Cheshvan: The Time is Now by Aviva Meshwork
This past Shabbat, on my way to my friend Kayla’s house, I happened to hear two men talking. One said to the other, “So this is it! The holidays are over, and now we are heading back to normal day–to-day life.”
“Yup, the month of Cheshvan is coming up, and the holidays are all done now. Back to ordinary life,” said the other man.
It was a quick and simple conversation, yet there was something about it that triggered my thinking. Something about what these two men said bothered me.
Kayla wasn’t home, so I began to walk back to my house, and thought about the above conversation. What was bothering me? I didn’t fundamentally have an issue with “heading back to normal, day-to-day life.” I like my day-to-day life, minus the laundry! After all, the holidays were very special, especially here in the Land of Israel where it seemed like everyone was in High Holiday mode. Yet, at the same time, I was looking forward to getting back to my daily routine, which includes some rest, much unlike the weeks leading up to the holidays! In any case, something wasn’t sitting well with me.
When I got home, I picked up a book by Rebetzin Tziporah Heller entitled, Here You Are: Exploring the Meaning of Life’s Moments. I went directly to the chapter that pertains to where we are now: the new month of Cheshvan. The chapter is called Cheshvan: Facing the Ordinary. Hmmm, I thought…how fitting. Already I was intrigued.
I didn’t see it at first. (I had to mediate a disagreement about Legos, escort one child to the bathroom, and provide a desperately needed snack to another who just couldn’t handle the hunger any longer.) But then I saw it…now I knew why the statement, “heading back to normal, day-to-day life” was bothering me. Rebbetzin Heller, as if she was sitting right beside me, answered it for me in her book. She writes:
There are times when the best way to serve G-d is to look deeply within ourselves, and G-d provides us with special times in which it is easier and more accessible to make the sort of discoveries that can move us forward. There are other times in which the best way to serve G-d is to interact with G-d's world, to get out of that warm bed, take a shower, get dressed, say a prayer and face the world head-on…and when Cheshvan, the second month of the Jewish calendar comes around, we have to take a deep breath and say, “The time is now.” (pages 70-71)
We worked hard during the time before and during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Many of us committed to the challenge called self-reflection and achieved some clarity as a result. We delved into ourselves and reflected deeply into questions such as, how can I strengthen myself and what has been holding me back from being closer to my Creator? We pondered how we could live more authentically Jewish lives. We made plans and have resolved to stick to them the best we can. There was a time for all this deep self-work, and many of us seized the opportunity in one way or another.
But now, my friends, is the time to move forward with our concrete plans and resolutions to achieve higher and perhaps more lofty standards for ourselves. Simply returning back to our everyday lives as if that time and work never happened just doesn’t cut it.
So, as the Rebbetzin says, “The time is now.” Now, in the midst of our everyday and ordinary lives do we begin to concretize our goals. What bothered me about the conversation that I overheard was that this dimension was lacking. We cannot simply just go back to regular life after having done such important self-work. Otherwise, what was it all for?
It’s quite some time until we get to another Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when our Creator gives us again this tremendous time to connect with ourselves and to our goals. But until then, G-d has given us the opportunity to move forward with our goals for this year. So while we engage with G-d's world on a daily basis, we are also given the opportunity to actively strive to achieve something a little closer to our personal and spiritual bests.
Every minute of every day is an opportunity to do this; the world is replete with many ways in which we can interact with it in more connected ways. Perhaps recognizing that clean, fresh clothes are a gift I can give my family is one of those ways. Resenting the laundry doesn’t make it magically get done, so working on changing my thinking about it (and other things, too) on a daily basis is part of my plan!
As we move forward into “daily life,” we do so with more awareness of ourselves, those around us, and of course, our Creator. With this in mind and with a tremendous amount of practice, ups and downs and highs and lows, daily life can never be ‘ordinary’ again!
Aviva Meshwork is an educator, writer, and Trip Director for the JWRP. Originally from Toronto, she now lives in Israel with her husband and children.