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Insights into the inner teachings of a mysterious ritual.

Blessing the New Moon

Blessing the New Moon

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Blessing the New Moon
Insights into the inner teachings of a mysterious ritual.

I have reproduced below the halachot-laws as well as advice regarding Birkat HaLevana [Blessing the New Moon] from compilation1 of the foremost Torah Sage, Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Bagdad - the Ben Ish Chai, known for his teachings on legal responsa as well as Kabbalah, with their translation. Afterwards, I present some other related halachic items.

[We did not reproduce the text of the prayer or its translation because there are so many different versions in use (even if the differences are not great). Please consult your favorite prayerbook - KOL.]

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[22] You should recite Birkat HaLevana with joy and careful enunciation, for it is a way of greeting the Shechinah. Pious men and Torah scholars have the custom to immerse in a mikveh on the day prior to Birkat HaLevana and this is a good custom, in particular if one had marital relations. If you were fasting during the daytime you should taste something before reciting Birkat HaLevana. Do not recite the blessing until it is totally nightfall and the light of the moon may be clearly discerned on the ground.

You may recite the blessing all night long...

[23] Seven full days must elapse after the molad before reciting Birkat HaLevana; these are counterparts of the sefirot-divine emanations keter-crown, chochma-wisdom, bina-understanding, da'at-knowledge, chesed-lovingkindness, gevura-restraint, tiferet-harmony. If a cloud – even thin – is covering the moon do not recite the blessing. You may recite the blessing all night long, even after chatzot-midnight. Keep your feet together, as when reciting the Amida prayer, and when saying ki er’eh shamecha [when I see Your heaven… (Psalms 8:4)], raise your eyes and look at the moon. However, from the moment that you start saying the bracha you must not look at it again.

[24] A blind person should abstain from reciting the bracha for there is halachic debate on the subject which is not conclusive and whenever there is a doubt as to the obligation to recite a bracha it is preferable to abstain. A blind man should stand near the chazzan-prayer leader who is to recite the bracha, asking the chazzan to have in mind that he is including him; he will thus fulfill his obligation to say the bracha by hearing it. One who can only see with the help of glasses on may say the bracha even though he is unable to see [the moon] without glasses.

It is necessary to say the bracha under the open sky and not under a roof. Only if a person is unable to go outdoors, because of illness or any other reason, may he say the bracha indoors under a roof. [When saying it outdoors] it is preferable to stand over hollow ground [rather than on cement] if possible.2

[25] You must say three times the formula keshem she anachnu merakdim-just like we dance… in the text of the Birkat HaLevana, and each of these three times make three slight jumps as you are saying this.3 There a mystery behind this teaching related to the ascent of the sefirot on which our intention is now focused. And here in our city, Bagdad, it is the custom to make three small jumps when saying besiman tov tehi lanu and I personally have adopted the local custom.

In addition, upon saying keshem sheanachnu merakdim, I make three jumps anew and teach others to follow suit. Moreover, our custom here is to make three other small jumps as we say David melech Israel chai vekayam…

[26] In the text of the bracha, do not say ‘she af hem,’ but rather ‘she gam hem’ (they also are destined to renew themselves like it…) In the phrase ‘siman tov tehi lanu,’ you must say tehi lanu (May this be a propitious sign for us,’) and not ‘tihyeh lanu’ (This will be a propitious sign for us).4

If you are reciting the Birkat HaLevana on your own rather than together with the congregation, you should say ‘keshem she'ani meraked’ (‘just like I dance…’, instead of ‘keshem she anachnu merakdim – ‘just like we dance…’

It is taught in several manuscripts that when you say David, melech Israel, you should have in mind the word David written in full, visualizing the letter yud after the letter vav, and this is also my practice.

The main focus of this ritual requires that we say the words:

baruch yotzrich
baruch osich,
baruch konich,
baruch bor-ich

...the initial letter of each second word spells out the word Yaakov.

The words must be said in this order so that the initial letter of each second word spells out the word Yaakov.

Furthermore, according to the inner wisdom of the Torah, the word yotzrich alludes to the heavenly world of yetzira-formation, ‘osich to that of asiya-making, konich to atzilut-closeness, and bor-ich-to that of beriya-creation.

As I have written with the help of Heaven in the holy book Mekabbezi’el, this formula is counterpart of the Name of Havaya [whose four letters are combined in twelve [different] permutations, counterpart of the twelve months of the year]. This particular permutation [concealed in the formula we are discussing] is that whose divine flow infuses Tishrei, the first month of the year in which the world was created, and this was the time in which Adam started to appoint cycles of time according to those of the moon. We thus say [at the end of Birkat HaLevana] "shalom" as alluded to in the verse, vehaya ma'ase hatzedaka shalom. (Isaiah 32:17)

[...]

