Cheshvan is month, like Elul, with no holidays. Elul lets us prepare for the flurry of activity that happens with all the holidays of Tishrei, and Cheshvan lets us recover. The seeds of transformation that were planted during the Days of Awe need time to sprout and take root. That’s what Cheshvan is all about. It’s time to prepare for the winter, either through working hard to bring in the fall harvest or “putting up” to ensure that it lasts through the winter. I’m speaking both physically and spiritually here.
The sense associated with the month of Cheshvan, according to the Sefer Yetzirah, is smell. I don’t know what the smells of Cheshvan were in the ancient world, but I know what they are now. They are the smells of life transitioning and people coming together: crisp leavings, fires, apple pie, mulled cider, and so on. Inner.org says, “the Hebrew word for “smell” (רֵיחַ) is cognate to the word for “spirit” (רוּחַ).” Think of the effect the odors have on you.
In Tishrei we began the process of coming together to ensure the future of the community. This is the season of Air within Earth (per The Jewish Book of Days), and the spiritual focus of Communal Resources (per my own thinking). In Cheshvan, we move from supporting the community institutions, to ensuring that we have enough food to get through the winter and share it as a community. This adds a whole new element to the timing of the American and Canadian Thanksgiving holidays.
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