After the marathon of Holy Days, Festivals, and Holidays in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, we now come to the month of Cheshvan which begins today. This month is also known as Mar-Cheshvan – the bitterness of Cheshvan—for a number of reasons: there are no holidays or festivals (besides Shabbat) to make the month a sweet one; it reminds us of the great Flood (which began and ended in the month of Cheshvan) that we read about in this week’s Torah reading, Noach; and our matriarch Rachel died in the month of Cheshvan. Mar also means drop and refers to the beginning of the rainy season (in Eretz Yisrael, that is). In the Talmud, Marcheshvan (all one word), derived from the Accadian words warh shman simply meaning eighth month.
After the intensity of Tishrei, Cheshvan offers us the opportunity for stillness and a different kind of reflection, introspection, and renewal. Naomi Shemer (z”l), one of Israel’s most popular song writers and singers, penned the following lyrics in 1984. Here is the chorus:
A Different Renewal
After the festivals, everything will be renewed.
The weekdays will be renewed and return.
The air, the earth, the rain and the fire–
Also you, also you, will be renewed.
May you find renewal and relish in the stillness of Cheshvan.
Kol Tuv ~ Rabbi Teri