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A woman prays at the Western (Wailing) Wall during Rosh Chodesh.   
(Photo by Brian Negin)

Shalom Brothers and Sisters,

Then at the beginning of each of your months (rosh chodesh) you shall present a burnt offering to the Lord: two bulls and one ram, seven male lambs one year old without defect.  

(Numbers 28:11)

Around the end of November, people begin to ask us when Chanukah starts, since this fun holiday can begin anytime between the end of November to the end of December.

When is Chanukah? The Hebrew date is always the same, the 25th of Kislev. But, of course, people are really wondering what date the holiday falls on the Gregorian calendar. This year, Chanukah starts on December 6, so it is just a couple of weeks away.

The date of Chanukah or any other Jewish holiday doesn't change from year to year; however, a Jewish year can change in length from 353 to 354 or 355 days long. And a Jewish leap year can be 383, 384 or 385 days long.

Because the Jewish year is not the same length as the year on the civil calendar, the dates of holidays seem to shift quite a bit.

A Jewish girl recites prayers after lighting the chanukiahs and Shabbat

candles at Chanukah.  (Photo by Robert Couse)

Why are the two calendars different in length?

The civil Gregorian calendar is based on the solar cycle of 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time it takes the earth to make one complete rotation around the sun.

To correct the problem of those extra hours, an extra day is added to February every four years. This keeps the equinox (when the sun shines directly on the equator) occurring on generally the same date every year: March 19 or 20 and September 22 or 23.

The Jewish calendar is a luni-solar calendar. It considers three things: the yearly rotation of the earth around the sun, the daily rotation of the earth on its own axis, and the monthly cycle of the moon around the earth.

Each new moon cycle begins a new month or Rosh Chodesh. However, there are approximately 12.4 lunar months in every solar year. In other words, a lunar year is about 11 days shorter than a solar year.

If the Jewish calendar were a strict lunar calendar that has 29.5 days in a month, every 16 years or so the Fall Feasts would be held in Spring, and Passover would be held in autumn. This is the case with the Islamic month of Ramadan that shifts throughout the seasons making a full cycle every 33 years.

The Passover (1919 Bible Primer)

To keep the Jewish holidays and appointed times in their correct seasons, every two or three years the month of Nissan begins earlier and an extra month is added. This 13-month year is called Shanah Me'uberet, literally, a pregnant year.

The additional month of Adar 1 (also called Adar Aleph) is added before Adar, which is designated Adar 2.  Interestingly, Adar 1 is not used for celebrating such things as Yahrzeits (anniversary of a death), Bar Mitzvahs and birthdays. Adar 2 is considered the real month for honoring such occasions.

The addition of the extra month guarantees that Passover (Pesach) and the wheat harvest feast (Pentecost / Shavuot) occurs in the spring. There is still a slight shifting, however, that results in the Jewish High Holidays falling anywhere from early September all the way into October.

Between AD 320 and 385, Hillel II, the Nasi (Prince) of the ancient Jewish Sanhedrin, established the calendar that is used today which follows a 19-year cycle, realigning the lunar and solar calendars.

In this system the extra month is added on the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle. The current cycle began at the start of the Jewish year 5758, which occurred on October 2, 1997.

The Gregorian calendar, however, was created in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII and proclaimed the official civil calendar of Britain and the British colonies of America in 1752.

The new moon phase is the moon at its darkest in the night sky. 

The sky almost appears to have no moon at all.

Celebrating Rosh Chodesh, the New Month

"And on your joyous occasions, your fixed festivals and new moon days, you shall sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being."  (Numbers 10:10)

The beginning of a new month is pivotal in the Jewish calendar because all of the holidays are marked by their month.

Every month is either 29 days (known as Chaser or lacking, in Hebrew) or 30 days (Malei or full).  The beginning of the month is called Rosh Chodesh (Head of the Month).

In Biblical times and today, Rosh Chodesh itself is considered a minor holiday, much the same as the intermediate days of Passover.

In the Book of Samuel, we see that the new moon was honored with a feast: David said to Jonathan, Behold, tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit at table with the king. But let me go, that I may hide myself in the field till the third day at evening. So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon feast came, the king sat down to eat.  

