New Moon Blessing

 

Moshe Ben-Chaim


 

This article will describe the concepts found within the “Kiddush HaChodesh”, the blessing upon the New Moon.

First, let us familiarize ourselves with the actual text:

“Blessed are you God, our God, King of the world, that with Your statements (You) created the heavens, and with the breath of your mouth, all the hosts thereof. A statute and time did You place for them, that they should not deviate their circuits. Happy and joyous (are the heavenly spheres) to do the will of their Creator. Worker of truth Whose works are truth, and unto the moon You declared that it should renew (itself), a gloriful crown to those (mankind) born of the womb, as they (mankind) will eventually renew themselves as the moon, and to exalt their Creator for the name of the glory His kingdom. Blessed are You God, Who renews the months.”

Now we will address each section.

“with Your statements (You) created the heavens, and with the breath of your mouth, all the hosts thereof.”
This first praise deals with the heavens and their contents. As God does not “speak”, and of course prior to man’s creation, speech would be superfluous as there are no beings existing who can hear, therefore the concept of “statements” and “breath” teach us something else in connection with God. Speech is a very simple activity, and when applied to God, it denotes that His mere will suffices to create the most awesome, physical bodies. Additionally, it is a general principle that one cannot offer partial praise in connection with God. The Talmud teaches that if one visits a place where one of the miracles wrought on his behalf took place, it is not sufficient if he praises God for that miracle alone, but he must also refer to and bless God for other miracles which were wrought on his behalf. Daniel also followed this principle when God had revealed to Daniel, both, Nevuchadnezzar’s dream content, and interpretation. Upon Daniel’s receipt of an answer to his request from God for this information, Daniel praised God for His ability to set up and dethrone kings, and for His ability to reveal knowledge to wise men in general. Only subsequent to this praise, did Daniel praise God for the specific information revealed to him in response to his request.

I believe that this teaches us what true praise of God consists of. It is not merely praise in response to an individual act performed for oneself. Such a praise would dwarf the true, immense scope of God’s Omniscience and Omnipotence. To praise God as accurately as humanly possible, man must speak of God’s might and Knowledge in the most broad and all-inclusive sense. True, full praise of God therefore must describe universal phenomena, not subjective, individual events.

Therefore, we first praise God in general terms - we exalt Him for the works of the heavens as as a whole independent of man, prior to exalting Him on account of the moon.

 

“A statute and time did You place for them, that they should not deviate their circuits.”
Here we find the blessing referring not to the physical creation, but to the other half of creation, I refer to the governing laws. All matter was created in a physical state, but that such a state continues in a specific behavior is not a natural result of the physical body’s existence. Matter must also have governing laws so that, i.e., all trees reproduce their own kind, all animals beget their own kind, etc. Laws of gravity, inertia, and all other constants did not come into being simply because matter was created. As well, all members of mankind partake of similar psychological characteristics due to governing laws.

In creation therefore, God brought into being two distinct categories; 1) matter, 2) laws governing that matter. (I believe the second chapter in Genesis alludes to the second category.)

In application to the heavens, we would be remiss in our praise of God if we did not include praise for God’s wisdom manifested through the relentless paths in which the heavenly spheres travel.

 

“Happy and joyous (are they) to do the will of their Creator.”
This statement on the surface implies awareness on the part of brute creation. Animals have no self awareness, much less inanimate objects. How then are we to understand this? I believe “happiness” here denotes the removal of conflict. Meaning, the spheres function with exactitude, as there are no impediments between God’s will for the spheres to rotate and revolve, and between their physical performances.

So there are 3 praises thus far; 1) Praise for the physical heavens, 2) Praise for their governing laws, 3) Praise for harmony, the perfect system of creation, where God willed something, and there is no conflict intervening between God’s will and the immediacy of the reality of His will. God’s will is all that is real and all that stands. He has no opponents.

 

“Worker of truth Whose works are truth”
This statement I believe is connected with the next, indicating that God’s works have a purpose. They aim towards propagating some true idea, as the physical for the sake of the physical is of no purpose. This King Solomon said in the very beginning of his work, “Koheles”. The spheres therefore - as is the case with all creation - must have a purpose outside of themselves. “Truth” indicates that there is a purpose in the works of God. This is the new concept indicated here.

That purpose follows:

“and unto the moon You declared that it should renew (itself), a gloriful crown to those born of the womb, as they will eventually renew themselves as the moon”
Here we find the purpose and essence of the distinction which God gave to the moon. The moon is the singular object in the heavens designed by God to pass through phases of waxing and waning. The purpose is stated, that it should be a crown to man. A “crown” means that which marks the elevated distinction of something. Man’s elevated distinction is his free will, in specific here, the free will that follows the path of a righteous life. Just as the moon grows full and then loses its grandeur, man too goes through cycles of perfection and sin. But God gives man a great gift through the moon, as God placed the moon’s phases as a sign to all mankind that man too can once again become great, just as the moon. The moon then is a parable to man’s constant failures and victories, to remind man that although he stumbles, he can - like the moon - become “full” once again. Teshuvah is well within reach.

This teaches us the level of import, which God wished to give to repentance. Nowhere else do we see God creating a unique behavior in creation solely for the purpose of reminding man that repentance is always within his grasp.

One more idea contained in these words is the meaning of “those born of the womb”. I wonder why man is referred to in this peculiar fashion, as opposed to saying “a glorious crown to man”. I think however, that the idea is to draw a distinction between man and the cosmos. The moon, that which is unchanging in its laws, is a crown - a mark of distinction - to man, a being borne of the womb, who is destined to human error. The idea is that the moon’s phases are a reminder to man who always “phases” from sin to repentance. Referring to man as “borne of the womb” highlights - via contrast to the moon - that man is only human.

My friend Howard explained well that “those born of the womb” also teaches that just as an infant prior to exiting the womb is free of sin, so are we able to be via repentance. This statement alludes to our inherent capacity to be as pure as we were before birth.

The new moon symbolizes free will. When man uses free will, his whole being is “illuminated” by truth and he is in line with the will of the Creator. That is man’s crown of “elevated distinction”. The renewal of the moon each month is to remind man that he was created with and has the ability to exercise his free will - which is what distances him from sin. His continuous reflection removes man from his desire to sin.

“and to exalt their Creator for the sake of the glory His kingdom”
This teaches that repentance is not a goal, but the goal is to finally recognize God’s greatness.

“Blessed are You God, Who renews the months.”