Peninei Halakha

01. Rosh Ĥodesh and Birkat Ha-levana

These laws are numerous; hence, we shall mention but a few that pertain to women.

It is a mitzva to have an expansive Rosh Ĥodesh meal (SA 419:1). One may perform any type of labor on Rosh Ĥodesh; however, women customarily reduce their workload a bit on Rosh Ĥodesh. This is a noble custom, because Rosh Ĥodesh is considered a minor holiday for women, a reward for not having participated in the sin of the Golden Calf (SA 417:1; MB 3; this is explained at length in Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 1:6-7).

Women are exempt from Birkat Ha-levana (a monthly blessing on the moon), since it is a time-bound mitzva. Although according to Ashkenazic custom women may recite such berakhot, the widespread custom is that women do not recite this berakha (MB 426:1). 1

  1. This berakha is reciting on the waxing moon. For Ashkenazim, this is from the third day of the month until the full moon, and for Sephardim it is from the seventh of the month until the full moon. Women are therefore exempt; so state MA and MB 426:1. Ĥokhmat Shlomo challenges this by noting that the berakha does not depend on time but on the phase of the moon, for we may only give thanks for it when it is waxing, just as we may only recite She-heĥeyanu on fruit when it is newly appeared on the trees. However, a distinction can be made between the two cases: She-heĥeyanu is recited over new fruits and depends not on a specific time but on the condition of the fruits, whereas Birkat Ha-levana completely depends on time, for time is established based on the moon. See Halikhot Beitah 16:10 and in the notes. The prevailing custom is that women do not recite it, and MB mentions the explanation of Shlah (Sha’ar Ha-otiyot 100) that women refrain from reciting this blessing because the deficiency of the moon was caused by the sin of the first woman which in turn precipitated Adam’s sin. Out of shame, women refrain from reciting the berakha on the renewal of the moon. Even though this sin was rectified when they did not participate in the sin of the Golden Calf (even while the flaw persisted among men), and for this reason Rosh Ĥodesh was given to women to observe to a greater degree than men, a woman nevertheless was the direct cause of the moon’s deficiency, and therefore, out of shame, they refrain from reciting a berakha over its renewal. However, Me’iri states based on the Gemara in Sanhedrin 42a that women must recite this berakha but that since they are not familiar with the wording, they may recite a shorter version of it. See AHS 426:14. Kaf Ha-ĥayim 426:1 states that it is best for a woman to hear the berakha recited by a man.

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Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman