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LADIES NIGHT OUT

by Mark Goldberg    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

The first day of every Hebrew month is called Rosh Chodesh. The commentators make special mention that this monthly holiday was instituted for the women of the Jewish people.

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The first day of every Hebrew month is called Rosh Chodesh. The commentators make special mention that this monthly holiday was instituted for the women of the Jewish people. The Tur, the 14th century codifier of Jewish law, explains that the twelve Rosh Chodeshes that occur during the course of the year correspond to the twelve tribes. However, after the sin of the Golden Calf, the holiday of Rosh Chodesh was given to the women as their special day of praise and celebration, since they did not participate in that grievous sin. Furthermore, the women contributed immensely to the building fund of the mishkan (tabernacle) and thus merited a holiday of their own. Based upon this explanation a question arises: Why specifically Rosh Chodesh? Why was this holiday in particular bestowed upon the women?

Tosafos, the Talmudic glosses of the French and German rabbis of the 12th and 13th centuries, gives the following reason why Rosh Chodesh is set aside as a woman's holiday. The mishkan, to which they contributed so generously, was actually erected and consecrated on Rosh Chodesh of the month of Nissan. Women, therefore, celebrate on the first day of every month.

This explanation also has its problems. Since the women gave supplies to the mishkan and did not actually build it, why then do they celebrate the day on which the mishkan was set up rather than the day on which Hashem commanded the people to contribute? Also, why was the focus of their reward and resulting recognition based on their contribution to the mishkan, rather than for their abstainment from worshipping the Golden Calf? It surely must have been more difficult to refuse to participate with their husbands in the incident of the Golden Calf than to join with their husbands in giving to the mishkan.

One could answer the second question as follows: Abstaining from the Golden Calf was not a proof of the women's nobility by itself. Perhaps, one could have attributed their abstention to miserliness. The men were creating a golden idol and were asking everyone for donations of any gold they could muster. Maybe the women just didn't want to part with their jewelry. However, giving generously to the construction of the mishkan proved their genuineness and loyalty towards Hashem. They may have been generous by nature, yet they overcame this upon being asked to contribute for the sin (i.e. the Golden Calf). The men, on the other hand, were always liberal givers, both for good and bad, as proven by their donations for the Golden Calf and the mishkan.

We still have yet to answer the first question as to why women do not celebrate the day on which they gave their gifts. One could suggest as follows: The whole-heartedness of a mitzvah can be determined only after its performance. A person might give charity and then regret it afterwards. Such an opportunity arose for the women, as for the first seven days of the mishkan's assembly it collapsed. However, on the eighth day, Rosh Chodesh of the month of Nissan, it finally remained standing. When the women saw the mishkan collapse day after day, they might have seen it as an opportunity to reclaim their donations. However, on the contrary, the women were happy to see the mishkan finally remain standing on the eighth day -- proof of their authenticity in giving. It is for this reason that the holiday of Rosh Chodesh was given to the women as an everlasting commemoration of their innate kindness.

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Mark Goldberg spent several years in Atlanta and is currently living in Detroit.

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