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Cheshvan: A Time to Be Still

We seamlessly journey from one special moment to another preparing both through physical work and inner reflection. We value the preparation almost as much as the celebration itself. And yet one month lays empty and bare. Nothing historical or agricultural presents itself, giving us relief, a respite and time for a deep breath.
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November 9, 2022

The Jewish calendar is guided by the moon. Each month begins as a sliver, blossoms into fullness, and then wanes barely visible. It is marked by holy time based on a historical event or harvest festival. We are a people that remembers potent moments from the past and honors our beginning as agricultural beings. We seamlessly journey from one special moment to another preparing both through physical work and inner reflection. We value the preparation almost as much as the celebration itself. And yet one month lays empty and bare. Nothing historical or agricultural presents itself, giving us relief, a respite and time for a deep breath.

Like the bear who prepares to hibernate, we too pull in, find time and space in our homes to feed our souls. 

This month, Cheshvan, which began October 26, is an anomaly. It is not directed outward, demanding physical cleaning, shopping or ritual expression but is a time guided by change in temperature, shorter days and the desire to sit by the fireplace. It calls on us to focus inward. Like the bear who prepares to hibernate, we too pull in, find time and space in our homes to feed our souls. It is an auspicious time to nurture our inner landscape, to find peace and well-being through contemplation, meditation and study, especially through these early chapters of Torah. Torah begins with how the world and Judaism come to be. The birthing of creation and life as well as a new religion can inspire our own innovative pathways to change and growth. Perhaps you need time for deeper awareness of how to respond to either inner struggles or worldly demands. Maybe less time on social media and more on repose, immersed in peace, silence or a good book. One of the most important words in our tradition is Shma, listening. Unlike the capacity to hear, which is a physical act, listening is a conscious and purposeful practice. Being centered and quiet makes it possible to hear the many voices that exist within us.  

The Hebrew name Cheshvan has a two-letter root at the beginning that means silence and quiet. With devices constantly at our side—smart phone, Ipad, smart-watch, laptop, not to mention the constant lure of streaming entertainment on our larger-than-life TV screens—making space to be still is a challenge. Cheshvan, this unadorned gift of time and an invitation to be with one’s self, makes it possible to discover new aspects of both the hidden concerns of our lives as well as the deep well of gratitude with which we often lose touch. And quite serendipitous is that the holiday of Thanksgiving coincides with this treasured Jewish time that calls on us, despite the whirlwind of political and social insanity around us, to tap into the beauty, the grace, the people and perhaps even the Divine in our lives. 

Psalm 46:11 teaches, “Desist [from ongoing distractions] And You Will Know I am God.” It is a reminder that when we are still, when we’ve slowed down, and when we direct our attention within, we find goodness and divinity that are an essential part of our being and the very foundation of our lives. The noise, the chaos, the demands and the fears that often fester within and without prevent such a connection that can only be discovered in those tranquil moments that lay waiting for our attention. Through spiritual practice—meditation, yoga, focused walks, reading or study—we can become more steady, grounded and secure.

These weeks truly represent a darker time as our days shorten. It is the veiled time between the light of Torah and the light of the menorah. Like the negative space in a piece of art, this period is ripe for discovery and understanding. 

If you change the last letter of Cheshvan, then we have the word for dark and obscured. These weeks truly represent a darker time as our days shorten. It is the veiled time between the light of Torah and the light of the menorah. Like the negative space in a piece of art, this period is ripe for discovery and understanding. It is an opportunity for serenity and well-being in the small ways that really count. The numerical value of the word Cheshvan is 13, which stands for “love” “and peace,” that which feeds and nurtures. Hearken within to find this blessing.


Eva Robbins is a rabbi, cantor, artist and the author of “Spiritual Surgery: A Journey of Healing Mind, Body and Spirit.”

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