In many synagogues around the world, the monthly calendar contains a special notation marking the last Shabbat of the Hebrew month as Shabbat Mevarchim (translated as “the Shabbat when they bless”). It is called this in honor of the special extra prayer that is added in honor of the coming Rosh Chodesh (beginning of the new month).

Birkat HaChodesh, the blessing of the new month, begins with a supplication based on a prayer of the Talmudic sage Rav that is recorded in Tractate Brachot 16b. It requests a life of peace, goodness, blessing, sustenance, health, fear of heaven and fear of sin, free of shame, with wealth, honor and a love of Torah and a fear of heaven.

Birkat HaChodesh is recited while standing, in commemoration of the pronouncement of the new moon by the members of the Sanhedrin, the central court comprised of 71 sages, in the days of the Temple. Because the calendar is now pre-calculated, the congregation is informed of the molad, the exact time that the new moon will appear over Jerusalem. This is followed by a request for God to fulfill His promise to gather all the exiles to Israel.

The prayer for the new month then continues as the prayer leader, followed by the congregation, declares the new month and the day or days* on which it is to be observed. Then, finally the congregation, followed by the prayer leader, call upon the Holy One to renew the month for Israel “for life, and for peace, for joy and for gladness, for salvation and for consolation.”

We will recite Birkat HaChodesh this coming Shabbat for the upcoming month of Sivan. Rosh Chodesh Sivan will be on Tuesday, May 31st.

*Depending on the number of days in the previous month, Rosh Chodesh is observed on either one or two days.

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