Gazing skyward at night and spotting the moon, I feel greeted by a friend who shows up in many different outfits and moods. Sometimes she appears as a thin crescent in the dark night, sometimes a fully glowing round beacon with a halo. Sometimes she floats above the horizon, a giant orange orb lit by the setting sun. Other nights she peeks demurely from behind a veil of shifting clouds. Most wonderfully, sometimes I gaze up in the morning or at dusk and find her winking at me then, too.
The Moon is important to life on earth, including regulation of tides, influence on nocturnal animal behavior, and even stabilization of the earth’s rotation on its axis. The Moon is also an important symbol in Jewish tradition. We base our calendar and holidays primarily on the moon and its cycles. In Rabbinic tradition, the Moon and its cycle of restoration became a symbol of the Jewish people. In Jewish mysticism. the Moon is associated with the Shechinah, the feminine Divine Presence, and with the role of women in general. Celebrating the new moon (Rosh Hodesh) and blessing the waxing moon (Kiddush Levanah) are ancient traditions that have become important expressions of contemporary Jewish spirituality.
Header Image: Breakup Moon 2, Anchorage, Michael Hayes via Flickr
Explore this Gateway of the Moon to experience its glowing symbolism in Jewish tradition and in your life
Enjoy a beautiful full moon in nature anytime with this serene and meditative video that starts with verses from Genesis. The video continues with calming views of the Oregon lake and mountains.
Rosh Hodesh, also spelled Rosh Chodesh (“Ch” as in “Bach”), is the celebration of the new Hebrew month, an ancient festival finding renewal among contemporary Jews.
Its a moon song
Bubbling up and over me
Darkness, sets my spirit free.
Rosh Hodesh, enchanted time to hallow the month
וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֶת־שְׁנֵ֥י הַמְּאֹרֹ֖ת הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים אֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַגָּדֹל֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַיּ֔וֹם וְאֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַקָּטֹן֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַלַּ֔יְלָה וְאֵ֖ת הַכּוֹכָבִֽים׃
God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule by day and the lesser light to rule by night, and the stars.
The Torah depicts Sun and Moon being created together on the Fourth Day* of Creation. But the Midrash, an ancient genre that includes imaginative “back stories” of the Torah, depicts a legendary struggle for dominance in which the moon wanted to have a greater role.
The midrash about the Moon’s diminishment in the previous post did not remain static over the centuries, but was reinvented to reveal new meanings. Explore the changing face of this ancient legend in depth, through this fascinating article by Melila Hellner-Eshed, the Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem. It’s a bit longer than most of our pathways, but well worth the read.
‘Of What Use is a Candle in Broad Daylight?’ The Reinvention of a Myth
There is a Jewish tradition to bless the renewal of the moon once each month from three days after the new moon appears and before it reaches fullness. read more…
Many people find a total solar eclipse to be an incredibly spiritual experience in nature that opens them to the vastness of the cosmos. It has a wonderful echo of the ancient legend of the Moon, because during the full solar eclipse the moon passes between earth and sun and blocks our view of the sun for a brief time, giving the illusion that the moon is the size of the sun. read more…
To me, greeting the moon is always a special thrill, like running into a wise and beautiful friend who communicates silently.
Our Hebrew months got their current names in Babylonia over 2500 years ago and are associated with the signs of the Zodaic. Yes, those odd dates listed on your horoscope should be switched out for the Hebrew months, and the signs have resonances in some of the Jewish holidays, for example, Libra/scales and weighing our deeds in the month of Tishrei, which brings Rosh Hashanah. read more…
In Jewish tradition, the Moon has been associated with women and the feminine. In today’s world, one of the most central social movements for Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) is that of achieving full equality and rights for the world’s women and girls. Some see the advancement of women as a symbolic fulfillment of the old Midrashic tale that the moon (the feminine principal) will someday shine like the sun (the masculine principle). Appropriate then that the phrase “half the sky” has come to symbolize this movement.
What is your personal connection to the Moon? Does the Moon ever symbolize something for you? Does tracking its cycles take you back to a more organic relationship to time?