Rosh Hodesh / Head of the Month

For Program Booklet, see page 61 of SIDDUR


Rosh Hodesh means head (rosh) of the cycle (hodesh), and is a Biblical term often translated new moon. Each Biblical month starts with a dark phase of the moon preceding when the first crescent of light is witnessed and certified (not to be confused with full moon). It is not simply calculated astronomically. It but was based on observation by reliable witnesses and then sanctification by the Sanhedrin in Temple times. During this present period of time while the Sanhedrin is not functioning due to lack of a Temple, we are using a pre-established calendar. The times indicated by this calendar are within a few hours of Lunar conjunction (see table at bottom of page).

Our word month means moon, though our Gregorian Calendar has obscured this meaning. The Biblical months are called: Nisan, Iyyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul, Tishrei, Heshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, and Adar. In leap years, which generally occur seven out of nineteen years, the twelfth month is doubled - Adar I & II. While some condemn the use of these names for being "Babylonian," they are used in Scripture.


Shabbat Mevarekhim: the Sabbath of Blessing

The last Sabbath of each Biblical month is called Shabbat Mevarekhim, and on that Sabbath we announce the coming new month: "The New Month (name of month) will begin on (day of week) evening; may it hold blessings for us and for all His people," and we sing Exodus 12:12: “I gave to you the circle of the seasons 'round the sun. And by the cycles of the moon you'll know which month has come. You can make time sacred . . .”

Rosh Hodesh Night: the beginning of the month

In Temple times, the actual beginning of the month would not be known until after the fact when it was certified by the Sanhedrin. Thus it was observed for the two possible days that it could be - that is, after 29 or 30 days of a prior month (as in 1 Samuel 20:27). This is why Yom Teruah / the Day of Trumpeting (Tishrei 1), which is a Holy Day, is observed for two days; it is called "the day that no man knows the day or the hour" (see Mark 13:32).

On the evening of Rosh Hodesh (Head-of-the-month / New Moon), we meet and read scriptures relating to the event, sing certain related Psalms, and blow the Shofar (ram's horn trumpet) accompanied by prescribed blessings. The scriptures that are read include instructions on observing this day, and prophecies of its observance in both the Millennium and on the Renewed Earth. For program, see end of SABBATH SIDDUR .

Observing Rosh Hodesh is about making time sacred. It is about learning by doing learning to live by God's timetable. We are told not to be in a rush to get “Sabbaths and New Moons” over with (Amos 8:5) so we can do our own thing. We should rejoice in them in our love for our Savior. This is partly why Sabbath is observed as a twenty-five hour day: we can lengthen it in love, we should not shorten it to do other things that is idolatry (putting the other things before God).

This is not a Holy Day / Sabbath, as all of the Holy Days are listed in Leviticus 23. In Amos 8:5 we see a complaint, "When will Rosh Hodesh be over, so that we may open the grain market . . .?" This does not mean that Rosh Hodesh is a Holy Day, but concerns the determination of Nisan 1, which precedes by fifteen days the time that grain may be harvested to sell (Leviticus 23:14).


Heads-of-the-months determine ALL of the annual Holy Days. For example, the Passover lamb is prepared on the fourteenth day from the head-of-the-month Nisan (Exodus 12:6), to be eaten on the fifteenth; Shavuot is the fifteenth plus fifty days after head-of-the-month Nisan (this could vary relating to head-of-the-month Sivan, which it follows by a few days); Yom Teruah IS at the head-of-the-month Tishrei, Yom HaKippurim is the tenth day and Hag Sukkot starts on the fifteenth day (Leviticus 23:24,27,34).

The weekly Sabbath pictures (among other things) the Sabbath Millennium, when Yeshua will reign for 1000 years on this earth. The annual seventh-day of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) pictures the same thing in greater detail

In like manner, the monthly observance of Rosh Hodesh (head-of-the-month) pictures the renewal of life. Rosh Hodesh literally means "head of the cycle" and refers to renewal. The annual feast Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpeting) pictures in more detail this renewal of life. It is the day of which it is said, "Nobody knows the day or the hour. But we know the season and we are to watch." Does this sound like something familiar that Yeshua might have referred to (Matthew 24:36-44)? This day comes when we hear the announcement of the sanctification of the new month. Do you see why it can't be based on astronomical calculation? Everyone would know beforehand!

