Shabbat Mevarchim

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

There is an ancient custom to bless the upcoming Jewish month on the Shabbat which precedes Rosh Chodesh. These Shabbatot when the new month is blessed are referred to as “Shabbat Mevarchim”. A central feature of this prayer is the public announcement of the exact time the new moon, known as the “molad”, is set to appear.[1] The molad is the exact moment of the moon’s renewal. Recall that at the concluding moments of every lunar cycle the moon is positioned directly between the earth and the sun and is completely invisible. A few hours following this occurrence the moon is once again visible, albeit only the most minute portion of it. At such time the “molad” the “birth” is recognized as having taken place and a new Jewish month has begun.

The prayer for the new month is conducted in a somewhat distinguished manner. It is led by the Chazzan while holding the Torah. The prayer announces the name of the upcoming month along with the exact moment the new moon is set to appear. It also serves to alerts the congregation as to which day(s) of the coming week will be observed as Rosh Chodesh. Finally, it asks that God renew the upcoming month with all forms of blessing. It is often carried out in an elaborate and impressive manner.

It is actually quite important that the exact time of the molad be announced.[2] Doing so allows people to determine when the latest opportunity is for them to recite the Kiddush Levana. It also represents our efforts to familiarize ourselves with the workings of the calendar. Indeed, we are strongly encouraged to somehow participate in the calculating of celestial matters.[3] Yes, learning the basics of astrology is a mitzva! [4]

Announcing the molad also recalls the ancient practice of “Kiddush Hachodesh”. In Temple times the new month was declared by the Beit Din based on manual calculations along with the testimony of witnesses who would have claimed to have seen the moon’s renewal. It is rather essential to be standing when reciting this prayer as the ancient Kiddush Hachodesh was only acceptable if performed while standing.[5] Although it is technically to recite the “Mevarchim” prayer on any day of the week preceding Rosh Chodesh, universal custom is to recite it on Shabbat when more people are to be found in the synagogue.[6] Indeed, it is always commendable to make an effort to perform mitzvot in the presence of as many people as possible.[7]

There is one month, however, that is excluded from the cycle of Shabbat Mevarchim prayers and that is the month of Tishrei. Among the many explanations as to why this so, it is said that the month of Tishrei with all its holidays and their accompanying mitzvot is inherently blessed. It is as if God Himself is the one who blesses the month of Tishrei. The other months of the year which don’t contain nearly as much mitzvot as Tishrei are therefore dependant upon the Jewish people to bless them.[8]

While in our day Tishrei is the only month for which Shabbat Mevarchim prayers are not recited, there was once a custom to omit them for the month of Av, as well.[9] While no longer practiced, the idea for omitting the prayer on behalf of the month of Av was related to that month’s eternal association with bad fortune and tragedy.[10] It is actually the opposite reasoning that has prevailed however – being that the month is so associated with tragedy, how much more so does it require our prayers![11]

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[1] Mishna Berura 417:1
[2] Kaf Hachaim 417:1
[3] Shabbat 75a
[4] Rashi, Maharsha, Rambam ad loc.
[5] Magen Avraham 417:1, Kaf Hachaim 417:7, Igrot Moshe 1:142
[6] Likutei Maharich;Rosh Chodesh
[7] Rosh Hashanah 32b, Pesachim 64b, Menachot 64a
[8] Likutei Sichot;Nitzavim-Vayelech 5744
[9] Magen Avraham 417:1
[10] Machatzit Hashekel O.C. 417
[11] Ateret Zekeinim 549

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com

3 comments

  1. Chaim 07/06/2010 03:14 AM
    Could you possibly provide marei mekomos for note 4 “Yes, learning the basics of astrology is a mitzva!”.

    hirhurim 07/06/2010 03:41 AM
    OOOPS. Thanks for cathcing that!

    The source for this is the Rambam in Kiddush Hachodesh in several places. See the end of Chapter 1, 13, and 19, and beginnign of Chapter 11, for example. There is no question that the Rambam wanted everyone to know this stuff.

