[Avodah] Women Refraining From Doing Certain Melachos on Rosh Chodesh

Professor L. Levine llevine at stevens.edu
Wed Aug 8 05:47:16 PDT 2018

The following is from today's OU Kosher Halacha Yomis:

Q. I have heard that there is a custom for women to refrain from doing certain melachos (activities) on Rosh Chodesh. What is the basis for this custom?

A. The Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer (Chapter 44) writes that because women refused to contribute their jewelry toward the building of the Golden Calf they were rewarded with special aspects of observance on Rosh Chodesh, more so than men. Based on this, Shulchan Aruch (OC 417:1) writes that there is a custom for women not to do melacha on Rosh Chodesh. Why was Rosh Chodesh chosen as the reward for refusing to contribute to the Golden Calf if the sin did not take place on Rosh Chodesh? The Rosh (Shemos 35:22) explains that the reward was given to them on Rosh Chodesh Nissan when the Mishkan was assembled. The women refused to contribute their jewelry to build the Golden Calf, but eagerly donated their jewelry for the building of the Mishkan. By contributing to the Mishkan with enthusiasm, the women made it clear that their earlier refusal was not because they cherished their jewelry, but because they recognized that the Golden Calf was sinful. The holiday was initially established on Rosh Chodesh Nissan and then extended to the other Roshei Chodashim as well.

Mishnah Berurah writes that this special observance is only for women. There is no custom for men to refrain from work on Rosh Chodesh. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l (Halichos Shlomo) writes that the custom among many is that only married women refrain from work. (To be continued…)

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