Transforming the mundane to the supernatural: Tuning into the spiritual powers of this month.
At the end of the spiritually rich month of Tishrei we declare, “And Yaakov went on his way”, meaning that now is the time to take all the light that we accumulated during the month of holidays and bring it into the world, into our mundane lives. This begins with the month of Cheshvan.
The month of Cheshvan is the only month that does not have any holidays or special mitzvot. At first glance it looks like a dreary month leading us into the dark winter. In the Bible, Cheshvan is called the month of “bul”, from the word, “mabul” – flood. The dreadful flood which covered the entire world began on the 17th of Cheshvan and ended the following year on the 27th of Cheshvan. However, from a deeper perspective the flood served as a mikvah, like a purifying bath that refined the world and made it receptive to the process of rectification and elevation that will culminate with the coming of the Moshiach*.
Cheshvan is the eighth month of the Jewish calendar – the month of Moshiach. The number seven signifies the perfection of nature. The number eight signifies the supernatural – the Divine light that transcends the limitations of nature and the boundaries of the finite. This is the number of Moshiach.
The Tabernacle – the portable sanctuary of G-d – was constructed by Moses in the desert and completed in the month of Kislev (the month following Cheshvan). However, G-d instructed Moses to wait until the month of Nissan for the grand celebration and dedication of this beautiful abode for G-dliness. G-d compensated, so to speak, the month of Kislev with the dedication of the second Temple in Jerusalem during the times of the Chashmonaim and with the celebration of Chanukah thereafter.
What does this have to do with the month of Cheshvan?
The first Temple which was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem was completed in the month of Cheshvan. Again, it was the Divine’s will to wait. Only about a year later, during the month of Tishrei, did the people of Israel celebrate the inauguration and dedication of the first Temple. G-d promised the “deprived” month of Cheshvan that the third and eternal Temple – the Temple of Moshiach – will be built and dedicated in the month of Cheshvan. May it happen speedily!
From the above we see that the inauguration of the the three Temples occurs in the first three months of the year: The first Temple during Tishrei, the future third Temple during Cheshvan and the second Temple in Kislev. These three months are associated with the three tribes Ephraim, Menashe and Benyamin. All of them were descendants of Rachel the Matriarch who passed away on the 11th of Cheshvan.
Powers of Cheshvan
According to the book of Yetzirah the sense of Cheshvan is the sense of smell, which is the most spiritual of all senses. The sense of smell was the only sense that was not blemished or coarsened by the sin in the Garden of Eden.
We learn from the prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah) that Moshiach – the ultimate world leader – will be able to detect the origin and level of righteousness of each person using his sense of smell. Smell will be the prime sense with which Moshiach will rectify the entire world from the impurity of the snake of the Garden of Eden and human beings will merit eternal life again.
In Hebrew, the sense of smell is called “reyach” which is similar to the word “ruach” – spirit. Smell is the one and only sense that the soul enjoys. The word for soul in Hebrew “neshama” which has the same letters as Menashe.
Menashe is the tribe connected with the month of Cheshvan, the eighth month. The word Menashe has the same letters as the word “shmone” – eight. Menashe was the firstborn of Joseph. His name alludes to the ability to forget the pains and hardships of exile by transforming darkness to light with the power of the neshama, the Divine soul that never loses touch with the inner G-dly intent of every experience in the world, including the most challenging ones. Joseph named his son Menashe while he was faced with the most difficult reality of the land of Egypt – being away from his homeland Israel.
The power to go down into the darkness of the world to elevate it and transform it is represented by the letter “nun” which, according to the book of Yetzirah, governs the month of Cheshvan. Nun is considered to be the letter of Moshiach. Nun signifies the 50th gate of understanding G-d Himself. The number 50 (which is also the numerical value of the letter nun) is the number of freedom; freedom from the confines of the world and of creation as a whole. This freedom comes about with the understanding of the deepest intention of G-d in His creation of the universe. One of the names of Moshiach is Ye-non (like the letter nun) and he will master that 50th gate of understanding.
Elevating the Scorpion
The Zodiac sign of Cheshvan is Scorpio. Our sages teach us that the poison of the scorpion is very deadly because it is cold. Spiritually, it represents death which comes along with coldness to matters of holiness and Divinity. The scorpion represents sarcastic rejection of that which is miraculous and supernatural. The Hebrew word “akrav” (scorpion) contains the word “ekev” – heel. The scorpion attacks man at his heel, the lowest part of the human body which corresponds to the lowest of the human faculties, and poisons him with doubt and skepticism.
The way to counteract the ill effect of the scorpion is by positioning oneself as a heel – the position of humility – which allows one to recognize G-d as the source of all existence and to look for the Divine in one’s daily life. With that, one can fulfill the inner redeeming aspect of the scorpion when transformed: “akrab” = “ikar bayit” – the permanent dwelling of G-d in this world in a revealed fashion. This refers to the third Temple, the third house of G-d. So to counteract the scorpion, turn yourself into a sanctuary of G-dliness, filled with humility, gratitude and the awareness of G-d in every aspect of life.
Jewish Mother’s Day
On the 11th of Cheshvan we commemorate the passing of Rachel Imeinu. Rachel the Matriarch represents the inner power of the soul to awaken G-d’s mercy upon His people to redeem them from exile. She constantly awaits the gathering of the Jewish people from all corners of the world and their coming back to their homeland Israel.
The passing of Rachel takes place 41 days from the beginning of the year (the first of Tishrei). 41 is the numerical value of the word “em” – mother. The 11th of Cheshvan is therefore the Jewish mother’s day of the year.
The numerical value of the letters in the word Rachel is 238, which is two times 119 – the value of the word “dim’ah” – a tear. These are the two cosmic tears of the Shechina** that arouse constant mercy on its exiled children. Our sages teach us that the gates of tears are never closed. You can allow yourself to keep beseeching the Master of the world for your needs. Trust that sooner or later your prayers will be answered.
Rachel also represents the sphere of malchut (nobility). Through its quality of humility it uncovers its source in the Divine crown, just as the Jewish people will generate the Divine majestic light to all nations from the house of G-d in Jerusalem with the coming of Moshiach.
** Shechina: the Divine feminine aspect