March 7, 2011, is the beginning of a new month in the Jewish calendar. The new moon, with its slim light, is traditionally understood as a time of some anxiety and of hope. Prayers recited just prior to the new moon ask that the new month bring increase in a variety of areas. “At the New Moon” is adapted from these prayers and asks specifically for increased understanding and unity across communities.
Here’s a new PDF prayer supplement, “At the New Moon,” brought to you by “Rosh Hodesh Elul DC,” a loosely formed group of men and women in solidarity with Women of the Wall. (Print back-to-back and fold.) “In Solidarity/For Understanding” was developed in support of Women of the Wall by Virginia Avniel Spatz, based on traditional prayers at the announcement of the new month. Pamela Greenberg kindly offered permission to quote from her translation of the psalms. Many others contributed editorial and other forms of support.
Wherever you may be at the new moon, please share the prayer. And please let us know — by commenting here or at “Rosh Hodesh Elul DC” on Facebook — where it is being used. Women of the Wall also welcomes knowing where solidarity activities are taking place.
The DC-area group will be continuing to explore activities in solidarity with Women of the Wall and to promote cross-community understanding and religious freedom more generally. Ideas and energy welcome.
Below is a kavanah [meditation/intention], inspired by Women of the Wall, for prayers at the new moon. Please share for individual or congregational use on Rosh Hodesh, at the announcement of the new month or at another appropriate time.*
Washington, DC’s cross-community Rosh Hodesh Elul service, held on August 11, was an experiment in creating a prayer service that allows DC-area women and men from different streams of Judaism to pray together. In showing solidarity with Women of the Wall, the service exceeded expectations. Many participants found the service a great opportunity to welcome the new month and begin preparations for the new year. Especially given the short planning period and complete lack of official organizational support — many congregations pitched in, but on an ad hoc basis at the very last minute — I believe the event was a successful first endeavor into inter-denominational prayer.
However, it was only a first endeavor.
Abraham Joshua Heschel’s challenge to explore the “soul” of words in our prayers (see last week’s post) suggests consideration of “zakhor [remember],” which occurs several times in the portion Ki Teitzei:
Remember [zakhor] what HASHEM, your God, did to Miriam on the way, when you were leaving Egypt. — Deut./Devarim 24:9
You shall not pervert the judgment of a proselyte or orphan, and you shall not take the garment of a widow as a pledge. You shall remember [v’zakharta] that you were a slave in Egypt, and HASHEM, you God, redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this thing. — Deut./Devarim 24:17-18
Remember [zakhor] what Amelek did to you on the way when you were leaving Egypt….wipe out the memory [zekher and/or: zakhor] …you shall not forget! — Deut./Devarim 25:17
— all translations from Stone Chumash*
Hallel is my favorite prayer service. As an individual who cannot carry a tune in a satchel but loves to sing and loves the psalms, I find a Hallel [psalms 113-118] sung with gusto a great opportunity to join my off-key voice into a larger sound of praise.
So, as I watched video of Women of the Wall suffering through abuse for raising their voices in prayer on Rosh Hodesh Av and heard reports that a loud Hallel appeared to be a driving force behind the arrest of WoW Chair Anat Hoffman, I decided I would have to raise my voice…in Hallel for the new month, as a wake up call toward a more just new year and in solidarity with WoW.