|Signs of Redemption in the B'erot Garden!|
I want to bless all of us that during this month of Cheshvan, that we will be able to do the difficult inner work of spiritual and personal transformation, integrating the spiritual heights we experienced during the month of Tishrei. May we be able to translate the visions we received in Tishrei into reality, and let go of the blocks that prevent us from going forward in our lives. May we purify ourselves from the old that is no longer essential and allow this month to become the vessel to contain all of our new lights!
With blessings for digging deeply beyond the surface and getting rooted, Chodesh Tov!
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum
NEW!! Parshah Meditations from Rebbetzin Chana Bracha. Click here for Parsha Meditation Noach
Haftorat Parashat Noach
Shabbat Rosh Chodesh
I believe that this haftorah was chosen for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh because it connects Shabbat with Rosh Chodesh and describes the renewal of redemption, which the New Moon heralds. “It shall come to pass on every New Moon after New Moon, and Shabbat after Shabbat, that all people shall come to bow down to Me, said Hashem” (Yeshayahu 66:23). By comparing Rosh Chodesh to Shabbat, the prophet gives it great significance. Since the newborn moon of Rosh Chodesh gives us hope for redemption, the entire haftorah describes the forthcoming redemption. At that time the holiday of Rosh Chodesh will become renewed to receive the status of a full-fledged holiday on par with Pesach, Sukkot and Shavuot (Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 44).
Women and Rosh Chodesh Celebration – A Sign that the Geulah is Forthcoming
Rosh Chodesh has always endowed us with a fresh start and an opportunity for introspection regarding what we went through during the past month, and the new opportunities and challenges facing us in the upcoming month. The Tur, (Orach Chaim 417) explains that the three pilgrim festivals correspond to Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’acov, whereas, Rosh Chodesh corresponded to the twelve tribes. When the tribes sinned by making the Golden Calf, Rosh Chodesh was taken away from them and given to their wives. Therefore, each Rosh Chodesh uniquely reveals the qualities of one of Israel’s tribes. During exile, however, the light of Rosh Chodesh is withheld to a certain degree. Yet, we are already experiencing the beginning of the era of Mashiach when Rosh Chodesh is returning to its intended capacity. This parallels the unfolding of the feminine light in the world. In the last generation, women, especially have begun celebrating and tuning into the message of Rosh Chodesh. This is a prelude to the days of Mashiach, when the entire Jewish people will experience the Divine Feminine Indwelling Presence at the Beit Hamikdash (Temple) every Rosh Chodesh. When our hearts will be purified from the yetzer hara (negative impulse), Rosh Chodesh will become an uplifting experience filled with opportunity for spiritual elevation. (P’sikta Rabbati 1:3). Already now, we increasingly celebrate each month’s particular quality and energy, through our exuberant Rosh Chodesh festivities.
Birth, Renewal, and Redemption
The forthcoming redemption described in our haftorah, in fact employs the metaphor of labor and birth: “Before she labored, she was delivered. Before her pangs came, she bore a son. Whoever heard of such a thing?...Can a land pass through labor in a single day? Or shall a nation be born all at once? ...Shall I, who bring about labor, not bring about birth? ...Shall I, who cause birth, shut the womb?” (Yeshayahu 66:7-10). According to Metzudat David, “Before she was in labor she gave birth” refers to Tzion, because when all of her children will gather inside of her, it is considered as if she gave birth to them, without labor or contractions. Radak explains this metaphor to refer to the sudden redemption which will come upon Israel. Yerushalayim is compared to the mother, and the Jewish people, her children. Before all the children of Israel have gathered completely, the redemption will come unexpectedly to Israel, just like a woman giving birth prior to having contractions. Since the difficulties of pregnancy and childbirth were the consequence of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, at the time of redemption, when the Tree of Knowledge becomes transformed into the Tree of Life, labor pangs are lessened and the process of birth will be less painful.
The Divine Mother will Comfort her Children from the Suffering of Exile
In our time, we are already experiencing the beginning of this change. I know many women who gave birth before they reached the birthing clinic. This almost happened to myself. I just made it, and gave birth both times, less than twenty minutes after I had arrived. Our haftorah is overflowing with lush promise and hope, maternal love, and divine protection. “I will extend peace to her like a stream...Then you shall suckle, and be carried upon her sides and be dandled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you and you shall be comforted in Yerushalayim” (Yeshayahu 66:12-12). Radak reveals that the metaphor of a woman is employed because women put more effort into things than men. Just as a mother comforts her children from any difficult experiences they may have gone through, so will the Divine Mother comfort her children, Israel, from the suffering of exile. The prophet relates the place of comfort to Jerusalem, for in this place Hashem will reveal His glory to us. Metzudat David expands this concept and explains that we will be comforted in Yerushalayim, because specifically in Jerusalem will Israel receive much goodness, as a comfort for all the suffering we endured. During redemption, Hashem will give birth to a renewed reality. Spiritually, the world becomes reborn, with a heightened consciousness and capacity for prophecy. This is reflected in Rosh Chodesh, when, on a small scale, we renew our awareness of Hashem. Rabbi Shimshon Refael Hirsch explains, that each time the moon finds the sun again, receiving its rays of light afresh; Hashem wants His people to find Him again, and to be illuminated with His fresh rays of Light. By seeing the renewal of the moon, we access our potential for personal renewal. The more we allow this renewal to enter our lives, the closer we get to the ultimate renewal and the final redemption, as described in our haftorah.
The Month of Cheshvan: Rectifying the Sense of Smell
ספר יצירה פרק ה משנה ט המליך אות נ' בריח וקשר לו כתר וצרפן זה בזה וצר בהם עקרב בעולם, וחשון בשנה, ודקין בנפש זכר ונקיבה:
“He made the letter nun king over Scent and He tied a crown to it and He combined one with another and with them He formed Scorpio in the Universe, Cheshvan in the Year, and the small intestine in the Soul, male and female” (Sefer Yetzirah 5:9).
A Vessel to hold the Lights
The month of Cheshvan serves as the vessel to hold all the lights of the many holidays we just celebrated during the month of Tishrei. This is why Cheshvan does not even have one minor holiday. During the month of Tishrei, we taste of the great Divine lights. In Cheshvan, even though the taste is gone, the fragrance still remains, just as the fragrance of our etrog remains long after Sukkoth. The month of Cheshvan serves as a channel that allows all the spiritual heights of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkoth, and Simchat Torah to permeate the entire year. This is similar to the ritual of havdalah, where we partake of pleasant smelling spices/herbs in order to allow the lights of Shabbat to infuse the coming week with its lingering fragrance.
The Sense of Smell
Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg explains that the word for the organ of the month: the intestines (dakin), derives from the word “minute” (dakah) or “particle” (dak). It implies the power to dissect into fine, refined parts. This is the process used to prepare the incense for the Temple. All of the sacrifices in the Temple service are meant to produce a satisfying aroma (rei'ach nichoach) and please the Divine sense of smell, which implies the Divine satisfaction with the service of His children. We read about the first expression of this Divine satisfaction during the month of Cheshvan, when Noach offered his sacrifice to G-d on the 28th of Cheshvan. It is the fats of the intestines that when offered on the altar produces the satisfying aroma for G-d. For this reason the intestines are connected with the sense of smell.
The Letter Nun
The letter of the month is nun. The first letter nun appears tall and barren, save for its thick root. The final nun appears completely barren, but for a root that grows deep under the surface, much like a scorpion whose tail is longer than its body. Following a rich harvesting of the fruits of our spiritual efforts, during the month of Cheshvan our focus turns inward toward our roots. In the same manner, the tree, relieved of the burden of its heavy fruit, delights in the return of the healing rain that follows the long dry summer season. In Tishrei we planted the seeds, and in Cheshvan, we wait for the rain to water the seeds. The holidays of Tishrei are the seeds of the entire year, and during Cheshvan we need to bring these seeds into fruition with our Torah learning. The first rain in Cheshvan is called yore, from the same root as the word Torah, as it is likened to our teachings that come from above.
May Hashem shower us with both physical and spiritual rain – both yore and Torah, and may we be worthy to receive!