From Cheshvan to Kislev the Month of Miracles
HIDDEN SPARKS BENEATH THE SURFACE
From Cheshvan to Kislev the Month of Miracles
by Betty Tabor Givin aka Elisheva Tavor
All the months are interrelated, each connecting to the next in the cycle of the seasons, the ‘round’ of the year…set up by The Creator from the beginning for our benefit to make up what we call time…like a beautiful string of pearls…each is significant to the whole…and each carries within it a special spark that lies hidden beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered!
Looking back on the month of Cheshvan we see that built into its very name is the element of quietness, of silence. Ches Shhh van…can you hear it? “Chesh” actually means silence in Hebrew. Cheshvan is the one month in the year in which there are no special days or festivals. In Jewish tradition it has been referred to as a special time, a time of reflection and meditation after the busyness of the glorious festivals of the previous month of Tishrei…that of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. It is a time to be quiet, to listen to the “still small voice” that came to Elijah the Prophet as recorded in I Kings 19:13 and to heed the words of the Psalmist, “Be still and know that I am HaShem!” Psalm 46:11
Cheshvan or Mar Cheshvan as it is sometimes called is also a time of bitterness as indicated from the Hebrew word mar meaning bitter for Cheshvan, according to Jewish tradition, was the month which marked both the beginning and the end of the Great Flood which covered the face of the earth in the days of Noah.
The flood acted as a cleansing, perhaps like a giant mikvah… and offered a new beginning for our world and its inhabitants.
As a sign of this new beginning and a promise never to flood the world again, HaShem placed “His bow,” a beautifully colored rainbow in the sky. (Genesis 9:3). This was at the beginning of Kislev. It is this rainbow of hope that stretches across these two months like a bridge and connects them to one another…the silence, the cleansing and the introspection associated with the month of Cheshvan to the miracles and the lights of Hanukkah in the month of Kislev…a time when we can once again re-dedicate ourselves to the service of our Creator as did the Maccabees in the days of old.
If we take the name of the month itself, Kis lev , we find that in the Hebrew it is spelled Chaf Samach Lamed Vav. If we break it down into syllables we find that Chaf Samach or Kis derives from the word to cover or to conceal. Lev has several meanings; one meaning is, His or to Him. If we relate this to HaShem, it means HaShem is covered, concealed, or His concealment.
Yet Lev has another meaning. In Hebrew it is spelled Lamed Vav which has the gematria or numerical value of the number36 (lamed is 30, vav is 6). The number 36 is mystically associated with revelation. The Jewish sages teach that there are 36 righteous people born in every generation; no one knows who they are; they are concealed yet they mystically keep each generation from annihilation These 36 righteous are referred to in Hebrew as the Lamed-Vav Tzadikim. This teaching is based on a Talmudic statement that says that in every generation 36 righteous “greet the Shekhinah,” the Divine Presence (Tractate Sanhedrin 97b; Tractate Sukkah 45b)
But they are hidden, concealed within the rest of humanity. There are many captivating Chassidic stories of these Lamed Vavniks or Thirty Sixers and how they appear in different situations to avert a disaster and then blend back into the population. So even within the name of this month, Kis Lev, we have a paradox; we have concealment, but within it, a revelation. And is this not the story of the creation and everything within it, including each of us?
How does Beresheit, the Book of Genesis start? “In the Beginning” or When G-d began to create the world the earth was tohu v’vohu without form and void and darkness covered the face of the deep…and then something phenomenal happened. The text says that G-d’s Ruach (His Spirit) moved or hovered upon the face of the waters…and what did He say? Let there be Light, and there was Light!”(Gen 1:1-3)
Was there light before He spoke these words? Yes of course, for HaShem was there and He was the Light…it was just concealed…just not yet made manifest.
So we have concealment, hiddenness and a revelation…from the Beginning; perhaps we could say the very first evidence of hidden sparks beneath the surface…where Light broke through the darkness upon HaShem’s command!