On Yom Teruah we blow several different trumps on the shofar (ram's horn trumpet). The Last Trump is preceded by a shout, “Tekiah Gedolah!” which translates something like "The return of the Great One!" Does this sound like something Paul might have referred to? At the last trump, with the shout of the archangel, Messiah shall return, and the righteous dead shall be raised (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 15:52)! The renewal of life -- from the dead!  That is what Rosh Hodesh pictures. We announce the head of every new month in Synagogue except Tishrei Yom Teruah: we stay awake up to 49 hours waiting and watching for that one crescent moon each year. One year we may hear the archangel shout “Tekiah Gedolah” and hear God blow the Last Trump! HalelluYah! Even so come, Adonai Yeshua (Revelation 22:20)!


There are four New Years during each calendar year: the New Year for Festivals begins on Nisan 1 (Exodus 12:2); the New Year for Tithe of Animals is Elul 1; the New Year for Calendars, Sabbatical and Jubilee Years is Tishrei 1 (Feast of Trumpets / Rosh haShannah); the New Year for Trees (Arbor Day) is Shevat 15. This may be less confusing if understood in the light of our Gregorian Calendar year (starting January 1), a business fiscal year starting March 1, a school year starting June 15, and one's year-of-life starting with his birthday: yet only one annual calendar may be used.

There are no separate sacred and civil calendars: civil is sacred in Biblical/Hebrew understanding.

The Sanhedrin performed intercalation based on various Biblical principles. The New Year for Kings and Festivals Nisan 1 was determined by the Sanhedrin after being presented with acceptable witnesses to the new crescent moonn the one nearest the time when the day and night were equal lengths in Israel (this is later than the equatorial vernal equinox) if the barley on Mount Zion was near enough to ripe: therefore the previous year could have twelve or thirteen months. Yom haKippurim (Day of the Atonements) could not be adjacent to the weekly Sabbath Friday or Sunday: therefore the New Year for Calendar Years Tishrei 1 would not be sanctified on a Wednesday or Friday.

New moon is defined in modern astronomical terms as the point in the moon's earth orbit when it is nearest the sun totally dark from an earthling's perspective. A total solar eclipse (when the sun's corona is seen around a dark moon) would represent the perfect new moon. Ancient rabbis knew the time of this astronomical conjunction from the Torah more accurately than modern scientists until times of man-made earth-orbiting satellites! However, Rosh Hodesh, the beginning of the Biblical month, is not simply defined by this astronomical conjunction; it is generally the beginning of either the preceding or following day.

The Biblical authority for head-of-the-month determination is part of halachic authority (judging how we should walk to fulfill Torah) that rests with the Great Sanhedrin. God gave Moses and the Great Sanhedrin His Spirit (Numbers 11:17) for this purpose. Individuals are forbidden to take such authority on themselves. 

Following the twenty-ninth day of each month, the Sanhedrin met in a courtyard at the Temple called Beit Ya'azek (Ringed with a stone wall). If at least two reliable witnesses testified to them of sighting the reappearing crescent of the moon, the New Month would be sanctified. Otherwise, following the thirtieth day of the month, the New Month would be sanctified regardless of sightings. Other factors were also considered in determining when a month would have twenty-nine or thirty days, including intercalation (see 3 paragraphs up).

Once sanctified, the New Month was announced with Shofar (ram's horn trumpet) blasts from the Pinnacle of the Temple. Beacon fires were kindled on Signal Mountains to repeat the announcement to far- reaching areas. Thus all of Israel started each month at the same time Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc. regardless of agreement.

