Mar Cheshvan: Dancing in the Rain

7 Oct


The bitter month is on the horizon. The machzorim have been placed back on the shelf, the kabbalot are clipped to the fridge and our calendars are suddenly baron of holidays. This outlook of Cheshvan has irked me most of my life. Why must it be called Mar Cheshvan? Okay so it has no holidays, contains the death of Rachel Imeinu, Binyamin, Ramban (Nachmanides), Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the occurrence of the Mabul (flood)  and Kristallnacht. I understand it’s not the happiest of periods during the Jewish year, but it’s not the only auspicious period. Even the month of Av gets the idyllic prefix Menachem (comfort) for the joy it will bring us in the future, so really, why can’t we give Cheshvan the same courtesy? I’m really trying to not make this about my birthday being in Cheshvan, but you know what, I’ll be honest and say yes, it has something to do with that. I am partial to the month for I was brought into the world during that month. That’s a pretty nice thing if you and me or my parents 😉

However in all seriousness, I would like to give a little drasha on Cheshvan, from a “Cheshvanite” perspective. I heard a beautiful mashal about living with challenges at a shabbaton geared toward those who live with someone disabilities. In life, it rains. It keeps us stuck in traffic, huddled under umbrellas and soaked to the sock and can sometimes find itself unappreciated. Whether we like it or not, rain is a part of life. Without out it, our world would wither into a globular sandbox, and we would wither away with it. The choice is not whether we are going to encounter the rain or not; the choice is whether we will decide to dance in the rain or sulk in it. Life has its sunny days, its rain showers and it’s hurricanes, but how you face it and live through it is up to you. You can sit around bummed and depressed or embrace life for all it is because after all, you only get one.

The holidays are over. Hashem has taken us out of the palace and has put us back in the “real world” to refine ourselves. For the past two months we have been pumping ourselves up for a new year, a better year, and now it is time to make it happen. Good things take time, work and effort. Success takes a few failures and finding your zivug usually involves a few rejections. Don’t be afraid to take chances. Don’t be afraid to push yourself one step further. This is the time to put in the efforts; to sow the seeds you wish to see sprout in the spring. Hashem has given yo another year. Treasure it. Appreciate it. Enjoy it. Even when the rain falls.


Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain. — Vivian Greene



Happy Rosh Chodesh to all!


16 Responses to “Mar Cheshvan: Dancing in the Rain”

  1. SternGrad October 7, 2010 at 11:06 pm #

    My birthday is also in Cheshvan! And it always bothered me that it is called Mar Cheshvan because my birthday is a good thing…
    I like your drasha!

  2. ShadesofGrey October 8, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    Great post, and the entire perspective about getting back to the real world is very true. I think a rebbe of mine in Israel said something similar in a shiur once (or was that here at YU?).

    I have to admit though, that Cheshvan will soon have a yom tov for me, namely our wedding 🙂

  3. Mar Ishkol October 8, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    …but check out Wikipedia for a more likely etymology:
    “(Hebrew: מַרְחֶשְׁוָן, Standard Marḥešvan Tiberian Marḥešwān; from Akkadian waraḫsamnu, literally “eighth month”)”

  4. aminspiration October 8, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    well happy birthday whenever it is-both to sterngrad and coral..
    my friend had this magnet on her closet that said something to the extent that dont cry about the rain for at the end there is a rainbow and our sem mardicha didnt like that saying because really rain is a bracha and seeing a rainbow is not a good sign. In this crazy mixed up world..the bracha (rain) is seen as a bad thing and despised and the curse (rainbow) is seen as a sign of hope..

  5. Bluestocking October 8, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    Cheshvan baby as well. But according to Rabbi Slifkin (who I am sure gets it from many reliable sources) Mar isn’t about bitter. It doesn’t really make sense that Cheshvan would be bitter when it doesn’t have a fast day. I really have to go look it up, but Mar means something uplifting and positive. Really. It’s in his book, “Seasons of Life.” If I remember to look into it over Shabbos I’ll get back to you.

