The regular appearance of moon is regarded in Jewish tradition as one of those benefits for which praise and thanksgiving should be given to God The blessing of the new moon, called qiddush levanah or birkat ha-levanah, originated in the Second Temple period, but there are scholars who claim it may be of much older origin. The rite takes the moon as a symbol of the renewal in nature as well as of the renewal and redemption of Israel, whose glory will be restored during messianic times.

This blessing is recited outdoors, shortly after Rosh Hodesh, at the reappearance of the lunar crescent - anytime between the fourth of the month (when the moon is clearly visible) and the fourteenth (when it is full). In the month of Tishrei, the blessing is usually recited on the evening after Yom Kippur (the eleventh of Tishrei); in Av, on the evening after Tisha B'av (on the tenth of Av). Kiddush Levanah is not recited on the Sabbath and holiday eves, mainly because of the prohibition of carrying prayerbooks outside the synagogue in the public domain.

The basic text of the blessing is given in the Talmud,[1] but many additions were subsequently added, differing in the Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who created the heavens by your command, and all their host by Your mere word. You have subjected them to fixed laws and time, so that they might not deviate from their set function. They are glad and happy to do the will of their Creator, the true Author, whose achievement is truth. He ordered the moon to renew itself as a glorious crown over those He sustained from birth, who likewise will be regenerated in the future, and will worship their Creator for His glorious majesty. Blessed are You, O Lord, who renews the month.
Blessed by your omnipotent Creator, O moon!

Even as one cannot touch the moon, so may my foes be unable to harm me. May terror and dread fall on them; may they be as motionless as a stone under the sweep of your arm. Long live David, king of Israel.

Letters appearing in any book in large print are referred to in Hebrew as (otiot shel qiddush levanah), letters for sanctifying the new moon. This is because the blessing for the sanctification of the moon is recited outdoors by moonlight, and the print in the print at this place in the prayerbook is therefore always large.

The phrase "Long live David King of Israel," repeated three times, voices Israel's continuous hope for redemption by the Messiah, a descendant of David whose kingdom will be "established forever as the moon."[2] The worshippers extend the greeting Shalom Aleikhem (peace be to you) to those standing around, and they respond in kind Aleikhem Shalom (to you be peace).

Another part of the text alludes to an Talmudic legend according to which the sun and moon are equal in luminosity at the time of creation; God then diminishes the moon's radiance, but regrets having done so. The midrash predicts that in the Messianic Age, the moon will regain the radiance and luminosity it enjoyed at the beginning of time. "May the light of the moon be as radiant the light of the sun and the light of the seven days of creation, as it was before it was diminished, as it says [Gen. 1] "the two great luminaries"....[3] (For a contemporary reading of this midrash see The Moon: A Feminine Affair).

[1] Sanhedrin 42a and Soferim 2:1 [back]
[2] Psalms 89:38 [back]
[3] Sanhedrin 42; Hullin 60b [back]



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