(1 Samuel 20:5, 24)

Although Jewish men and women celebrate Rosh Chodesh, women

have a special connection to this semi-holiday.  It is traditionally believed

that because the women refused to relinquish their jewelry to the men in

the incident of the Golden Calf, they were given this special day as a kind

of holiday. The expressions of that holiday differ from community to

community.  (Photo by Brian Negin)

Even today we see vestiges of celebrating the new moon:

When I was a young boy living in South Bend Indiana, attending the Hebrew Institute Hebrew school, once a month we would have a party in celebration of the new moon or the beginning of the new Hebrew calendar month, said Barry, a member of the Bibles For Israel team. This meant an hour or so away from our studies when we could drink juice, eat fruit and just have fun.

On the Sabbath of Blessing of the month (Shabbat Mevarkhim HaChodesh), which is the last Sabbath before Rosh Chodesh, additional prayers are recited to create spiritual sustenance for the coming month.

The blessing asks God to renew the month for life and for peace, for gladness and for joy, for deliverance and for consolation.

Sometimes the Sabbath before Rosh Chodesh is just a day before. In that case, the Sabbath is called Shabbat Machar Chodesh (Shabbat of tomorrow's moon).

If the Sabbath falls on the new moon, it is called Shabbat Rosh Chodesh and additional Torah (Numbers 28:11) and Haftarah (Isaiah 66:23) readings are added.

The Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Torah reading describes the Rosh Chodesh offerings at the Temple:

At the beginning of each of your months you shall present a burnt offering to the LORD: two bulls and one ram, seven male lambs one year old without defect.  (Numbers 28:11)

The Haftarah portion reveals that the nations will come to Jerusalem at the new moon to worship before the Lord when Messiah returns:

From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before Me, says the LORD.  (Isaiah 66:23)

This reveals that God has not and will not abandoned His appointed times.

Carrying the Torah at Rosh Chodesh (Photo by

Brian Negin)

Sanctification by the Sanhedrin

On Shabbat Mevarkhim (the Shabbat that blesses the new month), we remember the Sanhedrin's role in sanctifying this new moon, which was not always easy to spot in the sky.

During its rebirthing phase, the moon rises and sets with the sun for one or two days. Because of its proximity to the sun during this time, the moon is difficult to impossible to see.

After its apparent absence, it reappears in the night sky as a faint sliver in the west.

In ancient times the Sanhedrin (also known as the rabbinical city council) would only declare a Rosh Chodesh on the testimony of two reliable witnesses.

In a large courtyard called Beit Ya'azek, members of the rabbinical council would question witnesses who had claimed to have seen the new moon the previous day.

The Trumpet at the Feast of the New Moon (1890 Holman Bible)

The members of the Sanhedrin knew astronomy well and thus knew which questions to ask. They knew when the new moon was to appear and where it could be seen. Nevertheless, the sanctification of the moon required the testimony of two witnesses who had actually seen it.

As the witnesses arrived they would ask the following questions:

  • In which direction was the moon in relation to the sun?
  • Was it to the north or south?
  • How high in the sky did the moon appear?
  • In which direction were the crescent's tips facing?
  • How wide was it?

In each case they would first question the older member of the pair and then the younger. If their testimonies matched, they would proclaim the 30th day as Rosh Chodesh making that a 29 day month, and say, Mekudash! (Sanctified!). With everyone responding, Mekudash! Mekudash! (Chabad)

If no witnesses were found, the following day was celebrated as Rosh Chodesh and the previous month became a 30-day month.

Women of the Wall pray on Rosh Chodesh in Jerusalem(Photo by

The Midrash (book of rabbinic stories and teachings) teaches that the Jewish people who are holy (And you shall be holy to Me, for I, the Lord, am holy, (Leviticus 20:26)) sanctify (make holy) the new moon through their blessings of it.

And He directed the moon to renew herself as a crown of glory to (the Jewish nation), who likewise are destined to be renewed like her ...  (Chabad)

Rosh Chodesh is thus seen as a kind of second chance. It is a monthly reminder: just as the moon is renewed from almost complete extinction emitting not an iota of light, we are likewise destined to be renewed like her.

In Judaism this renewal is seen as a national rebirth when the Messiah returns, which will be shared by the entire world.  (Chabad)

Just as the moon wanes every month, the Jewish nation seemed to wane after the days of Solomon. Nevertheless, Israel will be restored to her full brightness, and the entire world will be impacted.

Jewish new moon celebration (Illustration from Juedisches Ceremoniel,

a German book published in 1724)

New Moon, New Life

The rebirth of the moon at Rosh Chodesh reminds us of the birth of our own lives. It, in essence, reminds us to approach God as a child in simplicity, seeking a one-to-one connection with Him.

