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Points of View
The Calm After the Storm
My Point of View, October, 2007
© Rabbi Jack Moline

Residents of places that are in the path of hurricanes will tell you that the most beautiful weather of the year is always the day after the hurricane passes. The ominous clouds and overwhelming humidity of the hours before the storm give way to high winds, torrential rains and (unfortunately) destruction, but in the aftermath of the hurricane, there is an astonishing clarity and peacefulness crystal blue skies and near-perfect temperatures.

The meteorological reasons for that phenomenon are for someone else to explain, but the metaphor for the month of Cheshvan is for me to exploit. Our whirlwind of activity thankfully not destructive of anything worse than a regular schedule of work that places seven days of holiday plus three Shabbatot in a three-week period gives way suddenly to a month that seems eerily peaceful and ordinary. I always feel the desire to slip into a comfortable day-to-day routine and leave behind the reminders of the joyful but exhausting season past. (Maybe that's why it takes so long to take down the sukkah!)

Just as the sunshine and light breezes do not erase the power of the storm, the regular pattern of six days followed by Shabbat ought not obliterate the power of the holidays. Our energy for prayer and baking, atoning and cooking may be on the wane, but unlike the hurricane, the holidays offer us lessons and inspiration that can carry us through not only to Chanukkah, but all the way to Pesach, six months on the horizon.

Carry with you into the bleakness of late fall and winter the sense of excitement that surrounds the call of the shofar. Hold close as the days get darker for longer the warmth and light that comes with the feeling of forgiveness. Grab tightly as leaves fall and chill winds blow the joy and satisfaction of the bounty of the harvest. And with whatever energy remains after the long walk through Tishrei, search out the opportunities for community with friends and communion with God that animated the early weeks of the new year as you stroll through Cheshvan and Kislev.

There is a tradition to refer to the month of Cheshvan as "Mar-cheshvan," that is, "bitter Cheshvan" because there are no holidays. I never use that term. To me, Cheshvan holds the special delight of time to create a joyful world of the every-day. I hope it does the same for you.

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