  6. Bored Jewish Guy October 8, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    I was also born in Cheshvan, maybe we should have a big party 🙂

    nice post!

  7. SternGrad October 8, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    We should definitely have a party. 🙂

  8. coralcap October 9, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    To All: Whoa, it’s like a Cheshvanpalooza on this post! So glad to see I have others to celebrate birthdays with! We should have a bloggers birthday bash. 😀

    Sterngrad: Our birthdays are good things. Happy birthday month!!

    SoG: Happy almost wedding!! Mazal tov! Your wedding will definitely add simcha to this month for all of us in Klal Yisrael.

    Mar Ishkol: Nice addition to your name. That wiki page explains a lot. It’s a lot more literal. Why didn’t anyone ever teach me that?

    Aminspiration: You’re right, rain is a blessing, but I wouldn’t outright call a rainbow a curse. For many years I had this argument with my parents: is a rainbow a “good” thing or not. I always said it’s not a good sign because it signifies Hashem holding back from destroying the world, but they still insisted on it being a good sign For many years I thought they saw things all wrong until a teacher of mine explained it: A rainbow is a new chance. Hashem could have destroyed us, but He promised never to destroy us like he did in the mabul. We tend to focus on the negative; that we messed up so badly that a rainbow had to come. In truth, we should rejoice in having another chance. Hashem believes we can be metaken our mistakes. So yes, the rain is a bracha, but I wouldn’t go knockin’ the rainbow. It’s a topic that needs more research and you have inspired me to do it.

    Bluestocking: Yay third Cheshvan baby!!I’m very curious as to what Mar means according to Rabbi Slifkin. Let me know if you find the answer.

    BJG: Okay, we officially need to have a bloggers birthday bash. There must be something about our mazal that inspires blogging.

    What kind of cake should we get? I like vanilla with raspberry filling and buttercream frosting. Oh, and don’t forget a slice from SoG’s wedding cake. I totally call as piece of that.

  9. Bored Jewish Guy October 10, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    I say we get cheesecake, can’t beat that, especially at my most favorite food company 🙂

  10. Sun inside Rain October 11, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    Lol, I also have a Cheshvan birthday!

    • coralcap October 11, 2010 at 11:48 am #

      We seriously need to have a birthday party.

      So BJG, you’ll be supplying us with the cake?

      • Bored Jewish Guy October 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

        I’d be glad to, but I can’t pay for the whole cake, I’m trying to be fiscally responsible these days 😛

  11. Sun inside Rain October 11, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

    How do you pay for half a cake?

    • Bored Jewish Guy October 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

      Who said a/t about paying for half of a cake? All I’m saying is that whatever I pay for, I eat 😛

  12. Bluestocking October 12, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    According to OU: “Mar” = drop. The first rains begin.
    Rabbi Slifkin’s “Seasons of Life”: In Melachim I (6:38), a name is given for what we now call Cheshvan (Babylonian) – Bul = consume. Add “mem” for “mabul,” when the rains began for The Flood. Rain can be a blessing or a means of annihilation.
    Torah is connected to “Yoreh,” the first rains.
    Water connects form and substance of creation. Water bestows the form for life, as Torah is gives us our form.
    The life-giving rains begin in Cheshvan. Heaven and Earth meet in marriage, and the Bais Hamikdash is where they connected. It was finished in Cheshvan. After the Mabul, there were heavy rains for 40 Days starting on the first day of Cheshvan – it ended when the Bais HaMikdash was finished. It fixed the sin of Noach’s generation, who set no limits on themselves and so were deluged with limitless rain.
    The akvrav (scorpion) – it could be “oker bayis” (destruction of the house) or “ikar bayis” (foundation of the house). The building of the third Bais HaMikdash will begin in Cheshvan.
    The floodgates of Torah knowledge is opened in Cheshvan, and along with the rainfall. It is our choice, if we open up to it, whether it will be for damage or for good.

    • coralcap October 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

      Very interesting, Bluestocking! Thank you so much for sharing, it really means a lot to me. What a chizuk-building way to look at Cheshvan!

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