The Life of the Synagogue

Kiddush Levana

Kiddush levana postcard
קדוש לבנה אום מוצאי יום-כפור
Kiddush Levana on Motzei Yom Kippur
Williamsburg Art Co., 25 Delancey Street, New York
Printed in Germany

During kiddush levana (sanctification of the moon), a series of verses and blessings are recited to greet the new moon. The ritual is performed shortly after Rosh Chodesh, the first day of a new month on the Jewish calendar, which coincides with the birth of a new moon. The welcoming and blessing of the moon is traditionally one of the happiest of regular Jewish celebrations, happening twelve times a year. Though the ceremony takes place out of doors, so that no obstruction comes between the celebrants and the moon, synagogues are shown in visual depictions of the event—as in this one—because the preferred time for these blessings is after services on Saturday night, as they are best performed by worshipers in a joyous frame of mind. The night sky in this postcard is completely clear—both moon and stars shining brightly—another requirement for reciting kiddush levana.

The title specifies that the ritual shown here is happening on Motzei Yom Kippur, that is, the night following Yom Kippur. There is debate concerning whether it is better to recite the blessings for the new moon before or after Yom Kippur during the month of Tishrei. Many conclude one who fears the upcoming judgment of Yom Kippur would be lacking the joy needed to perform the ritual. Others, however, argue that the performing the blessing before Yom Kippur might tip the scales of judgment in one’s favor.