What if I told you that there is an ancient Jewish ritual designed to help you learn about yourself from the inside-out? A ritual that brings you closer to your community, and helps you uncover deep personal connections to a long line of inherited spiritual wisdom? One that is inherently connected to cycles?
I’m not talkin’ Soul Cycle — I’m talkin’ the lunar cycle.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to meet Rosh Chodesh! One of the oldest, most lawless, lady-centric, life-altering Jewish rituals in the history of (wo)mankind.
Exaggeration? Actually, no. So what is it, and why didn’t you know about it until now? Good questions, dear reader! Let’s dive in.
What is Rosh Chodesh?
Rosh Chodesh (meaning “the head of the month”) is a holiday that marks the first day of each month on the lunar calendar, or new moon cycle.
It’s a day set aside for women to “study, gather, share, and witness each other in all the joys, struggles, uncertainties, and zillion other shades of the human experience.”
According to Midrash — Rabbinic storytelling and interpretation of events in the Torah — this designation was the result of a little run-in with a golden calf…
As the story goes, during the Exodus from Egypt, when then Israelite men were worshiping the false idol of a golden calf, instead of participating, all the women basically said, “Nah, we good.”
As a reward for their faith, it is said that the Divine gave the Israelite women one day every month — Rosh Chodesh.
How old is this, really?
It’s REAL old. Like, quite literally, from the beginning of time as Jews know it. In the Book of Exodus, God’s first commandment to the Israelites was to mark time by the appearance of a new moon (when you look up in the sky and there’s nada). That means that no matter who you are, or what body you have, marking the moon on Rosh Chodesh is an important Jewish practice.
What do I do on Rosh Chodesh?
Since Rosh Chodesh is a women’s holiday, and women have been guardians of oral storytelling (as opposed to written), we don’t have much information on how these ancient gatherings used to look. What we do know is that women have been coming together for thousands of years to learn about everything from ancient Jewish wisdom and the physical health of their bodies to tracking the cycles of the moon.
We also know that now, all over the world — from California to Israel and South Africa to Alaska — thousands of Jewish women (of all denominations and gender identities) gather in small groups every month around the new moon.
At The Well, an organization (with whom I work), is all about supporting these groups, which we’ve dubbed Well Circles. While we do put on awesome events all over the world throughout the year, Well Circles are independent, self-led, self-run, and self-sustaining. Around each new moon, one person hosts at their home, and another person facilitates conversation and activities.
Each Well Circle is totally unique, and can run their gathering any way they choose. Some begin by lighting candles and going around the room to share how they are feeling before one person leads. Some may include interpretations of Torah and Jewish wisdom in addition to group activities like meditation.
Lauren W. from Washington D.C. has found inspiration in these monthly gatherings. “Last night, I hosted the group at my apartment. We talked about our bodies and the moon cycle; we shared stories and made Havdalah candles. I wish there were more spaces like this to connect with other Jewish women and explore our spirituality together.”
Lauren R. from New York has been attending a Well Circle for over a year. “As a young urban professional, life moves fast and some relationships feel transactional. Holding a sacred time each month to gather with my Well Circle, a place where we are each seen and heard, adds such a beautiful depth to my life here.” She adds, “I appreciate the idea of wellness, taking care of ourselves emotionally and physically, as a spiritual practice. I also love being more in sync with the Hebrew calendar. I’m grateful to be able to deeply connect with other women who share these values, allowing me to feel more at home in my chosen city.”
Rosh Chodesh circles can be whatever you make them. It’s an ancient tradition and an opportunity to step back once a month and check in with yourself. It’s a chance to build a supportive, intimate community, with purpose. It’s a chance to look within Judaism for the tools to help us find a sense of personal wholeness.
The next new moon is on Wednesday, October 10, the first of Cheshvan; gather some friends and give it a try! I mean, at the very least, there’s usually snacks. At the most? It’s a ritual that can bring joy, peace, connection, learning, community, and wholeness to your life. But NBD.
Want to know more? Follow @AtTheWellProject on Instagram for daily Jewish learning on the topics of women’s health, ritual, marking time, and Jewish wisdom. Visit www.AtTheWellProject.Com to learn more.
Header image via Manolya Isik on Giphy.