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Yesterday was Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. In concluding the past month of Cheshvan, we are  reminded that some refer to it as “Marcheshvan,” and consider “mar,” which means “bitterness,” a reminder that the month has no additional holidays beyond Shabbat. It is a harsh contrast with the holiday-laden month of Tishri, which comes just before.

In Temple times, Rosh Chodesh was a much more important holiday than it is today. Then, it was a time of rejoicing, with special sacrifices and the sounding of trumpets. Today, it is a minor festival without restrictions on work or any special rituals. At one time some women used to refrain from working, claiming Rosh Chodesh as their due for having refused to turn over their jewelry for the golden calf. Today, some women have reclaimed Rosh Chodesh as a special opportunity to gather and study.

Independent of gender, Rosh Chodesh Kislev is especially worthy of celebration, because it brings into the darkest days of the year the light of Chanukah! Renewing our energy and emphasizing our resilience, Kislev is a reminder that darkness will give way to lights of celebration.

May this thought sustain us in the week and month ahead!

Rabbi Sandra M. Bellush