It's hard to believe how fast Cheshvan has flown by. After weeks of planning, praying, shopping and chopping, the Yomim Tovim were suddenly over and we faced the task of "geting back to life." Three weeks later, I find myself wondering, where is the fruit of all the effort I poured into the months of Elul and Tishre?
Then came the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Those lofty months of prayer, of hope and joy, stand in stark contrast to the main event just one month later in MarCheshvan, "bitter Cheshvan." This month’s name tastes mar, “bitter” because her days are barren of holidays and the sweetness they bring to our lives. But this year there is more. Homes and valued possessions destroyed, simchos shuffled around. Lives lost. Darkness for millions.
Tishre was a month of glorious opportunities to grow ever closer to our Creator. In Cheshvan, the spiritual potency of the holidays is often drowned in the business at hand.Recovery, digging out, reassessing what is really important. If those in Sandy's path are forced to so dramatically live this reality, then we are compelled to learn from it.
As personal stories of tragic loss and magnificent acts of aid and rescue unfold, this MarCheshvan shows us that in the darkness there is new potential. The word mar, besides meaning "bitter," is also translated as “drop." This is the month the first drops of rain fall in Israel, the rains of blessing and promise for continued sustenance from Above. But what happens when the rains are not a blessing?
Geshem, rain, is the root of the word gashmius, physicality.
The rains of Sandy destroyed, rather than built homes, possessions and lives and prod us to take another spiritual cheshbon, accounting. What role does our gashmius, our material possessions and longings, play in contrast to the effort and yearning we place on our ruchnius?
The physical world is meant to sustain us only so far as to bring us to greater connection with our Creator. Rain ideally is a physical blessing Hashem sends to assist us, to bring us to our spiritual potential.
Their fruit exists only in potential. The rain, in the right quantities and in the right places, will break apart the seeds-- and in the dark winter months, deep in the soil, something miraculous begins to happen. Like the seed hiding underground, the spiritual potential we worked on in the days of Tishre may seem lost to us. Cheshvan is the time to nurture them and watch for the first signs of life that will begin to sprout in the coldest days of the coming winter.
This is the mission of the Jew, to flourish beneath the surface. When things look hopeless, the redemptive process is beginning. In the dark, empty month of MarCheshvan, and in the dark, empty spaces of our lives we slowly restore our homes to order and routine; we can either drown in the process or:
~In your mundane daily activities~ slip in sincere, whispered prayers.
~In the emptiness of winter~ tend and feel your deepest aspirations take root.
~In the darkness of the lonely task of running a home~ reach out to others in deeper darkness, your chesed gives them hope.
The bitterness of MarCheshvan washes away, drop by drop, in the sweetness of such actions. Our Sages tell us that Cheshvan will sprout the sweetest fruit of all, the dedication of the final Beis HaMikdash. Through our effort and longing, may it come speedily, in our day.
As the days darken and chill, soup becomes a welcoming and warming mainstay in the kitchen. Here are your links to delicious soup recipes to try and enjoy and share with others.
A favorite on a cold winter night. It's economical and still elegant enough for Shabbos and it's a most requested recipe of mine.
I call this "Diet Vegetable Soup" because I eat often it for lunch and with dinner after my holiday weight gain. It fills me up with almost zero fat and calories-as an added bonus, kids actually ASK for it!