It is commonly known that women have a special affiliation with Rosh Chodesh. According to the Gemara (Megillah 22b), women are forbidden from engaging in work on Rosh Chodesh – meaning the utilization of skills employed during the construction of the Mishkan. This includes sewing, spinning, and weaving, work used to create the curtains. Pirkei D’Rabi Eliezer (Perek 44) explains that the women, who did not participate in the sin of the Golden Calf, were rewarded with an intimate affiliation to the every new month. Moreover, in the World to Come, women will be rewarded by maintaining their youth, similar to the new moon which regenerates each and every month.
All that being said, I take umbrage with the perspective that this is a “woman’s holiday.” The period of time from Shabbos Mevorchim HaChodesh until Rosh Chodesh proper is an eis ratzon, when our tefillos are directly escorted through the Shaar HaRachamim. When I asked my rav, Rabbi Zev Cohen, for a source, he quoted the words, “Yehi ratzon Milfanecha Hashem Elokeinu…” In fact, it is so awe-inspiring, that according to the Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 417:3) some have the custom of fasting on the day prior to Rosh Chodesh, as it is Yom Kippur Katan. Furthermore, the Magen Avraham praises the custom of those who recite a special selection of Selichos as an appropriate form of preparation for the onset of an upcoming month.
In addition, Birchas HaChodesh is the only tefillah recited while the Sefer Torah is held by the bimah. The Zohar (Parshas Pinchas 216b) explains that prior to receiving the Torah we were no different than the other nations of the world, whose fate was esoterically connected to mazal, the astronomical anomalies related to the alignment of the stars. Although we are technically born under a specific mazal, our future can be altered and redirected via the power of Torah observance and so is no longer dependent on the way the stars were aligned during the month we were born.
Given the importance of this holy time, I am appalled by the frivolous manner in which some people squander this monthly opportunity. In my estimation, the delta between reciting Birchas HaChodesh “fast” as opposed to reciting it “properly” is less than four minutes. Why is this eis ratzon viewed as something to get through before the cholent, rather than a gift of time to beseech God for all we so desperately require? There are some shuls in which Birchas HaChodesh is recited with the sense of urgency, however, it does not prove true for the majority.
I conclude with a true story told to me by a friend. This man was having a hard time at work – a change in upper management was causing stress throughout his company. He felt his job was in jeopardy and saw Birchas HaChodesh as a unique opportunity to beseech God for his much-needed parnassah. The week before Rosh Chodesh bentching he approached his shul’s gabbai and asked that a certain individual, known for his heartfelt and most poignant recital of Birchas HaChodesh, lead the tzibbur that month. He was astonished when the gabbai told him that other shul members would not be happy with that. Apparently, no one in this shul had four minutes to spare to properly beseech God for a month replete with life, happiness, and sustenance. My friend was so despondent that he decided to daven in a different shul for that week. Baruch Hashem he found one in which the congregants understand the value of this time.
What I find to be absolutely extraordinary is that when my friend was fired three days into the new Jewish month, he did not lose his faith. His words, which I was privileged to hear firsthand, were, “I know God still has my back.” How many of us would have the absolute and unwavering faith in the Almighty while staring in the face of such horrific adversity? Then again, how many of us would have switched shuls in order to recite Birchas HaChodesh with the appropriate demeanor? I aspire to have half of the unconditional faith in the Almighty that my friend displayed.