Cheshvan / חֶשְׁוַן

Moon of Stillness (October/November)
The month that invites introspection to allow us to see what we may have forgotten along the way.

Basics

  • Linear Month: 2
  • Torah Month: 8
  • Season: Autumn
  • Holidays:  Yarzheit of Rachel Imeinu
  • Offerings1: Salt Water, Olive Branches, Red String, Offerings at Crossroads
  • Element2: Ruach (רוּחַ) Air within Aphar (עָפָר) Earth
  • Spiritual Focus3: Communal Resources
  • Netivah: Mekonenet (מקננת) Mourning Woman
  • Astrological Sign: Akrav (עַקְרָב) Scorpio / Scorpion
  • Letter: Nun – נ
  • Tribe: Menashseh (מְנַשֶׁה)
  • Sense: Smell
  • Guide: Daqeen (דקין) Intestines
  • Tarot Card4: Death
  • Soul Trait5: Kavod (כבוד) Honor, Respect, Dignity

Note: Astrological Sign, Letter, Tribe, Sense, and Guide are derived from the Sefer Yetzirah
See NOTES for additional information on sources of these all correspondences.

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Cheshvan is a 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.


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In Tishrei we begin the process of coming together to ensure the future of the community. This is the season of Air within Earth, and the spiritual focus of Communal Resources. 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.

The one “holiday” that really stands out in Cheshvan is the Yahrzeit of Rachel Imeinu, Rachel the Matriarch.  Observances of her death have grown more and more popular in recent years as women work to reclaim their own stories.  I think her yahrzeit corresponds beautifully with the card and netivah of the month; the death card and the Mekonenet.  Rachel is often imagined as weeping for her children.  Her weeping is not just out of pity, but to implore G!(d)dess to have pity on her children.  This month is a perfect time to explore amazing modern Jewish women whose yahrzeits fall during Chesvhan: Hannah Senesh, Emma LazarausAnzia Yezierska.

Cheshvan is a deceptively easy month for Jews, but as RK’Jill Hammer points out,

“Tishrei is about abundance and luxuriance, but Cheshvan, which follows closely upon the festival season, is the month of hard labor. It is an underground time, when we turn over the soil within and without, when we seek our roots. We merge with the earth, and give our strength to it, that it may bloom again in the spring. Cheshvan, the time of work, is the month of the Body–the deep physical and spiritual body that is ours, and, through us, Shekhinah’s. It is only when we acknowledge the inner truths of our daily lives, the truths of the baking pan and the spinning wheel, the truths of the skin and the soil, that we come close to wisdom and redemption.”

Rav Kohenet Jill Hammer

Key Dates in Cheshvan

1stRosh Chodesh Cheshvan
11thYahrzeit of Rachel Imeinu
29thSigd / סיגד
30thRosh Chodesh Kislev
Find Gregorian Calendar Dates: https://www.hebcal.com/hebcal/

Shabbat Torah/Haftarah Readings

YearPortion
5781Parashat Noach
Parashat Lech-Lecha
Parashat Vayera
Parashat Chayei Sara
5782Parashat Noach
Parashat Lech-Lecha
Parashat Vayera
Parashat Chayei Sara
5783Parashat Noach
Parashat Lech-Lecha
Parashat Vayera
Parashat Chayei Sara
5784Parashat Noach
Parashat Lech-Lecha
Parashat Vayera
Parashat Chayei Sara
5785Parashat Noach
Parashat Lech-Lecha
Parashat Vayera
Parashat Chayei Sara
For more see: https://www.hebcal.com/sedrot/
Note some months the parshiot fluctuate and in others it is always consistent.

Netivah Readings

These readings were selected by Kohenet Ketzirah HaMa’agelet to pair with the weekly Torah portions.

  • Jeremiah 9:16-9:22  we read to experience the call to service of the Mekonenot (Mourning Women).  Here in this passage G!(d)dess calls these women to do their work.  The women are called to do their uncomfortable work and remove our comfortable blindness.
  • Lamentations we read to honor the pain of the Mekonenet in its most raw and fully realized form.  While the prophet Jeremiah is usually considered the author of Lamentations, some biblical scholars such as Nancy Lee (Singers of Lamentations) also see a woman’s voice rising as a singer along with with Jeremiah’s. Lamentations is not comfortable or comforting, because neither of those are the work of the Mekonenet.

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Notes

1: Offerings & symbols were developed by Kohenet Ketzirah haMa’agelet for use as physical offering practices or in artwork.

2: Elements follow R’Jill Hammer’s elemental system as explained on her website www.telshemesh.org and her book The Jewish Book of Days. See pages 16-19 for explanation of elemental system.

The interpretations of the Sephirot are also from Rabbi Jill’s teachings.  Specifically, they are from her Omer Calendar of Bibilical Women.

3: The spiritual focus is my own concept of sustainable spiritual practice.  It is based on my interpretation of the wheel of the year and the Jewish holidays, as taught by many.  The specific focus is for a season, as based on the element have/need system taught by R’Jill Hammer in the The Jewish Book of Days, as referenced above.  For example Autumn is the time of Air within Earth, we have Earth we need Air and is the spiritual focus of Community (Air) within Resources (Earth) or more simply: communal resources.  

4: While tarot is not intrinsically Jewish, it is a derivative of Kabbalah and a can be a useful tool for self discovery and exploration. Tarot correspondences here follow Kabbalistic tree of life by Issac ben Luria, the Ari, as opposed to some of the more common Christian systems.

5: The soul-traits for each month are based on Kesharim K’doshim Mussar, developed by Kohenet Ketzirah HaMa’agelet.

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