Without the Temple there is no sitting Sanhedrin. Therefore, a temporary calendar was established for use until the Temple is rebuilt. The design was to keep as close as possible to the calendar the Sanhedrin would intercalate, and establish a common calendar for all a necessity for Festival observance among other things. Some historians place this action about AD 358-359, at a Beit Din in the time of R. Hillel II.

May you know the blessing of making time sacred!


Today we are impugned by many who are unfamiliar with Torah principles: ordinances of the Temple (including the Sanhedrin), Sacrifices, and Festivals, that are inseparably linked. Often, with virtually no knowledge of Hebrew language or history, they vehemently insist on their own private interpretations, or their authority to establish times and seasons. Sometimes this is due to following a cult leader's doctrine, even though they may have come out of the cult.

In Temple times, all of Israel kept the same calendar, based upon the descriptions above. The Sadducees did not use a different calendar! Any disagreement they had was inconsequential, as they only existed for a short time near the end of Temple times, and did not have control. Yeshua said to do as the Sanhedrin Pharisees said (Matthew 23:2-3), while the Sadducees were trivialized for not believing the Prophets and not believing in resurrection or angels or spirits (Acts 23:8). The most we know today about the doctrine of the Sadducees is that which is written condemning it in the Apostolic Writings and the Talmud.

In the ninth century AD, a very liberal and short-lived group called Karaites sprang up, who claimed to follow some of the Sadducees doctrine. Today there are some who take the title Messianic and also claim to follow a Karaite calendar. Following is a response to "The Karaite Korner":

According to “The Karaite Korner,” the fifteenth of the month is “about the time of the Full Moon;” this would be true only if the month began at conjunction, not if it began a couple of days later at the “First Visible Sliver” as they maintain (since the moon is “invisible for 1.5 – 3.5 days,” as they say).


Hodesh does not technically mean New Moon. The Hebrew word “Hodesh” means cycle. “Rosh” means head. Hence, “Rosh Hodesh” means head of the cycle, normally a reference to the beginning of the month.


The ancient Israelites did know how to determine conjunction, contrary to the statement of the neo-Karaites. Except for rejection of Talmud, their statement would not be made. Determination was not made by modern methods; it was done by the Torah!


There is no explanation given whether, or how, a month would be limited to either 29 or 30 days by their method of determination; it could obviously be shorter or longer by simply sighting after a 1.5 - 3.5 day invisibility.

Some claim that the calendar we use can be as much as several days off. A table below shows that it always indicates Rosh Hodesh within a few hours of conjunction.



Torah: Exodus 12; Leviticus 23; Numbers 9
Talmud: Rosh HaShannah 2a, 23b; Sukkah 54b
Jerusalem Encyclopaedia Judaica: Calendar, Bet Din and Judges, New Moon



Biblical Days of Week             Roman Days of Week
sunset to sunset                        midnight to midnight

First Day of the Sabbath           Sunday - day of the Sun god
Second Day of the Sabbath     Monday - day of the Moon god
Third Day of the Sabbath         Tuesday - day of Tiw or Mars, god of war
Fourth Day of the Sabbath      Wednesday - day of Woden or Odin, supreme deity, god of art, culture, and death
Fifth Day of the Sabbath          Thursday - day of Thor (son of Odin), god of thunder and strength
Sixth Day of the Sabbath          Friday - day of the goddess Frig or Venus (wife of Woden)
Holy Sabbath                              Saturday - day of Saturn, god of agriculture (husband of Ops, god of harvest)
('Sabbath' also means week)

Biblical Months                         Gregorian Months
Festval Year                                Year begins in Winter
begins in Spring,
Jubilee Year        
                      January - month of Janus, Roman god - guardian of portals,
begins* in Fall                                      patron of beginnings and endings (had temple in Rome)
                                                      February - from Februa, the Roman month of purification
(Babylonian names)                   March - month of Mars (Latin Martius), god of war
Nisan                                            April
Iyyar                                             May - month of Maia, goddess of increase or growth
Sivan                                            June
Tammuz                                       July - month of Julius Ceasar
Av                                                August - month of Augustus Ceasar
Elul                                               September - seventh month from March
*Tishrei                                       October - eighth month from March
Heshvan                                     November - ninth month from March
Kislev                                          December - tenth month from March


