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After the Holidays - Now what?

by Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort

  

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Wow! Has it been hectic or what? The Hebrew month of Tishrei is a doozy! Imagine – well one doesn’t really have to imagine – an entire month of holidays and observances. There is so much packed into the month of Tishrei it is hard to know whether we are coming or going.

The month started out in judgment on Rosh Hashanah, proceeded into intense repentance during the 10 Days of Awe and Yom Kippur, and climaxed with equally intense joy during Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. During the past 30 days we fasted, we prayed (a whole lot), built Sukkot, waved the Four Species, had countless guests and practically lived in the synagogue.

And now we enter the Hebrew month of Cheshvan (also known as Mar Cheshvan). The reason the month is also called Mar Cheshvan is because we are bitter by the lack of holidays found within this month. Many may mistakenly think that because Cheshvan has no holidays it is somehow less important than its predecessor. In fact, nothing can be further from the truth.

Is the world in its current configuration about holiday observances or the type of activities engaged in during the mundane times of our calendar? Of course the answer is both – there is a time for each. But while Tishrei is the time for charging our spiritual batteries, Cheshvan is the time to express that energy that has been gleaned.

...while Tishrei is the time for charging our spiritual batteries, Cheshvan is the time to express that energy that has been gleaned
Jewish philosophy is intriguing in that it calls for us to be flexible and to maintain a balance betwixt concepts that may seem downright contradictory. We charge our batteries for a very specific purpose. We pray for a specific purpose and we learn Torah for the same specific purpose.

That purpose is to use those energies gathered through the above mentioned activities specifically out in the physical world. We have a mandate to transform the mundane into the spiritual. How do we do this? We do this by using the mundane to serve G-d. When a human uses the physical world in the service of the Creator, goodness is revealed that may be perceived by all who choose to experience it.

Looking at it from this angle we understand that Cheshvan epitomizes our purpose in creation. It is true, it contains no holidays. That means it is up to us to use our spiritual powers to make its days into holy days, by utilizing those days, out in the mundane world, to serve the Almighty.

It is hard to imagine, but the entire purpose of creation is entrusted to humankind. That means it is completely up to us to fulfill the world’s purpose, and by so doing perpetuate the world’s existence. There is no responsibility more important; no obligation more weighty.

Does this task seem overwhelming? Where do we start such a vast enterprise? We start just as a child learning to walk starts, by crawling. We take small, baby-steps in achieving our goal. We add a bit in the Tzedakah that we are privileged to give. We spend a few extra minutes with G-d during prayer. We learn an extra five minutes of Torah in the morning and evening and then we are raring to go!

All it takes is a bit of thought. When we walk into our place of business we remember that we have a purpose and what that purpose is. When we eat we take just a moment to utter the blessing on the food and remember that we have a purpose in living. When we look at our children we remember that we have been miraculously blessed to nurture those precious souls and to create from them strong Jews.

Cheshvan is an awesome month, for in it G-d has given us the opportunity to truly shine!/


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Holidays » General Information » Holiday Information

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Tzedakah
"Tzedakah," commonly translated as charity, literally means righteousness, or the right thing to do. Giving to those in need is one of the most important of G-d's commandments.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Sukkot
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
Tishrei
The seventh month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which arrives in early autumn, has more holidays than any other month: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Shmini Atzeret
A joyous one-day autumn festival immediately following the holiday of Sukkot. Outside Israel this holiday is celebrated for two days, the second day is known as Simchat Torah.
Four Species
There is a Biblical command to take "Four Species" on the autumn holiday of Sukkot. These species are: palm branch, citron, myrtle and willow. It is customary to shake these species to all directions.
Cheshvan
The eighth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to October-November.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.