An ancient ritual brings modern women together

Sarah Waxman was feeling disconnected from her body and Jewish life. But once she learned about the Jewish ritual of Rosh Chodesh, Judaism quickly became central to her life. 

At the well image
A group of women taking part in an At The Well gathering in Tel Aviv.

Sarah Waxman was feeling disconnected from her body and Jewish life. But once she learned about the Jewish ritual of Rosh Chodesh , Judaism quickly became central to her life. 

"For me, it's been an incredible wellness practice," Waxman said.

Rosh Chodesh is the celebration of the beginning of a new Jewish month. The biblical ritual began after the Israelites were freed from bondage in Egypt. In the Book of Exodus, the Israelites were commanded to mark the months of the year to show they were now the masters of their own time.

There are differing views about how Rosh Chodesh became a women's holiday. One belief is mentioned in the Midrash (ancient commentary on Hebrew scripture). The Midrash says women were rewarded Rosh Chodesh because they refused to participate in the sin of idolizing the Golden Calf during the exodus.

Her initial inspiration was seeking out resources "to support a ritual that I think has major mental health implications for secular world," Waxman said.

So Waxman dreamed up At The Well, connecting women to body, soul, and community through wellness education and Jewish spirituality. What began as a newsletter on women's health and Jewish wisdom, At The Well has evolved to include monthly meet-ups, retreats, workshops, and online resources.

At The Well publishes a book titled Wrestling With Menstruation, which teaches women how to track their menstrual cycle for mental health and spiritual connectivity. In addition, the organization creates "Moon Manuals," which reference ancient Jewish texts, like the Torah, Kabbalah, and Talmud. Included are inspiring tales, creative activities, poems, meditations, recipes, and articles written by female leaders from around the world.

Facilitators across the world organize Rosh Chodesh gatherings, or Well Circles, a group ranging from six to 12 women. Facilitators are coached using guidebooks that can be purchased on At The Well's website. According to Waxman, Rosh Chodesh is a time for women to come together, using the Hebrew calendar to guide their conversations.

Well Circles are taking place all over the world, like Paris, Boston, and Tel Aviv, according to Waxman.

Here in Chicago, there are two known Well Circles.

One Well Circle facilitator, Rachel Goldberg, hosts a gathering at Maggie's Place, Mishkan Chicago's wellness center. According to Goldberg, "The Moon Manuals that At The Well have created are actually a really deep well of resources and tools for reflection."

Nasya Miller is another Chicago-based Well Circle facilitator, who co-facilitates with Mati Engel. "What's possible in this experience is for every single person to think about what they want or need or what they feel would be valuable in resetting their month," Miller said.

Currently, the Moon Manuel for the month of Tishrei , which is the month that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall in, is available online for anyone to utilize. Rosh Hashanah, according to Waxman, is a great time to honor Rosh Chodesh because the holiday is celebrated on the new moon.

According to Waxman, "If people paid attention to the new moon from one Rosh Hashanah to the next Rosh Hashanah, they would be different people. I invite them to do that with me in the next year."

For more information, visit www.atthewellproject.com or on Facebook & Instagram: @atthewellproject.

Carly Gerber is a freelance writer who writes about Jewish life, fashion, art, and culture in Chicago.

 



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