Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cheshvan: The Bitter and the Sweet

We are entering the singular month of the Jewish calendar in which there are no holidays, festivals, fasts or observances other than Shabbat.

November is the month of Cheshvan, or what is known as mar Cheshvan, meaning bitter. After three months of preparation for, or observance of Elul, Selichot, Rosh Hashonah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah, it’s certainly understandable to feel a bit of post-holiday let down or even emptiness (hence the word bitter). But I’m guessing that many more of us may be ripe for a rest.

I know I was.

Enter Cheshvan. These weeks before we prepare for Hanukah (December 20) and then, winter (December 21) offer an opportunity to find ways to refuel, refresh and replenish.

I write this blog entry from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where I took a last minute weekend to leave town, quiet my electronic devices and catch the last of the fall colors before they fell to the ground.

View theses as a visual prompt to take Cheshvan up on its offerings.

And feel free to comment here about what that will look like or has looked like for you. I’d be interested to know ….

Ellen Blum Barish


Larry Kaufman said...

I amiably dispute the characterization of November as a month without holidays. Thanksgiving is probably the holiday observed by more American Jews than any other (although some Orthodox sects pointedly ignore it). And, although we may not call attention to them, Jewish values are central: gathering as a family, for a ritual meal; thanking God for God's bounty; and, in many communities and congregations, joining together with our non-Jewish neighbors for the one religious occasion we can comfortably share.

In keeping with our blog theme of Our Stories, I have two favorite Thanksgiving stories.
1. When our grandson was about five (he's eleven now), as we sat down around the festive holiday table, he turned to me and asked, "Grampy, when are you going to hide the matzoh?"
2. When I was a child, we always went to Aunt Ethel's and Uncle Harry's for Thanksgiving dinner. Aunt Ethel was famous for her pumpkin pie; but I was the world's most finicky eater, and she indulged me by having an apple pie for me, since she knew I wouldn't eat the pumpkin pie. Flash forward a quarter century, and as a newlywed, I went to Thanksgiving dinner with my then-wife's mishpocheh. Came time for dessert, and there on the table was an enormous ice cream cake molded in the shape of a turkey. Although here was something I would eat, with delight, I nonetheless felt cheated: Thanksgiving dessert should be pumpkin pie, even if I was not going to eat it!

Ellen Blum Barish said...

Larry: Point well taken. Perhaps Thanksgiving is the reason why we don't feel the absence of the Jewish holidays as much as we would without it, even though it isn't what we would call a Jewish holiday, per se.
Thanks for these cross-holiday stories. I think your grandson's comment at the T-giving table says it best: Thanksgiving does indeed encompass many Jewish values!

dessert cup said...
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