Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Rosh Chodesh
To dedicate this lesson

14. Torah Reading and Musaf

In honor of Rosh Ĥodesh we call up four people to the Torah. The passage that we read first describes the daily burnt offering, followed by the special Rosh Ĥodesh offerings.


Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Av 16 5781

In honor of Rosh Ĥodesh we call up four people to the Torah. The passage that we read first describes the daily burnt offering, followed by the special Rosh Ĥodesh offerings (Bamidbar 28:1-15). This alludes to the fact that one can extend the fixed and continuous sanctity of the twice-daily burnt offering into the special sanctity of Rosh Ĥodesh, which represents renewal, atonement, and repentance.

After we read the Torah and recite Ashrei and U-va Le-Tziyon (and according to some Sephardim, Beit Yaakov and Shir shel Yom [The Psalm of the Day] as well), we recite the Amida of Musaf. This prayer is comprised of the usual three opening berakhot and three closing berakhot, with one middle berakha about Rosh Ĥodesh, which concludes, “Blessed are You, God, Who sanctifies Israel and the New Moons.”

The Sages instituted the Musaf service in place of the musaf offerings that were brought in the Holy Temple on Rosh Ĥodesh. The time frame for this prayer also corresponds to that of the musaf offerings. Thus, one must pray Musaf by the end of the seventh seasonal hour of the day, where each seasonal hour is calculated as one-twelfth of the duration of daylight on a given day. One who procrastinates and fails to pray by this time is considered a sinner. Nevertheless, he should pray afterward, because, be-di’avad, one may bring the musaf offering all day long (sa 286:1).

It is customary to remove one’s tefilin before Musaf. On Yom Tov we do not wear tefilin at all; since the day itself is a sign of the covenant between God and Israel, we do not need the additional sign of tefilin as we do on a regular day. Since the Musaf prayer on Rosh Ĥodesh is considered a sign as well, we likewise do not need the additional sign of tefilin (sa 423:4, mb ad loc. 10). It is customary to remove the tefilin after the Kaddish that precedes Musaf. It is proper to begin the Amida only after the tefilin are completely wrapped in their straps and stored away in their containers, as it is disrespectful to leave one’s tefilin in a state of disarray throughout the Musaf service.[18]

Another prevalent custom is to recite Barkhi Nafshi (Tehilim 104) during Shaĥarit, because it contains the verse “He made the moon to mark the seasons (le-mo’adim),” alluding to the festivals. Some believe that the Levites recited this psalm in the Temple on Rosh Ĥodesh (ahs 423:5).[19]

[18] Beit Yosef 25:13 gives a different reason: It is inappropriate to be without the ‘crown’ of tefilin when reciting the stanza that describes the angels crowning God in the Kedusha of Musaf. However, even Ashkenazim, who omit this stanza, are accustomed to removing their tefilin before Musaf. Therefore, I cited Levush’s explanation that Musaf is considered a sign of the covenant, similar to Yom Tov, when we do not wear tefilin (sa 31:1). The prevalent custom is to remove the tefilin after Kaddish (according to Ba’al Ha-Tanya’s siddur, they are removed before Kaddish).

This raises a question regarding the common practice to don tefilin at the brit mila of one’s son, in order to be surrounded by two signs. Do we not learn from the fact that we do not wear tefilin on Shabbat and Yom Tov that one should not display two signs together, as each one implies that the other is insufficient, thus degrading both (sa 31:1)? Eliya Rabba 29:1 answers in the name of Roke’aĥ that the sign of brit mila does not commemorate the Exodus from Egypt; therefore, one may combine it with another sign. Tefilin, Shabbat, and Yom Tov, however, commemorate the Exodus and should not be combined.

[19] For the order of the Torah reading, see Tur, Beit Yosef, sa, and mb 423:2; Yalkut Yosef 423:4; Sefer Rosh Ĥodesh 7:9. If one prayed Musaf before Shaĥarit, he has discharged his obligation, but ideally one should pray Shaĥarit first, just as one should bring the daily burnt offering before all other offerings (Rema 286:1).

 According to both Ashkenazic and hasidic customs, one recites Barkhi Nafshi after the regular Shir shel Yom; those who follow Nusaĥ Sepharad (prayer rite developed by Ĥasidim) recite both songs after Hallel, while those who follow Nusaĥ Ashkenaz do so after Musaf. Some Sephardim have the custom of reciting the Shir shel Yom after U-va Le-Tzyion, before the Kaddish that precedes Musaf, and Barkhi Nafshi after Musaf. Others recite Barkhi Nafshi after Musaf and omit the Shir shel Yom altogether.

The Ashkenazic custom is to return the Torah scroll to the ark immediately after reading from it (mb 423:5). sa 423:3 states that it should be returned after U-va Le-Tziyon, and the Sephardic and hasidic custom follows this practice. (However, Kaf Ha-ĥayim 135:2 and 423:11 advocates following the Ashkenazic custom. In addition, for kabbalistic reasons, it is R. Ovadia Yosef’s practice to return the Torah scroll to the ark immediately after the Torah reading on Rosh Ĥodesh, as well as on Mondays and Thursdays [Yalkut Yosef 423:6 with notes].) 

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