If we relate this to Rosh Chodesh and the cycle of the moon, we may ask another question; is the moon really non-existent at the beginning of each month when the sky is dark? No, we just cannot yet see it; it is concealed from our view because it has not yet become revealed!
What does the term Rosh Chodesh actually mean? If we break it up, we have Rosh = Head; Chodesh = New; so we have a new or renewed head with the coming of each new month. Perhaps we could view each New Moon as an opportunity for another new beginning…a renewal of consciousness of sorts.
With the birth of each New Moon something new is born. There is a teaching from the Jewish sages of blessed memory that the First day of the New Moon actually holds within it the entire month to come, yet only a tiny sliver is first visible.
It is interesting to make a comparison between this tiny sliver of the New Moon that is birthed each month with that of the tiny little human fetus and the hidden or latent potential existent within it.
In a fetus it is the head that develops first; and the head with the brain actually contains the entire body within it. Ultimately the limbs and all the organs will develop, but in the beginning there is merely a latent potential in that tiny little creature, one that is concealed, but one that is to be revealed in its proper time. And how long does it take for the human fetus to be fully developed? It normally takes about 9 months, and where does the month of Kislev fall on the Biblical calendar? Ironically Kislev is the 9th month!
The message of every Rosh Chodesh is really built into this concept of latent potential to actualization, concealment to revelation, but the month of Kislev is the one in which these concepts are the most clearly seen.
Everything has an order. Just as Cheshvan is a time of Silence and Quietness, a time of inner reflection, Kislev is a time of Concealment, but also a time of Revelation. Kislev brings with it the beginning of the Winter months when we have to physically cover ourselves more…we wear more layers of clothing, so we could say that even on a purely physical level, it is a time that brings with it a greater concealment.
Kislev is also the time of year when it is the darkest…and that is when we light the candles of Hanukkah, a sign of hope and bitachon (trust) that HaShem is here with us today amidst the darkness just as He was with our forefathers in days of old.
We have the opportunity to reach deep inside ourselves, into our hearts and souls…our innermost being…and bring out that hidden light within and kindle those hidden sparks beneath the surface so that the light that our Creator so lovingly placed within us that may have gone dim or even dormant might shine forth even in our darkest moments .
Psalm 18:29 says, “He (HaShem) will light my candle: HaShem my G-d will enlighten my darkness.” Proverbs 20:27 says “The flame of HaShem is the soul of the human being.”
When we are in the darkness, we are actually the closest to HaShem because we are more dependent upon him. No matter what our emotions or our physical bodies tell us, we must continue to live in emunah or faith and develop an attitude of devekut, that of sticking like glue to Him, and one of bitachon, trusting that He is with us. In so doing, we can truly know that He is both our Assurance and our Mainstay (from the 16th Benediction of the Shemoneh Esrai, or the Amidah); as we live out the words of King David, “Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet and a Light unto my path!” (Psalm 119:106)
We just need to surrender to what the darkness has to teach us, discover those hidden sparks beneath the surface within us and all around us…and then then come into the fullness of the light! This is our challenge every day, but especially during this month of Kislev, a time of concealment and a time of revelation and even more so during the upcoming Festival of Hanukkah when it is the darkest! In the Kabbalistic commentary on the Book of Eichah or Lamentations, we find the incredibly encouraging words that we need to let sink deeply into our hearts.
“Everything, no matter what or how seemingly bad, has the ability to turn around. (from “Bochim and The Crying Voice”)
So as we look forward to embracing this new month which culminates in kindling the lights of Hanukkah, may we have the courage to trust as we embrace the darkness because we know that HaShem is right there beside us, within us… to always give us encouragement and hope…even and most especially in the darkness! Chodesh Tov… good month everyone!
Stay tuned for Kislev Part 2 as we delve more deeply into discovering the hidden sparks beneath the surface in this special new month and learn more about the joyous festival of Hanukkah!
29 Cheshvan 5781 by Elisheva Tavor aka Betty Tabor Givin