In ancient times, two witnesses had to confirm the appearance of the new moon. The exact day of this appearance was crucial because the new moon would determine when the month began and when that year’s festivals would fall. The MishnahThe first layer of Jewish oral law, written down in Palestine around 200 CE. The Mishna consists of six books or sedarim (orders), each of which contains seven to twelve tractates or masechtot (singular masechet). The books are Zeraim (Seeds), Moed (Festival), Nashim (Women), Nezikin (Damages), Kodashim (Holy Things), and Tehorot (Purities). (the earliest Jewish legal code, 200 CE) reports that two witnesses would report that they had sighted the new moon to a court of judges in JerusalemLit. City of peace From the time of David to the Roman destruction, Jerusalem was the capital of Israel and the spiritual and governmental center of the Jewish people. During the long exile, Jews longed to return to Jerusalem and wrote poems, prayers, and songs about the beloved city. In 1967, with the capture of the Old City, Jerusalem was reunited, becoming "the eternal capital of Israel." Still, the longing for peace is unfulfilled.. These judges would examine the witnesses carefully to make sure their testimonies were identical, and then confirm that the new moon had indeed appeared (Mishnah Rosh haShanahThe Jewish New Year, also considered the Day of Judgment. The period of the High Holidays is a time of introspection and atonement. The holiday is celebrated with the sounding of the shofar, lengthy prayers in synagogue, the eating of apples and honey, and round challah for a sweet and whole year. Tashlikh, casting bread on the water to symbolize the washing away of sins, also takes place on Rosh Hashana. 2:6). In order to quickly transmit this knowledge to the far-flung Jewish community, bonfires were lit on hilltops around Jerusalem. Each community that saw the fires burning would light its own bonfire. Thus the news would pass from mountain to mountain and town to town, until all the Jews knew it was Rosh ChodeshThe new moon, which marks the beginning of the Jewish month. According to tradition, because women did not participate in the sin of the golden calf, they were given the holiday of Rosh Chodesh. It is customary for women not to work on Rosh Chodesh., the new moon.
Some modern Rosh Chodesh groups, in remembrance of this custom, begin their rituals in the following way: After everyone in the group has been given an unlit candle, a single participant lights her candle from a central flame. Then she passes the flame to the next person in the group, until all the candles are lit. Through this ritual, we recall both the ancient bonfires of the Jewish people and the light of hope and warmth that we pass from one person to another.
The Sourcebook for “Rosh HodeshThe new moon, which marks the beginning of the Jewish month. According to tradition, because women did not participate in the sin of the golden calf, they were given the holiday of Rosh Chodesh. It is customary for women not to work on Rosh Chodesh.: It’s A Girl Thing!” offers this ritual as one suggestion for how to begin the group meeting. Many others use a similar ceremony. This ritual brings light and a sense of sacredness to the beginning moments of a Rosh Chodesh gathering and is a way to begin teaching about the ancient origins of the new moon festival.