|Rebbetzin in her Sukkah|
Now it’s all over, no more festive meals with the family, the children go back to school and we are alone again with a feeling of nostalgic emptiness. When I go down to pick figs I find they are finished on the tree, and so are the apples, plums, pears and most of the fruits in the garden. The leaves are falling off the trees, yet the grass is getting greener from the added dew and moisture in the air. So now what?
I dry my fruits to conserve them for the winter, and I pray for rain. Just as the trees are going to start all over, turning inward, strengthening their roots and preparing for sprouting forth new growth coming spring, I turn inward – returning to my roots, refining my teshuva. If I don’t want all my Yom Kippur resolutions to evaporate, I need to integrate and take the insights I’ve received during the holidays of Tishrei into my daily day routine. Now as I process my fruits making jam, jellies, dried fruit and applesauce is the time to process myself – the fruit harvested by Hashem. Reminding myself of my goals and practicing ways to actualize them in my life.
Read on why the month of Cheshvan is created specifically for this purpose of processing and integrating...
The Spiritual Attributes of Cheshvan
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)
Cheshvan: A Vessel for the Lights of the High Holidays
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.
Turning Inward – Strengthening our Roots
The letter of the month is nun. The 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 in 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 Torah, as it is likened to the teachings of the Torah that come from above.
Processing, Integrating and Refining
Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg explains that 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 intestines do the final job of digesting. Likewise, during the month of Cheshvan, it is our job to do the final spiritual digestion of the lights we received during the previous month of Tishrei. It this time we have the opportunity to process, integrate and refine the teshuva we experienced during the previous month.
I want to bless all of us that during this month of Cheshvan, 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 which is no longer essential so that we are can contain the new.
With blessings for digging deeply beyond the surface and getting rooted,
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum