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More Jews Should Celebrate the New Moon. Here’s How.

Lunar phase pattern

Last summer, against our better judgement, my husband and I decided to pile into our family minivan and drive from Maryland to Massachusetts. Overnight. We climbed into the front seats at 6 p.m., foolishly optimistic that a near-bedtime departure would bring smooth, sleepy sailing for the three tiny, gleeful vacationers buckled in behind us.

But there were so, so many things wrong with this plan.

By 10 p.m., everyone was still wide-eyed. Our snack supply was nearly depleted, we’d cycled through every CD multiple times, and we were staring at a sudden wall of construction-induced traffic.

My eyes flickered with frustration, my husband’s flashed irritation, and my 4-going-on-14-year-old rolled hers with annoyance. I couldn’t even see the baby’s eyes — they were tightly clenched as he cried bloody murder.

My 2-year-old’s eyes, however, reflected magic and wonder. His gaze skimmed the overabundance of impatient drivers and fixated on something infinitely mesmerizing, much higher up.

“Mommy, can we stop and get out?” he pleaded. “I want to catch the moon and bring it in the car with us.”

Just like that, the beauty of innocent awe temporarily replaced the chaos and stress of our ill-conceived road trip.

Nearly a year later, that moment still sticks with me. Childlike curiosity aside, my son may have really been onto something. As summer approaches again — with our forgotten New Year’s resolutions squarely in the rearview mirror — so, too, does the opportunity for a much-needed refresh. And the subject of my little one’s endless fascination, the moon, serves as a monthly reminder that we can start over more than once a year.

Enter the minor Jewish holiday of Rosh Chodesh, which means head of the month. Rosh Chodesh is a day or two of celebration that marks the start of a new lunar month and a new moon in the sky. It’s tradition to say a prayer articulating our hopes for the month to come. Historically — possibly because of the connection between the phases of the moon and the menstrual cycle — it’s also been a day when women gather and abstain from work. (Um, where has this holiday been all my life?).

During the coming months, the moon will loom lower in the sky — meaning young children can see it more easily. So, along with chasing the ice cream truck and catching fireflies, I’m hoping to make Rosh Chodesh something that my family celebrates this summer. Here’s how:

Resolutions. Instead of waiting for a new year, it can be pretty energizing to hit the reset button at more regular intervals. Last month, when the number of daily desserts in my house reached new heights, I squashed my little sugar fiends’ dreams with a necessary reinforcement of a forgotten rule: one treat per day. My decree came seemingly out of the blue and brought many tantrums with it. If I had tied this type of regulation to a new month, it may have helped my cause. Moving forward, a new moon will mean a new resolution — and a chance for my children to help decide what it should be.

Exploration. I may have neglected to properly cultivate my son’s lunar fascination last summer, but this year I’m ready. Looking back, we could have read books about the moon, taken nightly walks to see how big the moon was that evening, and even made our own moon pies (while only eating one per day, obviously). This summer, when we’re missing school and the routine that accompanies it, I’ll let my kids choose a monthly topic that we can explore together.

Girl power. When my third child arrived last year, he tipped the scales in my house towards testosterone. I rarely get time alone with my now 5-year-old daughter — but Rosh Chodesh may be our perfect monthly opportunity. It hardly matters what we do: My daughter has been known to skip around the grocery store and has a mysterious, uncanny appreciation for Home Depot. Of course we’ll aim for something loftier than the mundane, but it’s all in the marketing. We’d both jump at the chance for a girls-only outing (even if it’s running errands).

Ladies’ night. My girlfriends and I are known to send out online polls in order to nail down those elusive evenings when we’re all free. What if we just knew that a new moon meant a girls’ night out? Rosh Chodesh means we — and by “we” I mean “we ladies” — are practically commanded to get together at the beginning of every month. So see ya, complicated doodle polls. Our new calendar is set by the moon.

Letting go. My little ones, like so many, often refuse to go to sleep when it’s still light out. It can’t possibly be bedtime if their rooms are light and they still hear (older) neighborhood kids frolicking outside, right? I’m a fairly laid-back mom, but sleep is my parenting anxiety trigger — possibly because I’m always trying to maximize my own. So maybe celebrating Rosh Chodesh is all a way for me to feel OK about having everyone stay up later this summer. Or maybe this will be the start of a beautiful year-round tradition.

This summer, new moons will occur on June 13-14, July 13, and August 11-12. Happy celebrating!

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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