    Ari Enkin

    HaDarda”i 07/06/2010 04:04 AM
    Astrology is the study of the position of stars and planets in the belief that they influence events on Earth. In other words, astrology is superstition, and the Rambam rejected it. The Rambam was in Kiddush Hachodesh was talking about astronomy, which is a scientific discipline. I think your post needs to be amended.

    hirhurim 07/06/2010 05:00 AM in reply to HaDarda”i
    I guess that’s another “ooops”.

    Tnx

    Ari Enkin

    mycroft 07/06/2010 05:48 AM
    Baal batishe teruzim UMHO are often the most accurate. An explanation that I once heard for not doing bvorchim for Tishrei is that hamon amle knew when Tishrei was going to be -yamin tovim etc.; however Roah Chodesh in general had been so much deemphasized since Tanach’s time that Chazal were afraid for the rest of the days that many would simply have no idea of when Rosh Chidesh would occur.

    PSOL 07/06/2010 06:27 AM
    1. We don’t “bless” the month, any more than we bless bread, wine etc.

    2. “It is rather essential to be standing when reciting this prayer” Rather essential? Oder yoh, oder nein?

    3. It may commemorate Kiddush Hachodesh, but it certainly isn’t Kiddush Hachodesh, nor should it be mistaken for it.

    Micha Berger 07/06/2010 06:28 AM
    1 person liked this.
    “The molad is the exact moment of the moon’s renewal. ”

    The molad was the mean time between new moons. The actual time varies from month to month. (It can be anywhere from 6.5 hours before the molad, to 7 hours after.)

    Second, it /was/ the mean time between new moons about 1500 years ago or so, around when the calendar was standardized. Because of energy lost to the tides, the month gets longer by about 3 sec per century. Interestingly, the molad was documented by the Babylonians, when it was too long. The value was only accurate during the period in which our calendar was standardized. Coincidence?

    Also, it is an incredibly hard average to measure. With three centuries to average over, the error would be around 2 chalaqim. And over those three centuries, your average would be 4.5 sec too short, because the average itself increased during that time. Doing the measurement over more years therefore wouldn’t help. Yet it was accurate in Rabbi Hillel II’s day (as well as a couple of generations of amoraim in either direction) to less than one cheileq.

    Did Hashem give Moshe the appropriate value for when we would need it (and the Babylonians got it from us)? Did He insure that the Babylonians would compute a mean that was wrong for them, but “just happened” to produce more accurate calendar nearly a millennium later when we needed it? Personlly, I vote for the first (based on the pasuq, not philosophy), but it’s pretty astounding either way.

    -micha

    ruvie 07/06/2010 08:41 AM
    r’ enkin –
    “It is actually quite important that the exact time of the molad be announced.[2] Doing so allows people to determine when the latest opportunity is for them to recite the Kiddush Levana”

    please state the source showing the second sentence is connected to the first. also, when did the custom of kidush levenah begin as well as the meverchim hachodesh in the beit kenesset. also how does it show our understanding of astrology – correction astronomy. rambam was oppose to astrology and and any halachot that was only associated in the gemera with it was not recorded by him in the misheh torah.
    please see the rav articles/shiurim on the reason for mevarchim hachaodosh – esp. in his sefer abba/mori – it provides a better understanding than given here.

    hirhurim 07/06/2010 09:59 AM in reply to ruvie
    Ruvie-

    Thanks for that.

    I dont understand why you need a source for that sentence. How else can soemone know (before calneders/luachs) when the earliest and latest time to say kiddush levana is? Indeed, the misconseption remains today that one can only recite KL three days after Rosh Chodesh. This is wrong. One can recite KL three days after the *molad* which can sometimes be the day after R.C.

    Yes, astrology is an error. I meant “astronomy”.

    Ari Enkin

    Affluenteffluent 07/06/2010 10:07 AM in reply to hirhurim
    Bless the upcoming month? Is this kind of like how I blessed my hot dogs at an Independence Day barbecue?
    Every blessing starts “baruch Atta Hashem” – which, as I was taught, is not a statement blessing G-d but an acknowledgement that G-d is a Breicha- a wellspring of whatever is mentioned next- freeing prisoners, clothing for the naked, etc.

