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.

 
  • How do we know Rosh Hashanah is coming these days? Are there particular greetings that we use? Are there particular things that we do?
  • What forms of visual communication do we use? What sights, sounds, smells, tastes and objects are associated with Rosh Hashanah?
  • What is the difference between communicating and acknowledging? Do you know it is Rosh Hashanah by what you hear or see, or what you do?
  • Explore this collection of Rosh Hashanah cards to see images of Israel that have been relayed over time.

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 set out to create the same effect in Israel – already considered to be a “startup nation.” SpaceIL gathered in response to the Google Lunar XPRIZE, and became the fourth country to reach the surface of the Moon with its lunar craft, Beresheet. And stay tuned: their next mission will be announced soon! As part of their first mission to the Moon, they want to impact life back on earth through what they call The Beresheet Effect. 

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."
  • "...to 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."

Songs

  • "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)