Thursday, April 23, 2009

Erev Rosh Chodesh - A Glass Almost Empty Or Almost Full?

(Picture by M. Lerch)

I once told a friend that I found saying Birchas HaChodesh each month to be somewhat of a depressing occurrence since it marked yet another month of life that had too quickly passed by. My friend admitted that he too shared these feelings. He confided that tears actually came to his eyes when saying הוא יגאל אותנו בקרוב ("He will redeem us soon") on Shabbos Mevorchim Nissan because it almost felt like Hashem was teasing us by by witholding Moshiach and forcing us to continually say the words בקרוב (soon).

While contemplating the meaning of Erev Rosh Chodesh as a Yom Kippur Katan, I concluded that I had not taken advantage of this day properly in the past. Some people say additional tefillos during Mincha on this day and others even fast in atonement for their sins for the previous month. I, on the other hand, hadn't ever done anything.

I began learning more about the observances of Erev Rosh Chodesh and discovered that it was also the minhag of the Baal Shem Tov to fast on this day. In my initial burst of excitement, I decided that I would like to follow this minhag. However, once I started thinking about the taxing nature of fasting and what abiding by this minhag would mean in all its practicality, I considered otherwise.

I then discovered that Imrei Pinchas mentioned that Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz said the entire Sefer Tehillim without a break on Erev Rosh Chodesh. I once again contemplated taking this on as a new avoda. I reasoned that it was certainly easier than fasting, yet in a certain way it was equally challenging since it would require that I find two hours of interrupted time - most likely in the middle of the night - to complete saying the whole Sefer Tehillim.

Nevertheless, Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz's practice appealed to me because it approached Rosh Chodesh from both "glass almost empty" and "glass almost full" perspectives. In certain sense, I could see saying the entire Sefer Tehillim as a tikun for my aveiros the past month. Yet, on the other hand, I could also view it as a supplication for Hashem to help me in the upcoming month. One can easily find both these themes within the pages of Tehillim.

Starting this morning, I am going to try to abide by this practice of completing the whole Sefer Tehillim every Erev Rosh Chodesh. Instead of viewing Rosh Chodesh as marking just another month behind me, I hope to view it as a blank canvas in front of me; in the way the Biala Rebbe describes:

"The constant renewal of the months and the ever-changing cycle of time enable a person to continue in life, persevering through his hardships. As the time changes and the difficulties of the past are forgotten, we hope towards a new and better future..... Rosh Chodesh is a renewal, a new face in time, in which the world is transformed from one state of being to another. A new reality is conceived, which never before existed."


At April 23, 2009 at 8:32:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey thanks i needed that post.
just want to knwo where i can find that idea from the Bialah Rebbi

At April 23, 2009 at 8:39:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

You can find it in this book.

At April 23, 2009 at 9:47:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blessings. i needed to read this too. and thanks for the article from RDavid Sears. i have saved it.
Many times during this 18 years since my two sons and i left xtianity, and especially off late, i have asked myself, 'what am i doing here(i.e. where i live).' since i cannot discuss or disseminate the 7 laws.
to continue hoping and not giving up especially when situations become very bleak, every night after the shabbat, i tell myself, "one shabbat less for the mosiach to come and then our troubles are over.'

At April 23, 2009 at 11:20:00 AM EDT, Anonymous shoshana (bershad) said...

In Pe'er la-Yesharim, it says that R' Pinchas instructed his disciple, R' Raphael of Bershad, to say tehillim once a month, without interruption, but the timing (Erev Rosh Chodesh) isn't mentioned. Can you tell me where it says this in the Imrei Pinchas?

At April 23, 2009 at 11:45:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz.. said...


maybe it's a very high level that I haven't yet reached, but how can you look at your whole month and feel like you haven't made any use of it?

I don't think you are correct or being fair to yourself. Every day of that month you learn torah, and pray three times a day. Every Shabbath you celebrate. Not only did you learn Torah every day, but you shared some of your learning with others, and encouraged others to learn and to share their learning as well.

What was wasted?

Can you do even better? Sure. But if you didn't do this much this month, next month you'd only be doing this much, rather than a little bit more!

We are supposed to grow in Judaism, always. but that growth is supposed to be slow and balanced -- just look at the growth of any healthy organism -- looking back you see how much it grew, but you never actually see the growing happening right before your eyes.

Don't encourage your yetzer hara! you had a phenomenal month and that should excite you to make next month even better! :)

At April 23, 2009 at 1:33:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you posted this in the month of Nissan, when (1) fasting is prohibited and (2) people who generally do daven the seder of Yom Kippur Kotton do not do so. I suppose it's a case of ho'oseik b'toras olah k'ilu hikriv olah -- when one learns the details of the mitzvah, it's considered as if he had actually fulfilled that mitzvah.

Actually, there are four months when the Yom Kippur Kotton davening is traditionally not said -- ER"Ch Cheshvan (because we already had Yom Kippur Godol that month), ER"Ch Teves (because of Chanukah), ER"Ch Iyar (because of Nissan), and ER"Ch Tishrei (because it's Erev Rosh Hashana). The siman is Chatas (Ches-Tes-Aleph-Sof).

At April 23, 2009 at 1:44:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yitz: I really appreciate your thoughtful comment.

Anonymous: Regardings your second comment, I was familiar with this issue that you raised and actually asked a rabbi about starting this today. The rabbi responded that those who observe Yom Kippur Katan every month say the selichos today as well, they just do not fast. He did not see that it was an issue with me completing Tehillim on this day either.

At April 23, 2009 at 4:39:00 PM EDT, Blogger Menashe said...

It may be more practical to consider the Chabad minhag of finishing sefer tehillim on shabbos mevarchim (with a minyan before davening or at least by the end of shabbos) rather than erev rosh chodesh, which often falls on a weekday and therefore can severely take away from what are often a few precious hours of sleep.

I'm also all for fasting (in moderation.) Is the Yom Kippur Katan taanis from shkiah or alos hashachar?

At April 24, 2009 at 2:01:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Shoshana said...

Sefer Tehillim on Shabbos mevarchim is really a pleasure and something to look forward to. It is also a great way to get kids in on Tehillim as they can "partner" with their parents and really feel accomplished by contributing some kapitelach themselves.

At April 24, 2009 at 8:17:00 PM EDT, Anonymous moish said...

anon 4/23
you need to get to a torah loving commnunity of bnei noach and be 'bsimcha' in joy.

we are supposed to be happy.

not always easy, but you got to work at it.

At April 27, 2009 at 12:49:00 PM EDT, Anonymous raphael said...

just learned in Likuttei Moharan vol.1 torah 10 near the end, that Rosh Chodesh is the source of teshuvah, because on that day Hashem said "bring an atonement offering on my behalf, for I have lessened the countenance of the moon". Additionally, on Rosh Chodesh the standard operations of Gehinom are interrupted and the only function on Rosh Chodesh is the remorse and regret felt over past actions.


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