Mishpatim: It's "That Time of Month."

This Shabbat, Mishpatim, is also “Shabbat Mevarechim” -- the Shabbat on which “we bless.”   

What do we bless (or sanctify)?  The new month that begins during the coming week.  In this case, the month of Adar (actually, the first of two consecutive months of Adar, as occurs in seven “leap” years of each nineteen year cycle). 

Where and when do we bless?  In synagogue, during the Shabbat morning service, after the Haftorah (prophetic reading) and before beginning Mussaf.

How do we bless? In the ceremony known as Birkat HaChodesh (Blessing of the (New) Month), we bless the incoming month and seek G-d’s blessings and protection.  The congregation stands while the shaliach tzebor (public prayer emissary) holds the Torah.  The congregation says the prayers first, and the shaliach repeats them. 

Here is one English translation (from the Complete Artscroll Siddur, Ashkenaz Version, Page 453) of the Birkat HaChodesh liturgy:

May it be Your will, Hashem, our God and God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month upon us for goodness and for blessing. May You give us long life -- a life of peace, a life of goodness, a life of blessing, a life of sustenance, a life of physical health, a life in which there is fear of heaven and fear of sin, a life in which there is no shame nor humiliation, a life of wealth and honor, a life in which we will have love of Torah and fear of heaven, a life in which our heartfelt requests will be fulfilled for the good. Amen.

He who performed miracles for our forefathers and redeem them from slavery to freedom -- May He redeem us soon and gather in our dispersed from the four corners of the earth; all Israel becoming comrades.  Now let us respond: Amen.  

The new month (name of month) will be on the (day of the week) day, which is coming to us and all Israel for goodness.  

May the Holy One, Blessed is He, renew it upon us and upon all His people, the family of Israel, for life and for peace, for joy and for gladness, for salvation and for consolation. Now let us respond: Amen.

Why do we bless?  This short, beautiful prayer accomplishes several important things.   It connects us with the Jewish calendar, with the seasons, the earth, our people, history, and tradition.  

It reminds us that the time of our life is rapidly and inexorably passing, and that we are called upon to make the most of whatever time remains to us.  

It helps us remain aware and thankful that we are the recipient of continuing blessings, and that we are constantly vulnerability to their possible diminution.  “But for the grace of G-d …. “ our lives would be harder, lonelier, poorer, or over.  

And it provides both a communal and individual opportunity to express our emotions about life, our circumstances, and our hopes for renewal – for redemption.  Just as the moon emerges from its eclipse into brightness – the New Month bringing a New Moon ... and vice versa – we express our wish and prayer that light expand in our lives.

Daily, or even weekly, prayers can become routine.  But a prayer uttered only once each month retains its freshness and vigor.  

If you do not regularly pray, seldom attend synagogue, or if the Birkat HaChodesh is not part of your synagogue’s monthly Shabbat morning ritual (and your rabbi chooses not to add it at your suggestion!), may I suggest that you mark your calendar to say this prayer on your own on every Shabbat Mevarechim?  A website providing the prayers in Hebrew, transliterated, in English, and accompanied by a recorded reading is:  

http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Blessings/Holiday_Blessings/Rosh_Chodesh_Blessing/rosh_chodesh_blessing.html

It only takes a few minutes and it is a beautiful entry into the spirituality of Jewish prayer and ritual.  And … into each new month.  

Shabbat shalom … and chodesh tov!  

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  • Mishpatim: It's "That Time of Month."

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A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb