This week brings the beginning of Ellul, a month with a serious and sombre mood as befits the lead-up to Rosh HaShanah.
The High Holyday spirit is apparent from the melody used for the announcement of Rosh Chodesh, and from the recital of Psalm 27, the Penitential Psalm, as well as the daily blowing of the shofar.
It appears strange, however, that at the end of Ellul the one Rosh Chodesh we do not announce in the synagogue is Tishri.
Since 1-2 Tishri is Rosh HaShanah, we hardly need to announce it and its approach is all around us. The other months are different, since once, people were unsure about dates without an announcement. Even today, with all our technology, we sometimes wonder what the date is and have to ask a computer or cell phone.
Jewish observance depends on knowing the Hebrew date. Ex. 12 says, “This month (Nisan) is the first of the months”, which Rambam sees as a duty to announce the months (Hil’chot Kiddush HaChodesh 1).
Originally this duty needed eye-witness testimony at the Sanhedrin, but later it was governed by calculation. The Rosh Chodesh announcement, asking for a good month, is based on a personal prayer of Rav (Ber. 16b).
Rosh Chodesh is linked with the phases of the moon. As the moon waxes and wanes, so does Jewish history. Our spiritual life also goes through stages, oscillating between greater and lesser faith.