Begin Rosh Hodesh        Seattle Sunset        Israel Sunset      New Moon / Conjunction    Israel Differential

Month     Greg. Date              PM  PST/PDT            PM  IST     UT         Universal Time (UT)                 Conjunction to Sunset



Nisan       3/29/2006              6:36                         5:57         15:57       10:15                                       +  6

Iyyar         4/28/2006              8:18 PDT                 6:17         16:17       19:44                                       -  3

Sivan       5/27/2006              8:55                         6:37         16:37         5:26                                       +11

Tammuz   6/26/2006              9:11                         6:48         16:48       16:05                                       +  1

Av             7/25/2006              8:52                         6:40         16:40         4:31                                       +12

Elul           8/24/2006              8:04                         6:12         16:12       19:10                                       -  3


Tishrei      9/22/2006              7:05                         5:35         15:35       11:45                                       +  4

Heshvan 10/22/2006              6:07                         4:59         14:59         5:14                                       +11

Kislev      11/21/2006              4:26 PST                 4:37         14:37       22:18                                       -  8

Tevet       12/21/2006              4:21                         4:40         14:40       14:01                                       +  1

Shevat      1/19/2007              4:52                         5:02         15:02         4:01                                       +  1

Adar          2/18/2007              5:39                         5:29         15:29       16:14                                       -  1



Nisan        3/19/2007              6:22                         5:50         15:50         2:43                                       +13

Iyyar          4/18/2007              8:04 PDT                 6:11         16:11       11:36                                       +  5

Sivan        3/17/2007              8:44                         6:31         16:31       19:27                                       -  3

Tammuz    6/16/2007              9:10                         6:47         16:47         3:13                                       +14

Av              7/15/2007              9:02                         6:46         16:46       12:04                                       +  5

Elul            8/14/2007              8:22                         6:23         16:23       23:03                                       -  7


Tishrei      9/12/2007              7:26                         5:48         15:48       12:44                                       +  3

Heshvan 10/12/2007              6:25                         5:10         15:10         5:01                                       +10

Kislev      11/10/2007              4:38 PST                 4:42         14:42       23:03                                       -  8

Tevet       12/  9/2007              4:18                         4:36         14:36       17:40                                       -  3

Shevat      1/  7/2008              4:36                         4:52         14:52       11:37                                       +  3

Adar          2/  6/2008              5:20                         5:19         15:19         3:44                                       +12

Adar II       3/  7/2008              6:06                         5:43         15:43       17:14                                       -  2



Nisan        4/  5/2008              7:48 PDT                 6:02         16:02         3:55                                       +12

Iyyar          5/  5/2008              8:29                         6:23         16:23       12:18                                       +  4

Sivan        6/  3/2008              9:02                         6:42         16:42       19:23                                       -  3

Tammuz    7/  3/2008              9:09                         6:48         16:48         2:19                                       +14

Av              8/  1/2008              8:41                         6:34         16:34       10:13                       `               +  6

Elul            8/30/2008              7:48                         6:02         16:02       19:58                                       -  4


Tishrei      9/29/2008              6:49                         5:25         15:25         8:12                                       +  7

Heshvan 10/29/2008              4:53                         4:51         14:51       23:14                                       -  8

Kislev      11/27/2008              4:21 PST                 4:35         14:35       16:55                                       -  2

Tevet       12/27/2008              4:26                         4:44         14:44       12:22                                       +  2

Shevat      1/25/2009              5:01                         5:08         15:08         7:55                                       +  7

Adar          2/24/2009              5:48                         5:34         15:34         1:35                                       +14



Israel Differentials: - 8 to +14  (to nearest hour for this period)

This means that:
earliest conjunction is 8 hours prior to beginning of Rosh Hodesh,
latest conjunction is about 2 hours after sunrise on Rosh Hodesh,
all being within a 24 hour time span.

© 2009  Beikvot HaMashiach
(Followers of the Messiah)



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