There are reasons why we do not say Birkat HaLevana on Shabbat or Yom Tov as mentioned in the work Pachad Yitzchak but the one of most relevance is that in order to say Birkat HaLevana we must arouse a sense of joy within, and on Shabbat as on Yom Tov, we are already permeated with an inner joy which would not be related to the special joy we are to feel at the birth of the new moon.

Furthermore, as I wrote in the holy work Mekabbezi’el another reason is that in the formula of Birkat HaLevana we are to curse our enemies as in the verse tipol aleihem emata…and we may curse on Shabbat or Yom Tov just like on these days, although we may not issue a ban of cherem-excommunication.

[27] After the small jumps, say the verse: lev tahor/a pure heart… (Psalms 51:12) repeating it seven times, counterpart of the seven sefirot keter, chochma, bina, daat, chesed, gevura, tiferet, followed by: shir hama'alot esa ‘enai… Song of Ascents: I lift my eyes…, (Psalm 121) as well as: Hallelu-yah, Hallelu El bekodsho… (Psalm 150) as indicated in the siddur of our master Rabbi Shalom Sharabi-the RaShaSh z"l.

Furthermore, it is written in the manuscript work Keter Malchut that it is now recommended to recite vehaya or halevana… (Isaiah 30:26) The author does not give any reason to explain the preceding but I have found an explanation [in the teachings of the Ariz’l] at the end of the work Mavo She'arim (p. 125b and 126a) that this verse subsumes the essence of Birkat HaLevana [in a concealed form]. [Rabbi Chaim Vital] explains all the kabalistic allusions concealed within this verse, linking them to the text of Birkat HaLevana. Also may be consulted Pri Etz Chayim (p. 108, column 4) as well as the siddur of kabalistic kavanot-intentions of Rabbenu haRaShaSh. It is thus recommended to recite this verse at this time.

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Based on the teaching of the Shulchan Aruch that it is important to wear festive clothes for Birkat HaLevana, it became the custom to do this ritual on Motzai Shabbat. Rabbi Chaim Vital writes in Mavo She'arim how careful we have to be to recite this blessing on the new moon even in the middle of the week. Furthermore, Rabbi Shemen Sasson reports the minhagim-customs of the famed kabbalist Rabbi Shalom Sharabi (1720-1777), known as the Rashash, who would recite the blessing immediately after the molad of the new moon.

In the siddur Kol Eliyahu of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu zt’l, it is noted by that men who are single and would like to get married should be taught that they when saying Birkat HaLevana with intent and together with a congregation they will be drawing down to themselves a special Divine favor to fulfill their yearning. They should strive not to miss a single opportunity to participate in the ritual of Birkat HaLevana.

Rabbi Eliyahu also indicates that women do not recite Birkat HaLevana. As noted in the translation of the halachot of the Ben Ish Chai: [Qanun al-Nasá (chapter 43)] When women see the moon for the first time at the beginning of the month, they should say ‘baruch mechadesh chodashim.’ Likewise, when the congregation assembles to recite Birkat HaLevana, the women should also say baruch mechadesh chodashim and then siman tov tehi lanu ulechol Israel three times.

* * * * *

[Dedicated to my son, Gabriel Pinchas BenYosef. May Hakadosh Baruch Hu bring him and his family to Eretz Israel on ‘eagles’ wings,’ with an easy means of sustenance that will enable him to study Torah.]

Footnotes
1.
The Halachot of the Ben Ish Chai: Vol. 3, 2nd year, Vayikra; Yeshivat Ahavat Shalom Publications, Jerusalem 5765 – 2005.
2.
As explained throughout Rachel, Rachel Oh Shabbat Queen!, the earth represents malchut (the Shechinah, who is the collective souls of Israel); we are welcoming Her as we say Birkat HaLevana.
3.
Alternatively, the ArtScroll siddur suggests rising yourself on your toes as if dancing.
4.
Tehi lanu is a request – may this be… whereas tihieh lanu is a confirmation this will be…
Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad is best known by the name of his most famous work, "Ben Ish Chai". 5594-5669 (1834-1909 CE) Prolific leader of Persian Jewry and an important kabbalist. In addition to many works on Jewish law and Talmud, he authored many kabbalistic commentaries.
Simcha H. Benyosef is a scholar living in Jerusalem. Formerly a close student of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Benyosef is also the translator of the 16th century Safed classic, Reishit Chochma ("Beginning of Wisdom").
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Moshe Savdie Brrooklyn, NY June 20, 2012

Birkat Halevana In all cases no matter what? Reply

Webmaster via kabbalaonline.org June 20, 2012

RE: last day On the night beginning the 15th of the Jewish month. Reply

Moshe Brooklyn, ny June 3, 2012

Mistake? When is the last day to recite the blessing? Reply

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