Gleanings: The Moon And Rosh Chodesh

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The women heard about the construction of the golden calf and refused to submit their jewelry to their husbands. Instead they said to them: "You want to construct an idol and mask which is an abomination, and has no power of redemption? We won't listen to you." And the Holy One, Blessed be He, rewarded them in this world in that they would observe the new moons more than men, and in the next world in that they are destined to be renewed like the new moons.

-- Midrash, Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer 45 (circa 750)

Exodus Rabbah is an exegetical and homiletic work on the Book of Exodus compiled in the years 900-1000, including material from much earlier periods:

You find that if the moon does not appear in the sky at night, the world is so dark that a man cannot walk about even within the city, but as soon as the moon appears in the sky, all rejoice and walk about. So it was in the days of Ahasuerus who decreed that Israel should be destroyed, slain, and made to perish; but Esther came and brought light to Israel, for it says, "The Jews had light and gladness, and joy and honor" (Esther 8:16) Should you inquire why Esther is compared to the moon, the answer is that just as the moon renews itself every thirty days, so did Esther say, "But I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days" (Esther 4:11).

-- Midrash, Exodus Rabbah 1 5:6

The rabbis of Exodus Rabbah comment on the commandment in Exodus 12:2 to mark the months:

We may illustrate by the parable of a king unto whom a son was born, whereupon he made a joyful celebration; but the son was taken captive and spent a long time in captivity. On his release, the king fixed an anniversary. So, too, prior to Israel's descent into Egypt, they counted by years; but after they had gone down to Egypt and become enslaved there, God performed miracles for them, and they were redeemed; and then did they begin to count the months, as it says, "This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months" (Exodus 12:2).

-- Midrash, Exodus Rabbah 15:9 (900-1000)

Rashi, a medieval Torah commentator, discusses a passage from the Talmud about the public reading of the Torah on weekdays, holidays, and new moons:

"New months." There is no absolute prohibition against work, yet women do not perform work on those days I learned from my aged teacher, may his memory be for a blessing, that this commandment was given to them [women] because they did not submit their jewelry for the golden calf.

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