Jewish Biblical Festivals are hard work. Take for instance the Tishrei festivals and the months leading up to it. It's serious soul searching, gut wrenching open heart surgery where you comb through your year, making sure you know where you went off track, building in fail-safes to make sure it doesn't happen again (in order that you don't take two steps forward and three steps back), but also having open, constructive conversations with the Creator, thanking Him for the blessings you've received during the year and refining your Malchut (Kingdom) work-plan and "budget" for what you would need for your partnership in His world for the coming year. Isn't it amazing how deeply involved Hashem is in our daily lives, allowing us to partner with Him?
Yet You made him but little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You placed all things under his feet.
Psalm 8: 6-7 (Hebrew Bible numbering)
Signed, Sealed, delivered...now what?
To understand how to approach and make the most of the upcoming month of Cheshvan, that in itself is depleted of any festivals we need to take a quick glance back at what transpired during the busy month of Tishrei. It's a question of signed, sealed, and delivered. Signed (Rosh Hashana), Sealed (Yom Kippur), but when was the delivery? The festival of Sukkot gives us a hint.
You see for six days during Sukkot we encircle the Bima (the place where the Torah is placed) with the Four species as mentioned in the Book of Leviticus, chapter 23 verse 40. On the seventh day, we encircled the bima seven times. Almost the same way the Israelites encircled Jericho during their conquest of the Land of Israel - a very potent principle and act. In Jericho the walls came down, during Sukkot we're readying ourselves for something else to come down... Encircling the Bima is like a spiritual turbine that's being wound up. (I discuss this also in my podcast (see below) and in our discussion on Facebook)
In Jewish tradition it is said, that on the seventh day of Sukkot, Hoshana Raba, a very significant day packed with spiritual significance, if you could look with your spiritual eye, you would see thousands of small pieces of paper coming down from heaven, one written for every person. Written on it is what has been determined during the 10 Days of Awe for that specific person for his/her year ahead. That's the "delivered" part of the signed and sealed sequence.
And then finally on the 8th day called Shmeni Atzeret (Shmeni meaning 8th, Atzeret meaning to stop) we finally push the "release" button by praying a very specific prayer, asking G-d to bless the Land of Israel with rain for the coming season. It's as if that day then spins us out into a new level, ready to start the new year. On the same day we finish the old Torah cycle and start with the new one, starting at the very beginning (always a very good place to start) - Genesis.
As with the natural seasons and tides, the high of the high holy days, now slowly releases us into a month where there are no special festivals at all, the month of Cheshvan. In ancient times, this was the month that King Solomon finished the Temple, but it stood empty for almost a full year before it was inaugurated in Tishrei the next year. Strange, really. Why wait? We've waited so long already. I've discovered through the course of my life that many times a year has to pass for a certain dynamic to come into its fullness in order to move forward. Something happens behind the scenes in that time, and suddenly the matter starts to move forward.
Cheshvan is an auspicious time for taking up all the resolutions you've made and planning and prayers you've "submitted" to G-d during the month of Tishrei. In today's day and age, we hardly find such luxuries - actual quality time to sit down and plan how to move forward. A time when all the summer hustle and bustle give way into a more quiet time indoors for planning, tilling and planting.
Remember, if we move with G-d, however active and hardworking we are in His world, it's never to be from a place of constant over-exhaustion. This is not His way. Exhaustion comes when we are out of sync with the natural biorhythms and divine cycles, which are deeply interconnected with each other. Being out of sync means doing the right thing at the wrong time (for example trying to have your Sabbatical rest on a different day than Shabbat - go figure, or trying to plant in the time of the harvest, or harvest in the time of planting) and also not taking the necessary time-out from the abnormal work pressures resulting from 24/7 emailing and messaging (for example, not taking a Shabbat rest at all). For the Jewish people this is evident: more than we have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat kept us.
G-d's blessings materializing
Back to Cheshvan. Cheshvan actually does have an important dateline. It's the month in which the 40-day Flood started - 17th of Chesvan. Again, not by happenstance.
This is the time for rain. This is the time when nature is ready to release the rain. There is much to be said about Noah's ark and the flood. I hope to cover this in our next blog and newsletter.
Rain in Hebrew is Geshem. Materialization in Hebrew is Hitgashmut. The same root. Rain is the physical materialization/condensation of atmospheric water vapor. It is therefore in this season that what you prayed for and what you were sealed for will now start to condensate/materialize in your life. More than that, when it rains, it is a sign that Hashem's heavenly treasures are open. It is a very auspicious time to pray for parnasa (provision) in your life.
Wintertime, when the nights get longer and darkness intensifies, should not be a time of anxiety and depression. It should be a time where we gratefully accept that the true and only Master of the world grants us time to unwind. How great His Chesed (lovingkindness), how great His Rachamim (mercy)! It is a time where we can consciously and meticulously prepare for the time ahead. Resting (literally) in the fact that G-d is actively bringing about things behind the scenes where our minds and lack of wisdom and understanding cannot and are not allowed to interfere.
May we merit the blessing of our conscious acts of unity. May we merit a good and blessed rainy season in the the Land of Israel (Psalm 133).