Bitter Cheshvan’s dearth of holidays allows return to comforting routine

By Student Rabbi Jonathan Falco

We have just completed Cheshvan, the month between Tishrei and Kislev, also known as Mar Cheshvan.

Student Rabbi Jonathan Falco

There is a quaint tradition that holds Cheshvan as the “bitter” month, deriving from the Hebrew word mar, meaning “bitter”, because of the lack of holidays that fall within its span.

While not all Jewish holidays are joyous occasions (think Yom Kippur or Tisha B’av) the lack of any holiday during this time deprives us of a fixed opportunity for self-reflection and introspection.

While not all Jewish holidays are joyous occasions (think Yom Kippur or Tisha B’av) the lack of any holiday during this time deprives us of a fixed opportunity for self-reflection and introspection, contributing to the aforementioned moniker.

However, I would contest that these days of Cheshvan are an opportunity in and of themselves.

Indeed, celebrating and observing the holidays is indelible to Jewish life, marking sacred times and anchoring us in our tradition as we advance through the calendrical year.

As such, it is no wonder that a lack of them might be construed as “bitter”, or at least disappointing, and perhaps even a bit dull.

Familiar patterns keep us organized

Meanwhile, the flipside to these holiday doldrums is the resurgence of routine in our everyday lives.

As Cheshvan departs, routine-busting holidays plot their return.

Routines help bring structure to our daily experience; they keep us organized and even have the potential to reduce stress.

The flipside to these holiday doldrums is the resurgence of routine in our everyday lives.

While we sometimes tire of our routines, we also take comfort in them and their familiar patterns. The arrival of any Jewish holiday inherently — and rightfully — interrupts this mundanity.

The fact that no Jewish holidays occur in Cheshvan actually presents us with a unique opportunity to cultivate new routines and re-acclimate to the ones that have served us well in the past.

We will enthusiastically welcome their interruption as the holidays pick up. But in the meantime, cherishing these intervening days of plateau will ready us for the festivities to come throughout 5779.

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