    Sammy Finkelman 07/06/2010 11:12 AM
    The only reason for learning any astrology was that was the only way the Amoraim had to describe exactly equal clock hours, rather than shayos zemaniyos. They had to use that terminology – this hour in Mercury’s day and so on. The days of the week were named after astronomical bodies, because in a 24 hour cycle where 7 bodies are arranged one after the other, at the first hour of the day (after midnight) a different one is first. 24 is not divisible by 7.

    Actually the system we use now for naming of the week isn’t so complicated as what they had, as that one would go Number 1, Number 4, Number 7, Number 3 Number 6 Number 2 and Number 5 in the order in which they had tehm arranged..

    ruvie 07/06/2010 11:22 AM in reply to hirhurim
    you are making the assumption that it does – i am not so sure that your reasoning or facts are correct. that is why i asked for the historical facts on the first implementation of announcing the moled in the beit hakenesset on the shabbat before rc and when did we see the first time kidush levena being practiced ( i have no knowledge in this area so it may just be a dumb question).
    btw, before calendars did we do meverchim hachodesh with the moled in the beit hakenesset or is post? your post is assuming alot with no historical backdrop or sources.

    Joelirich 07/06/2010 12:21 PM
    Just to whet your appetite-this week’s audioroundup will lead off with a fascinating quote re: Shmuel’s study of astronomy.

    KT

    Nachum 07/06/2010 12:44 PM in reply to hirhurim
    Actually, the molad can fall before Rosh Chodesh or after, and one can say Kiddush Levana from the moment of the molad.

    In any event, the molad as announced is not the actual molad, “Yerushalayim time” or not.

    Nachum 07/06/2010 12:44 PM in reply to Sammy Finkelman
    Hence our days of the week- Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn are 1-4-7-3-6-2-5 in their order.

    Just A Jew 07/06/2010 12:53 PM
    1 person liked this.
    Why is it that with all the information we now have on astronomy and the position of the sun, moon and earth that we do not celebrate Rosh Chodesh every month on the day of the molad? Is the established Jewish calandar established so long ago considered to be so sacrosanct that we do not want to be more accurate?

    hirhurim 07/06/2010 01:06 PM in reply to Just A Jew
    R. Michael J. Broyde answers that question in a 24-page article in the Hirhurim dinner journal: http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2010/07/get-togeth

    Ari Enkin 07/06/2010 01:15 PM in reply to Nachum
    Nachum-

    It is not permitted to say KL lechatchila before 3 days from the molad have passed although m’ikkar hadin one is yotzai. This is a gzeira lest what you saw was a cloud or something and not the moon.

    Ari Enkin

    Nachum 07/06/2010 03:01 PM
    Sorry; I meant b’dieved.

    Mike S. 07/06/2010 05:12 PM in reply to Just A Jew
    Primarily because we manipulate the calendar so that Yom Kippur does not fall out on Friday or Sunday and Hoshana rabba does not fall on Shabbos. Also so that pushing the days of the week around does not yield a year with too many days. These drive the so-called d’chiyot of ad”u, bat”u takpa”t and ge’t re”d.

    MiMedinat HaYam Yesterday 11:40 AM
    we also manipluate the calendar by adding a month, which leads to a ?seudat mitzvah? not observed today which expenses are not part of our annual income “allocation” ( = “tishrei” not referring to the month of tishrei).

  2. I always thought we don’t bless Tishrei since “Rosh Chodesh Tishrei” is also Rosh HaShana, so it would be strange to refer to it as just another Rosh Chodesh, when it is a full yom tov. So it doesn’t need blessing. So it’s not just that the whole month is blessed already, it’s that the date 1 Tishrei specifically is blessed already. Does anyone say this?

  3. The info I have for the coming New Moon is
    9:07 17/18th PM EDT

    The actual time of the New Moon (an eclipse) is 3:40:27pm EDT , July 11, 2010

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