Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan Torah essay

This month's Dvar Torah is by Devora Aiken of the Matan Bellows Eshkolot Educators Institute, who is studying medicine at Hebrew U. She previously studied at Midreshet Harova. Devora is involved in Achi doing outreach with Israeli secular students.

Matan Women's Institute for Torah Studies, | updated: 05:59

Judaism תפילת ראש חודש בכותל
תפילת ראש חודש בכותל
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The Edythe Benjamin חיה בת שלמה, beloved mother of Barbara Hanus, Rosh Hodesh Cheshvan Torah Essay

Chodesh Cheshvan seems to be so mundane, maybe even meaningless compared to the days preceding it. After experiencing Chodesh Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah, what can we really make out of this very regular month?

Rav Kook explains that every moment has its spiritual essence, כל זמן מאיר בתכונתו.[1] Therefore, each chag or month we try to tap into the essence of that time and by doing so we can enhance our lives in different ways throughout the year.

Chodesh Cheshvan seems to be so mundane, maybe even meaningless compared to the days preceding it. After experiencing Chodesh Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah, what can we really make out of this very regular month?

Rav Kook explains that every moment has its spiritual essence, כל זמן מאיר בתכונתו.[1] Therefore, each chag or month we try to tap into the essence of that time and by doing so we can enhance our lives in different ways throughout the year.

In Parshat Noach, in the aftermath of the flood, Noach defines the characteristics of his three sons who will be the progenitors of the human race.[2]  

Rav Hirsch[3] explains that the three essential forces in human beings and in nations are intellect, emotions and desires. Although all three exist in all of us, there is always one dominant force that the other two are subservient to.

For Shem, the precursor of the Jewish people, intellect is the leading force, he aspires to reach goals loftier than his own self. In contrast,

Cham’s leading force is desire, his descendants will create upheaval and act in a brutal and violent way instead of advancing the world. They will see spirituality only as a means for gaining physical pleasure, thus being enslaved to lower inclinations.

The meeting point between Cham and Shem is Yefet, whose leading force is emotion. His descendants, ancient Greece for example, will develop art, aesthetics, and culture. In order for humanity to perfect itself, Yefet will teach Cham manners and basic cultural aspects raising him above his previous animalistic life. Afterwards, Shem will be able to connect both Cham and Yefet to the highest level of Ratzon Hashem.

Rav Hirsch goes on to elaborate the unique role of the Jewish people:

“לעשות את ביתו מעון לשכינה.. היהדות מורה מה עלינו לעשות כדי שה’ יתקרב אלינו בעולם הזה.. עיקר שכינה בתחתונים[4].. ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם[5] – ועשו את חייהם על האדמה למקדש, ואז אשכון בתוכם. לתקן עולם מלכות ש-די לא רק בשמים ממעל אלא גם בארץ מתחת- זוהי שליחות ישראל ומטרת תורתו. כל הבטחות התורה מתייחסות לעולם הזה. חזון התורה הוא שכינה. בכל מקום שאדם מקדש את ביתו והיה מחניך קדוש – ה’ מתהלך בקרב מחנהו. ה’ ממלא אותו באושר על הארץ ומאשר לו להרגיש בעולם הזה מעין עולם הבא. זוהי תכלית התורה ומטרתה לעם ישראל, וזו נועדה להיות נחלת כל בני המין האנושי כשהם שבים אל ‘דרך עץ החיים’ ”

"To make his home a dwelling place for G-d's Presence - Judaism tells us what to do in order to have G-d come close to us in this world- the main place for G-d's Presence. 'They will make a tabernacle for me and I will dwell among them'- make their lives on this earth a holy place, and I will dwell among them to make this world a place of G-d's Kingdom, not only in the heavens above but also in the earth below - this is Israel's mission and the object of his Torah. All the Torah's promises relate to this world, the Torah's vision is G-d's presence, everywhere tha tman sanctifies his home 'and your camp shall be holy' - G-d walks within His camp, G-d fills it with hapiness on this earth and allows him to feel in this world a taste of the World to Come. This is the goal of the Torah and its essence for the Jewish People, and is intended to be the property of all mankind, when it returns to the paths of the Tree of Life."

The goal of the Torah is to guide us to live moral and G-dly lives in this world. To take part in family life, business, and judicial systems but to do so in an honest, humble, and divine manner. By perfecting our Midot, desires and emotions without disconnecting from the physical and mundane we advance Olam Hazeh to reach the level of Olam Habah.

לדוד ה’ which we say from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Hoshana Rabba contains a request

“לולא האמנתי לראות בטוב ה’ בארץ החיים”[6]

"If only I believed enough to see the goodness of Hashem in the land of life"

Rav Yehuda[7] explains that ארצות החיים, the lands of life, refers to the marketplace, hereby introducing us to the novel idea that שבתי בבית ה’ כל ימי חיי, living in G-d's House all the days of my life, definitely is attainable by connecting to this world and doing it in line with His Will, Ratzon Hashem.

The month of Cheshvan gives us time to live our routine lives a little bit better than we did last year. We finally have the time to take all our spiritual and lofty aspirations from the previous holidays and make them a reality.

There is a Halakhic concept תדיר ושאינו תדיר תדיר קודם [8]. We tend to get more excited over peak moments, but we should understand that the regular days are those in which we build our character, grow in Torah, and enhance our relationship with others and with Hashem.

In the introduction to Ein Yaakov a Midrash is cited:

בן זומא אומר מצינו פסוק כולל יותר והוא שמע ישראל. בן ננס אומר מצינו פסוק כולל יותר והוא ואהבת לרעך כמוך. שמעון בן פזי אומר מצינו פסוק כולל יותר והוא את הכבש האחד תעשה בבוקר. עמד ר’ פלוני על רגליו ואמר הלכה כבן פזי

The conclusion is that the pasuk that includes the most basic guidance for Torah life is the one commanding us to sacrifice the קרבן תמיד or in other words consistency, living each one of our ordinary days with meaning. It is interesting that the day this special-regular sacrifice ceased, the Beit Hamikdash began to be destroyed, implying its special role in the avoda.[9]

Wishing us all to cherish the meaning within the mundane just as Moshe commanded the Jewish people right after the Ten Commandments שובו לכם לאהליכם[10] - return to your tents - 

Go live a holy life in life itself.

Or as Rav Kook phrases it:

האנשים הגדולים באים למבוקשים היותר קטנים בדרכים של גדלות.[11]

Those who are great, deal with the smallest issues in ways of greatness.

Sources:

[1] אגרות הראי”ה, שע”ח

[2] בראשית ט’ כ”ה-כ”ז

[3] רש”ר הירש עה”ת בראשית ט’ כ”ז

[4] בראשית רבה י”ט ז’

[5] שמות כ”ה ח’

[6] תהילים כ”ז י”ג

[7] תלמוד בבלי, מסכת יומא, עא.

[8] תלמוד בבלי, מסכת ברכות נא:

[9] מבוסס על משנה תענית כו

[10] דברים ה’ כ”ו

[11] אורות הקודש ח”ב עמ’ שע”ז




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