To accomplish this, a person must relate to God completely devoid of his own personal qualifications in a sense of what the sages call mesirat nefesh (self-nullification) or self-sacrifice in God's service. Children, with their simple outlook on life, have no need to negate their existence in order to connect with God.

Rabbi Yossi Braun, writing for the Chabad website, also compares the new month to the birth of a child which always brings on a shower of mazel tovs (congratulations) and good feelings.

Even though babies cannot determine if they will have much to offer when they become full grown, each of us rejoices at the birth of a child because we're so glad that God has given us a new life.

The reason we love children so much is because of their innocence, simplicity, and purity. In truth, we don't appreciate them for their virtues, for what they have, but for what they lack, writes Braun.

Rosh Chodesh in Jerusalem (Photo by Brian Negin)

Children, he says, are not trying to prove anything; they just want to exist. We celebrate our children for who they are, or more correctly, because they are, writes Braun.

This step of passing into creation is a greater achievement than any subsequent transitions says Braun. All future achievements are built on this one thing: the very fact that the child exists.

And this is how the Jewish People relate to the moon. At the middle of the month the moon is round and full and has reached its perfection, but at Rosh Chodesh when it is a thin sliver, we celebrate the mere fact that it exists at all.

Braun compares this with the life of each individual. As a people, too, he writes, we have had different phases: our better days when everything was dandy and rosy, and our end-of-the-month waning times. But, we celebrate the fact that despite all odds, we exist. We are. And we're here to stay.

It surely seems that the Jewish People were at times throughout history about to disappear from planet Earth, but so does the moon. The shining of the moon anew each month reassures us of our ultimate rebirth the Redemption, Braun concludes.

Moon phases (Diagram by Andonee)

The phases of the moon remind us that no one is perfect and that although we may fall, we are never diminished in God's sight.

The righteous can fall even seven times, and rise again; but the wicked stumble with evil. (Proverbs 24:16)

The righteous fall but they get up again. Just as the moon rises and then declines, we are reminded of the high and low points in everyone's lives. And just as the moon keeps coming back each month, we must never give up.

Similarly, just as the waning of the moon suggests its extinction, it reminds us that at the darkest of times, when the Divine Presence seems to have left our world, it is really only hidden from our view.

The new moon also reassures of ultimate rebirth at the Redemption. Those who know the Lord, the Messiah of Israel, know that they are already redeemed by His blood.

Consequently, the rebirth of the moon each month can be for us a reminder of this rebirth, of this redemption from sin and death.

Sliver after the New Moon taken at sunset (Photo by Andrew McMillan)

The Final Redemption, The Messianic Rebirth

Although the rabbis compare the coming Messianic era to the full moon, the hope of redemption and His coming is compared to the new moon.

Its re-emergence is compared to the kingdom of David. "Though it may have lost much of its former radiance, it will be restored to its glory in messianic times," the Chabad website states.

Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful.  (Psalm 89:35-37)

The Talmud (compendium of rabbinical teachings and discussions) teaches that when the Messiah returns, the moon will cease to diminish and remain as large and bright as the sun.

So while the celebration of the new moon reminds us of His coming, it also reminds us to renew our awareness of His Presence in our lives, and to push forward into the growth and change that He has for us, becoming all He created us to be.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  (Psalm 8:3-4)

Please be a part of Adonai's end-time plan for the complete restoration of Israel by helping us bring the love of God to the Holy Land and the nations.

"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.... Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.... I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below... and all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Acts 2:17-21)

"The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field."  (Luke 10:2)

Dr. Akiva Sherman- Israeli Messianic Minister

Santa Monica, California  USA

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 Sh'mot (Exodus) Parashah 13 Minimize

Yisra'el's War in the Gaza is not an incursion levied against a people that identify themselves as Palestinians, but rather it is a defensive operative levied against the Spirit of Amalek. Rabbi Sha'ul's words to the Messianic Community in Ephesus explains clearly in Ch. 6:12 stating: "For we are not struggling against human beings, but against the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers governing this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm." CJB 

Parashah 13, Sh'mot (Exodus)
Sh'mot 1:1~6:1* 21 Tevet 5769*1/17/09

 A      With the closing of Sefer B'resheet we have in part bid a final fare- well to the great Patriarchs and Matriarchs. While we leave their stories behind as recorded on the Divinely Inspired pages of Scripture, the spirits of these G-D~fearing forebearers will carry on even to this day as their in- fluence and participation in the Covenants that G-D made with them con- tinue to be walked out.

