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Rosh Chodesh

Rosh Chodesh (Hebrew word "Head/Beginning [of the] Month") is the name for the first day of every month in the Hebrew calendar, marked by the appearance of the new moon. It is considered a minor holiday, akin to the intermediate days of Pessach and Sukkot.

The Book of Exodus establishes the beginning of the Hebrew calendar: "And the Lord spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you" (Exodus 12:1-2). In the Book of Numbers, God speaks of the celebration of the new moon to Moses, "And on your joyous occasions - your fixed festivals and new moon days - you shall sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being" (Numbers 10:10).

The occurrence of Rosh Chodesh was originally based on the testimony of witnesses observing the appearance of the new moon, and also upon mathematical calculations to which the testimony was compared and regulated with. A group of Rabbis from the Sanhedrin, or legal assembly, would accept the testimony of at least two witnesses that they had seen the new moon. While only two witnesses were required to declare a new month, other witnesses were also allowed to testify, since the Rabbis did not want to discourage anyone from coming to testify.

If after 29 days there were no witnesses, or no credible witnesses, the 30th day was declared as Rosh Chodesh. After the new month had been declared, the news of it would then be communicated throughout Israel and the diaspora.

At a later date, a custom was developed in which an additional day could be added to the month to ensure that certain holidays (such as Yom Kippur) did not fall on the days before or after Shabbat.

Sound the shofar at Rosh Chodesh and at the full moon for the pilgrim feast” (Psalm 81:4)