mans capacity to go from
'nothingness' to 'greatness'.(By contrast other astral bodies like the sun
are always big).

Finally I once heard Rabbi Soloveitchick explain that the 'blessing the new
moon ceremony' originated during the time of the Roman persecutions. The
Romans would not grant autonomy to the Jews...they would not let us make
our own calendars. So we had to steathily bring witnesses that the moon was
seen so that the month could be declared. To avoid being caught the
witnesses used 'code words' to identify themselves as Jewish. The code word
was 'Shalom Alaycham---Peace onto you'.

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA;
Moderator Rashi is SImple, http://www.shamash.org/rashi/