This weeks parashah Sh'mot, brings us into a whole new era of change, with a whole new cast of performers. G-D is going to raise up for Himself a redeemer from this nation of Hebrews housed within a nation of Egyptians, to deliver His people from oppression and slavery leading them to their own Promised Land. Unlike the Covenant of promise that G-D made with the patriarchs concerning future descendants, this G-D appointed redeemer of the Hebrews would begin a present fulfillment of these promises. The Patriarchs knew G-D as a Covenant maker and now He expresses Himself to this new generation as a covenant keeper.                          

Read B'resheet (Genesis) 17:1~6 pg 15; 28:1~4 pg 29; 35:9~12 pg 38; 48:1~4 pg  55                     

When Ya'akov's (Yisra'el's) family settled in Mitzrayim, they were but a small nation of seventy descendants. However, after the demise of this generation, the nation grows. Up until this weeks parashah, we read that all of G-D's promises concerning the phenomenal multiplying of the Hebrew people were in a future tense. However in today's parashah, Pharaoh perceives this Hebrew Nation, rapidly growing in numbers in his midst as a present threat, and declares war against them on the "battle- field of their fruitfulness."                    

Read Sh'mot (Exodus) Ch 1:5~14 pg 60

 B   So one of the terms of G-D's covenant with the patriarchs has now become manifest in the fruitfulness of the Hebrew people, and to counter the effects of this covenant in that it might come to fruition, there arises a new Pharaoh in Egypt that refuses to recognize that the great accomplish- ments that Yosef had procured for the land were any longer valid. 

The lean years of famine had passed now and the state of economics were such that the business of agriculture and livestock had been restored to the land, so to continue operating under the rules of a Hebrew, a people who had now become a threat to his power, was no longer acceptable.
I don't think that this was just some kind of a jealous power struggle that this new King was experiencing, because he could have presented some terms and conditions to the Hebrews in an effort to make them allies with him, thus becoming a greater and stronger nation, but he didn't. What he proposes to the Hebrews was physical oppression in form fueled by a spirit of hatred with the hopes of interfering with G-D's covenant and annihilating the Hebrew people.
By killing all of the male Hebrew babies there would be an ethical cleansing of sort, with the hopes that the women would assimilate into Egyptian culture and any further threat of this race would be eliminated. I refer to this spirit as the Spirit of Amalek 

Read Sh'mot (Exodus 1:15~22                                                         

The Meaning of the name Amalek: The term may be divided into amal - to toil, and the letter kuf, with the meaning 'ejection of the life-spirit' e.g. katal - to kill with removal of life-spirit. So Amalek means 'becoming dispirited (losing the spirit to live) as a result of hard labour and continuous toil'. Amalek represents intellectual doubt, the kind that erodes one's sense of belief that G-D has total authority and is running the world. The Hebrew word Amalek (in gematria) has the numeric value of 240, which is equal to the Hebrew word safek, which means doubt. 

Amalekites were a tribe or consolidated tribes that were located in the area of the Sinai penninsula. They were in existence already in the time of Avraham (B'resh 14:7) and were referred to in Bil'am's prophecy as; "First among nations" (B'mid 24:20) or in other words, "the leading force of evil." The Amalekites are never mentioned as having been on friendly conditions with Yisra'el, but instead the references to them are always in terms of warfare. Just as Yisra'el was called as a leading force of good, Amalek is considered to be the leading force of evil. As a result, the struggle becomes the eternal struggle of good versus evil in this world.The first attack of Amalek against Yisra'el takes place following the Reed Sea miracle.       

 Read Sh'mot (Exodus) 17:8~16 pg 79 

As we mentioned earlier, The Spirit of Amalek has one chief goal and objective, and that is to make G-D out to be a liar by interfering with His covenants to His people in an effort to invalidate them. So now, as we read, ADONAI Himself will take on Amalek generation after generation and will eventually completely blot out this name from under heaven. In Sh'mu'el Alef Ch 15 King Sha'ul is ordered by ADONAI to attack the Amalekites and completely destry them. He attacks and spares the Amalekite King Agag. Because of this disobedience, Sha'ul loses the King- ship. In Ch 27 King David attacks the Amalekites and crushes them. About 300 yrs later, in Divrei Hayamim Alef (I Chron. 4) King Hizkiyahu (Hezekiah) destroys a remant of the Amalekites once again in battle.

