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Parashat Bo - The Significance of the Moon
New Moon Picture (NASA)

B"H  Yeshua

Significance of the Moon

Further thoughts on Parashat Bo

by John J. Parsons

Note: The following is related to the commandment to sanctify the new moon of Nisan (otherwise known as Rosh Chodashim) given in this week's Torah portion (Exod. 12:1-2).

Whenever I can, I try to catch a glimpse of the moon.  Last night I had the privilege of seeing its thin silver crescent riding upon the winter night's black horizon - a moment of wonder and beauty. Three stars appeared, a new day...

The calendar of ancient Egypt, like our present Gregorian calendar, followed the course of the sun. The sun symbolized the power of the Egyptian sun god Ra (Re) who was also considered the creator and giver of life in some Egyptian myths. As far back as 2700 BC, Ra was regarded as the great god of heaven, King of all the gods, and lord of the resurrected dead. The daily rising sun was a symbol of creation (or the "eye" of Ra), and the shape of the pyramid is thought represent the descending rays of the sun. The Pharaoh, like the sun, was sometimes called the "son of Ra" and said to oversee everything upon the earth (note: the name "Ramses" can mean "Ra bore him," though it is more likely that Amenhotep II [a name based on the merging of the gods Amun and Ra] was the Pharoah of the Exodus). Interestingly, the Hebrew word for evil or bad is ra' (רַע), and the ayin ha-ra, or "evil eye," might derive from this association. From a "macro" perspective, the call of Abraham out of Mesopotamia (Shinar-Babylonia) can be thought of as the beginning of God's judgment of the religion/mythology of ancient Egypt...

Eye in Pyramid

The very first word of the Torah indicates the awareness of the significance of time - "in the beginning..." (Genesis 1:1), and according to Jewish tradition, the very first commandment given to the children of Israel (as a whole) was to sanctify the "New Moon" (Exod. 12:1-2), thereby causing the fledgling nation to depart from the solar tradition of the Egyptians (i.e., Ra worship) and to look to the moon for a new means of reckoning time and seasons.

The very first word of the Torah indicates the awareness of the significance of time - "in the beginning..." - and the very first commandment given to Israel was to sanctify the "New Moon."

The sages call the observation of the new moon the "first-born" commandment given to the Jewish people. According to midrash, God himself showed Moses the various phases of the moon so that he could understand what the moon should look like when it is to be sanctified ("reborn").


After the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the sighting of the new moon was established on the basis of eyewitness testimony in a bet din (religious court). When the testimony was accepted, the court declared the new moon as "sanctified." The first day of the new month (or the last day of the previous month together with the first day of the new month) was called Rosh Chodesh ("head of the month") and additional sacrifices were offered at the Mishkan/Temple (Num. 10:10). Regarding the Temple, David said, "Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the LORD my God and dedicate it to him for the burning of incense of sweet spices before him, and for the regular arrangement of the showbread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the new moons and the appointed feasts of the LORD our God, as ordained forever for Israel" (2 Chron. 2:4). Since the destruction of the Second Temple, Rosh Chodesh is considered a minor holiday, and the sighting the new moon is sometimes celebrated with "Kiddush Levana," an evening blessing that sets apart the new moon and petitions God for prosperity in the month ahead.

The moon's regular repetition of cycles suggests both change and renewal, wonder and mystery. The Hebrew word for month (chodesh) is related to the word for new (chadash) as it the word for renewal (chidush). God wanted Israel to look to the moon as their timepiece.  Just as the moon wanes and disappears at the end of each month, but returns and waxes again to fullness, so we suffer until the return of our beloved Mashiach Yeshua, who will restore the glory of God fully upon the earth.

Red Moon

Should Christians Observe the "New Moon"?

In Colossians 2:16-17 the Apostle Paul writes, "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ."  But what does verse 17 mean? The Greek text reads: ἅ ἐστιν σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων, τὸ δὲ σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, but note that the shadow (σκιὰ) is of the things to come (τῶν μελλόντων) - which was written in reference to the future (at the time of writing). The word translated "substance" (σῶμα) is perhaps better rendered as "body," and may refer to the body the Messiah, i.e., the followers of Yeshua...  In light of this, are we supposed to recognize the new moon or not?

Well, since we are not under the terms of the Sinai covenant but the New Covenant, the short answer is that we are not obligated to observe this appointed time any more than we are obligated to keep kosher law, to sacrifice a sheep during Passover, or to elevate the weekly Sabbath above other days of the week (Rom. 14:5-6). However, according to the prophet Isaiah, in the Millennial Kingdom people will observe Rosh Chodesh: "It shall happen, that from one Rosh Chodesh to another, and from one Shabbat to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, says the LORD" (Isa. 66:23), and the prophet Ezekiel also mentions Rosh Chodesh in the coming Millennial Temple (Ezek. 46:1-7).

וְהָיָה מִדֵּי־חדֶשׁ בְּחָדְשׁוֹ וּמִדֵּי שַׁבָּת בְּשַׁבַּתּוֹ
יָבוֹא כָל־בָּשָׂר לְהִשְׁתַּחֲוֹת לְפָנַי אָמַר יהוה

ve·ha·ya  mi·dei  cho·desh  be·chod·sho  u·mi·dei  shab·bat  be·shab·ba·to
ya·vo  khol  ba·sar  le·hish·ta·cha·vot  le·fa·nai,  a·mar  Adonai

"Every month on Rosh Chodesh and every week on Shabbat,
all flesh shall come to worship in my presence," says the LORD (Isa. 66:23)

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In other words, there is an eschatological (future) dimension to the New Moon and it is therefore part of our future heritage with the LORD God of Israel. While we are therefore not (legalistically) obligated to observe the Sabbath or the New Moon, we nonetheless recognize that they are part of the divine calendar that the LORD Himself instituted, and that they therefore have spiritual application to our lives as believers living under the terms of the New Covenant (Gal. 4:4). As members of the household of Israel (Eph. 2:12-20), we don't "have to" observe the moedim (holidays, appointed times) - but it surely is an honor and great joy to do so, especially when we appreciate how the glory of Yeshua is revealed in each of them. Yeshua the Messiah - the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).

Rosh Chodesh Blessing:

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֵיךָ יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ חדֶשׁ טוֹב בַּאֲדנֵינוּ יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ אָמֵן

ye·hi · ra·tzon · mil·fa·ne·kha · Adonai · E·lo·hei·nu · ve·lo·hei · a·vo·tei·nu
she·te·cha·desh · a·lei·nu · cho·desh · tov · ba'a·do·nei·nu · Ye·shu·a · ha·ma·shi·ach · A·men

"May it be Your will, LORD our God and God of our fathers,
that you renew for us a good month in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Amen."

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