A New Month. A New Beginning.

Refocus.  Begin again.  Re-examine my goals and my progress toward them. Remember that time is passing by.

Today is Rosh Chodesh Shvat, the beginning of the month of Shvat.  I am grateful for the mini-holiday that is Rosh Chodesh because without it, time would fly by me and I might barely pay any attention.  Sometimes it feels like the days are a blur of work, home, errands, seeing friends, planning for Shabbat, having the beauty and rest of Shabbat, and then back to the grind, repeating that sequence over and over again.  It can feel like I can’t get out of the cycle even though I know that I want to make big changes in my life.

I need a benchmark.  I need a guidepost.   I’ve realized that I don’t have those markers internally.  Rosh Chodesh is my guidepost.  It’s my line in the sand to stop and ask myself what I’m doing.  Am I doing anything that really matters?  Sometimes it feels like the answer is no until I look back and see the moments that have indeed been transformative.  It still feels like not enough though, so I stop today and recommit to volunteering in the hospital, since I miss my hospital chaplaincy work.

It’s a new month.  One month closer to my birthday, when I tend to ruminate on all the things that I had hoped would happen this year, but probably still haven’t become reality.  So I will work harder at seeing if they can manifest themselves, and at the same time, I will carve out time to sit with myself and not forget the rewarding or exciting moments that did happen, even if they weren’t on my wish list a year ago.

It’s a time to claim my voice and be proud of standing by what I believe.  That’s what the biblical women did and they were rewarded with Rosh Chodesh as a special day of their own.  We are taught in Pirke D’Rabbi Eliezer, a 9th century rabbinic text, that when the Israelites were building the golden calf, the women refused to give their jewelry when their husbands asked for it to be melted into the golden calf.  God rewarded them with Rosh Chodesh as a day that they on which they would have a day to celebrate and be together.   I will hold myself accountable to speaking up in conversations with colleagues and friends – when do I need to say no when I feel pressured to say yes?  When do I feel like I should not say anything at all in a meeting instead of testing out an idea?  Rosh Chodesh is my reminder to resist the temptation to do what I did for years in school – stay quiet, smile and nod, and wonder what might happen if you spoke out.

It’s my time to ask for forgiveness. Every single day, three times a day, other than Shabbat and holidays, we say these words during the Amidah, “Forgive us, our parent, for we have done wrong.  Pardon us, our ruler, for we have transgressed; for You pardon and forgive.  Blessed are You, the gracious One who repeatedly forgives.”  In Rosh Chodesh Musaf, the additional part of the morning service, we also say the following: “Our God and God of our ancestors, renew for us the coming month for good and blessing, joy and gladness, deliverance and consolation, sustenance and support, life and peace, pardon of sin and forgiveness of iniquity (and from Cheshvan to Adar II in a leap year [this year is a leap year] we add – and atonement of transgression).  For You have chosen Your people Israel from all the nations, and have instituted for them rules of the New Moon.  Blessed are You, God, who sanctifies Israel and the New Moons.”  Asking for another good month, another month full of blessing and joy and gladness isn’t enough.  We, God willing, move forward and progress from one month to the next, and that progress lies in the transitions of being pardoned and forgiven, and being able to avoid the same actions in the subsequent months.

Today, I am grateful for Rosh Chodesh.  I will try to make this a month in which each day matters.  When next Rosh Chodesh arrives, I hope that I can look back on this month of Shvat and recall the blessing while also asking to be pardoned for the mistakes that I will make along the way. I hope that I will be more grateful for having lived that month than regretful about what the month did not bring me.

About the Author
Jill Cozen-Harel is a rabbi who lives in San Francisco. Among other things, she has worked as a chaplain and educator.