 Seemingly disappearing from the pages of history as a nation, the spirit of Amalek resurfaces about 200 yrs later in the account of Esther through an actual descendant of Agag (King of Amalek) with the name of Haman. Once again this spirit attempted to destroy the Hebrew people in an effort to interfere with the covenant of G-D and render it invalid. Quiet or at least subtle for almost 300 yrs, finds the spirit of Amalek rising up again to interfere with G-D's covenant concerning His people and invalidate it. It expresses itself through the Syrian Greek ruler Antiochus IV who tries to force the Hebrew people into an assimilation of hellenism, forsaking the Laws of ADONAI G-D. Because it is a spiritual bat- tle the words of the prophet echo the victory as: "It's not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit says ADONAI Tzva'ot."

 Because Amalek is a spirit, it does not tire easily. Another 170 yrs pass and another covenant of promise that G-D had made with his people through the prophets starts to unfold in its fulfillment, only to be menaced once again by the invalidating spirit of Amalek. This too, speaks of One who is appointed and called by G-D out of Egypt like Moshe to redeem His people. Read Mattityahu (Matthew) 2:1~16 pg 1224


D  In 70 CE, Rome destroys the Temple over 1 million Jews are killed

135 CE Hadrian kills 500,000 Jews banning them from Yisra'el and renaming the Land Palestine.

527-1012 CE Medieval period, forced conversions or death and expulsion

1073~1492 Middle Ages period of the Crusades and Spanish Inquisition

1516~1719 CE Reformation period Luther's anti~semitic book "Against the Jews and their lies", First ghettos established, literally thousands killed in Poland and Ukraine, blood libel charges come out in France

1768~1877 CE Enlightenment period Nicholas I called the Russian Haman considers the Jews to be parasites on society seeks to destroy them, Anti~semitism rises in the United States during the Civil War

1878~1945 Modern era Pogroms in Europe, "Protocal of the Elders of Zion" written against the Jews because of Russia's structural problems, Henry Ford publishes the same work in America under the title: "The International Jew" WW I, WW II, and....The Holocaust

1948 G-D says to Amalek; "Enough for Now" and Yisra'el becomes a State again

1950~present Post modern era brings the spirit of Amalek through a consolidated organization of Arab countries vowing to "Push Yisra'el into the Sea," and to "Wipe her from off of the face of the Map." And most current is the spirit of Amalek making the same threats to eradicate the Jewish people and the Jewish Nation through the guise of a terrorist cell that is so aptly named: Chamas which means destruction or to destroy.

 Revelation Ch 12 shows us four distinct areas of attack that Ha- Satan will pursue. A study in and of itself, let's look at the highlites. Turn to Revelation 12 pg 1543 The first area of attack is against the very person of Messiah Read vs 1~6 

The 2nd area of attack is against the power and authority of Messiah because the war moves from the earth up to the throne of heaven, but Mikha'el our Messiah's General archangel whose area of responsibility is the Jewish people, blocks the attack. Read vs 7~9

 The third area of attack is against the people who have given their lives to Messiah as martyrs for the sake of the Beseuras HaGeulah. But they too defeat HaSatan, because of the blood of the Lamb. And when the Adversary is hurled out of heaven, he once again becomes pursuant to the destruction of the Jewish people on earth. Read vs 10~16

 The final attack comes against against the believers, the natural branch believers and those grafted in who proclaim and bear witness to Yeshua. Read vs 17

If HaSatan can destroy the Jewish people before they can repent and trust in Messiah as a Nation, Messiah will not return, and the Adversary will be free to continue to prowl like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour. We are the "rest of her children, and I believe that we have work to do. The greatest act of Amalek anti~semitism is not sharing the Beseuras HaGeulah with our Jewish brothers and sisters.

G-D is involved always with the fate of His people, their victories are His and their enemies are His as well. As you may have perceived, the spirit of Amalek is none other than the great dragon HaSatan deceiver of the world and manifest in and through the lives of those that share a common desire to make G-D out to be a liar. Ephesians 6:12 explains: "We are not struggling against human beings....but against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm." E  The Book of Revelation explains to us with two important reasons why HaSatan has been trying to destroy the Jewish people since the Book of B'resheet. The first reason is to; undermine and make invalid G-D promises to His people as we've stated previously. The second reason is to stop the return or Second Coming of Messiah Yeshua, which among other things ushers in the eventual demise of the Adversary. 

Gut Shabbes! Rav Chovel

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