Cheshvan: Turning the Bitter into Greatness

The spiritual growth we’ve harnessed this past month is available throughout the year.

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We just finished the most wonderful month of Tishrei filled with Holidays and amazing spirituality, closeness to God, happiness and joy. And then, one week later, we fall upon the month of Cheshvan, a month devoid of any holiday at all! It is so empty and bare, the Rabbis nicknamed it MARcheshvan – "bitter Cheshvan".

Once we're on such a high, why doesn't Judaism give us a month that helps us continue this uplifted energy that we have?!

Well, that’s what Cheshvan is all about. The Sefer Nachlat Shiva writes that the word Mar in Hebrew also refers to an important person, a person who sets the tone. And Cheshvan is in a sense that person by being the first month with a Rosh Chodesh, as Tishrei didn't really have a proper Rosh Chodesh – the first days of Tishrei were Rosh Hashanah.

This month is setting the tone for the year – reminding us to take the gifts of Tishrei – the joy, the spirituality, the connection to God and to family, the deep connection within ourselves to our souls, and wrap them up and put those gifts in our pockets.

Cheshvan is a time meant specifically to tap into the excitement and positive energy we felt in Tishrei and learn how to use it even when we don't have the structure of the holidays. God is giving us the opportunity to gather up all that strength that we've harnessed and realize that it is within us, and that we can tap into it whenever we need.

It is ours for the whole year. Whenever we feel we are in a difficult moment, as things get cold and dark and winter comes, as we get into the routine of life, we cannot capitulate! Cheshvan is the training battleground, and our weapons are our beloved Tishrei  gifts!

In fact, the letters of the word Mar, mem and reish, can be reversed to make up the word Ram, which means greatness, signifying that that is where our ultimate greatness lies, when we are able to find beauty and joy in every day of our lives, even in the difficult Mar moments. We each have the power turn the Mar, bitter, into Ram, greatness!

Much success and a good winter!


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