Rosh Hashanah and the Moon

The word shanah (שנה, "year") comes from the same word as shinui (שינוי, "change"), and at Rosh Hashanah this year – like in every year – we look forward to the changes that come with a new year. The coming of the new moon signals Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Hashanah is the Rosh Chodesh ("new moon" or "month") of Tishrei. The Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah, Ch. 2) describes how Jews once communicated the arrival of the new moon from Jerusalem to the Diaspora by lighting beacons on mountaintops. This method served as a way of both communicating and acknowledging a new month. While today, we no longer light beacons, there still are ways in which we communicate the arrival of a holiday.

The Moon as an Inspiration for Exploration

In the 1960s, as part of the President Kennedy’s challenge to send a person to the moon, the United States experienced what became known as the “Apollo Effect,” an increased interest in and awareness of science and technology. This effect has been credited as a contributor to the United States being a key leader in scientific development over the next half century.

A group of Israeli engineers and visionaries is looking to have the same effect in Israel – already considered to be a “startup nation.” Team SpaceIL gathered in response to the Google Lunar XPRIZE, and is working to land Israel on the moon. They are considered to be a leading contender to be the first team to achieve the mission and collect the $20 million dollar prize.

As part of their mission to the moon, they also want to impact life back on earth. They have developed and extraordinary set of resources for use in Israeli classrooms and they spend a great deal of time visiting children and doing workshops and activities that inspire an interest in science and technology.

SpaceIL provides a unique portal, showcasing the leadership and ingenuity of Israelis in science and technology, and an Israeli spirit overcoming long odds to accomplish great things. See more moon-related activities that will turn you into lunar explorers!


The Moon in Hebrew Language and Culture

There are two words for "moon" in Hebrew:

  • Yareach (ירח), the more modern word for "moon," can also mean "month." Although we generally use chodesh (חודש) for month, yareach (ירח) is an alternative.
  • Levanah (לבנה), the word for "moon" written in the Mishnah, comes from lavan (לבן) meaning "white."

Common Phrases

  • "Honeymoon" (yareach dvash, ירח דבש): What better word to signify a theme of "new beginnings" than this word? As in English, it is formed from the two words "honey" and "moon."
  • "Insomnia" (machalat yareach, מחלת ירח): In English, people use this word when they have difficulty sleeping. In Hebrew, it literally means "illness of the moon."
  • "He/she fell from the moon" (nafal/ah m'ha'yareach, נפל/ה מהירח): This popular phrase is used to describe someone who is not in touch with reality. In English, we are more likely to say "His/her head is in the clouds."
  • " the moon and back" (ad ha'yareach u'v'chazarah, עד הירח ובחזרה): This phrase can be added to a sentence to express a very large amount or distance associated with a statement. For example, "I love you to the moon and back."


  • "ילדי הירח" ("Children of the Moon") by Ehud Manor (lyrics | song)
  • "ירח" ("Moon") by Shlomo Artzi (lyrics | song)
  • "יא ירח" by להקת הנח"ל (singing group of the IDF Nachal Unit) (lyrics | song)
  • "אור הירח" ("The Light of the Moon") by Aviv Gefen (posted below)

More on the iCenter's High Holiday Resource Compilation page >>