This month shall be to you the head of the months. (Shemos 12:2)
The mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh is in this week’s parsha. The beginning of each month, we celebrate by singing Hallel and having a little bit of a nicer meal. But what’s so special about the first day of the month? When is the last time you saw someone celebrate on March 1 or June 1 or September 1?
To make the question even stronger, during the Chanuka story, the Greeks forbade the Jews to perform certain mitzvos. They included keeping Shabbos, performing a Bris Milah, and keeping Rosh Chodesh. The Greeks did not force the Jews to wear Shatnez nor tell them they could no longer wear Tefillin. What is so special about Rosh Chodesh?
Before starting the answer, though, a little history of Rosh Chodesh. Originally we did not have a set calendar like we do today. Two witnesses would look up in the sky and see the new moon. The witnesses would come to the Beis Din who would declare the new month. Nowadays, a calendar has been established which tells us exactly when Rosh Chodesh will come out, which was set up by Hillel.
Now, the simple answer to the above questions is that all of our holidays depend on Rosh Chodesh. Many of our mitzvos are performed during our Holidays — Pesach and Succos have many mitzvos each. On Rosh HaShana we have the mitzvah of blowing the Shofar and on Yom Kippur we have the mitzvah of fasting. If these mitzvos are performed on the wrong day, then they do not count. It is like going to see a performance at a theatre and showing up a day late. You thought you had the correct date, but you missed the performance. Therefore, Rosh Chodesh is extremely important because without keeping Rosh Chodesh, our days might be wrong and then we do not perform many mitzvos.
I think there might be an additional reason why Rosh Chodesh is so important. Rosh Chodesh is an important day because since there was no set calendar, people might keep different days as the beginning of the month. One person might see the new moon on one night and begin the next month, but it might be cloudy in the community a few miles away, so they do not hold that day as the start of the next month. Therefore, if there was not a Rosh Chodesh, different communities might hold the month starts on different days. Rosh Chodesh is important because it makes the same calendar for everyone in the world. Now, everyone, no matter what community they live in, starts the month on the same day and celebrates the holidays on the same day. Without Rosh Chodesh, there might be two communities next to each other that hold Pesach or Succos or a different holiday on different days.
A few years ago, I spoke with an officer at Agudas Yisrael and asked why they push Daf Yomi but do not encourage any of the other daily Yomi programs. To learn Daf Yomi is not easy — two sides of a page of Gemara takes a lot of time and advanced knowledge to be able to understand it. Therefore, I asked why Agudas Yisrael does not promote other easier programs like Mishna Yomis (2 mishnahs a day) or Shmiras HaLashon Yomi or Navi Yomi or one of the many other programs available. The answer given opened my eyes. Of course, Daf Yomi is about learning, but it is about more than just that. It is about joining the world together. A person can travel to anywhere in the world and sit down to a shiur on the same page of Gemara as he is learning in his hometown. A person can travel to Australia or Ohio or Argentina and they are all learning the same page of Gemara. The reason Agudas Yisrael pushes Daf Yomi only is because if too many programs were promoted then there would not be this achdus – togetherness. This is what Daf Yomi is all about.
This is also what Rosh Chodesh is all about. Rosh Chodesh brings us all together. When Rosh Chodesh is announced, all of the Jews in the world are combined to one calendar. We are all together. This is why Rosh Chodesh is so important because when all of the Jews are one, then Hashem gives us an extra blessing.
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