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Q&A: Announcing the Molad and Rosh Hodesh

June 19, 2017

Question: This week in shul, no one had a calendar and when it came time to do birkas hachodesh, we waited until someone could find a calendar so that we could announce when the molad was, and even after we found one, the chazzan then said that Rosh Chodesh Tammuz will be Monday, when it will really be Shabbos and Sunday. What do we do now?

Answer: It seems to me that although announcing Rosh Hodesh is an important practice, it is not critical that it be done. That is, if it was omitted entirely, or announced after the service had ended, there is no problem. Indeed, in medieval times, there were more varied methods of publicly announcing when Rosh Hodesh would be. As for announcing the molad, I believe that not only is it not necessary, it might actually be undesirable according to many older opinions, including that of the Shulhan Aruch.

Some history: The original practice to announce when Rosh Hodesh would be was for the good of the congregation. Later, the two paragraphs, “mi she asa nissim,” right before the announcement, and “y’hadd’sheihu” right after, were added. Sometime about the 17th century, the prayer of Rava, which was not specifically about the new month, was also added, but it was modified to mention the new month. If you look in other prayer books, and especially in older prayer books, you will find that this paragraph is still not there, because it is problematic. As we have written about before, it is considered by the Vilna Gaon and the Ba’al Hatanya to be tahanunim, supplications that are inappropriate for sabbaths and festivals. In their days, the practice was new, and they opposed it. (I believe that this addition, like many others similar to it, persisted in the texts of the prayer books for mainly two reasons: 1. It gave the printers something to distinguish their new offerings from siddurim already on the market. 2. The cantors could use it for their music, and indeed at the Belz School of Jewish Music it is a major component of their Sabbath Prayers course. This is also true of the B’rich Sh’meih prayer said when removing the Torah from the ark.) But once again, none of these are factors in the communal prayers, and therefore if they can not be performed or if they were not performed, there is no problem. Therefore, if the leader announces the wrong day, they just have to correct him sometime, preferably right away. There is certainly no reason to have to repeat any of the prayers.

As for announcing the molad, the practice is so new, it is not mentioned in the vast majority of classic halachic works. It is not mandated by the Torah, nor by sages, nor by the Shulhan Aruch, nor could any of the classic codes support or reject the practice due to its novelty. (“The Mishna B’rura does not rule to say Hallel on Yom Ha’atzma’ut.”) Before recent times, the molad (the average molad, not the true molad) only mattered for 1. determining the  first day of Tishrei every year, and by extension, the rest of the calendar, and 2. according to some Rishonim and the R’ma, to calculate the last time each month that Birkath Hal’vana may be recited. As we saw earlier, the surprising and unprecedented ruling of the Pri M’gadim is that somehow the R’ma would also hold that the starting time for Birkath Hal’vana should be calculated with similar precision, exactly 72 hours after the molad. However, once this error in transmission became ensconced, we can understand why Ashkenazic congregations would announce the molad. However, the Beth Yosef, the author of the Shulhan Aruch, explicitly rejected the R’ma’s use of such an exact measurement for determining the last time for Birkath Hal’vana, and would have been the first to object to attributing the extension of the usage of such an exact measurement to calculate the first time for Birkath Hal’vana to the R’ma and other earlier authorities. The modern calendar printers make the illogical and halachically indefensible jump of declaring that because the Shulhan Aruch rules that the first time for Birkath Hal’vana is “when seven days have passed for the moon,” those seven days should be calculated as precisely as the Pri M’gadim says to calculate a diverging opinion, namely exactly 168 hours after the average, announced molad. The Beth Yosef himself would of course object to this double falsification of his opinion, which was really like that of the sages: Birkath Hal’vana is to be said on Rosh Hodesh, and there is a qabbalisitc practice to wait for seven days, but those seven days should certainly not be calculated using the R’ma’s method of calculating the end of the Bracha! How much more so would our master object to publicly announcing the molad, which gives the people the impression that indeed Birkath Hal’vana may only be recited 168 hours thereafter. I would like to find out when non-Ashkenaic congregations started announcing the molad, and if there are any older congregations or congregants who can still recall when the practice was introduced, because on the surface, it is innocuous and only takes a few seconds, and only after some major contemplation do we realize that it is not in-line with halachic traditions.

Therefore, if no one knows when the molad is supposed to be, better to just continue with the service and not make the community wait. Further, like with regards to kapparois, we should really be asking, “according to the Shulhan Aruch, may we publicly announce the time of the molad when we announce Rosh Hodesh?”

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From → halacha, original

One Comment
  1. learn2lein permalink

    In England, the non Yeshivish Shuls (united synagogue and the federation shuls) do not announce the מולד

    This is because their מנהגים have German roots where that was never the custom

    However in my home town shul,(also united synagogue) the Rav insisted on announcing the מולד (he’s חב”ד)

    The members and the board had no problem: probably because they were unaware there was even an issue with this

    However he never pushed for the יהי רצון to be abolished even though he holds it to be wrong

    In my shul where I go now (minhag Frankfurt) we of course don’t say the יהי רצון, nor do we announce the מולד and we say the short יחדשהו

    All in all ברכת החודש takes only a minute by us! It’s geshmack

    What is done למעשה in your shul?

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