joy, Judaism, motherhood, parenthood, parenting

Taking the Mar out of Cheshvan

I’ve always felt bad for Cheshvan. It’s referred to as Mar Cheshvan, the bitter (“mar”) month of Cheshvan, for its lack of holidays. Cheshvan arrives just as we’ve concluded the incredibly packed month of Tishrei; after we’ve eaten ourselves silly on Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot, reflected on Yom Kippur, danced on Simchat Torah, and enjoyed time off (hopefully) with family and friends. It arrives, as well, as the winter approaches and the weather turns from summertime fun to rain coats and winter boots.

And there it sits, sandwiched between the previous month’s energy and joy and the anticipation of Chanukah. When Cheshvan leaves us, we will be welcoming in Kislev with its sufganiyot (jelly donuts), its Chanukah candles, and the magic of winter.

But Cheshvan? Well, she appears to have nothing to offer.

Poor Cheshvan.

As I was taking an early morning walk and looking at the beautiful view today, I realized that I see Cheshvan in an entirely different way.

Cheshvan, I love you; let me count the ways.

Cheshvan beckons with an entire month of ordinary days; an entire month of routine, rhythm, normal calendar events.

Yes, travel and holidays are wonderful and exciting. But, schedules and daily rhythm are so inviting. Knowing, for this month, that each of my children will be in a framework and occupied, that they will go to their after-school activities each day without interruption and that I’ll get my work done each day at the same time and place creates a great deal of comfort. I greet Cheshvan with open arms for the morning rush, the afternoon kitchen table homework sessions, the basketball carpools and the nighttime bath routines.

I love her, as well, for even more than just the routine she provides.

Cheshvan offers me a time to notice the little joys and daily beauties of life. She lets me appreciation the days when I wake up feeling healthy (and not dizzy); she allows me to admire the incoming clouds and barely-there sun as I walk the kids to the bus; she enables me to have the feeling of success when I finish a workday and close my computer; and she lets me admire the glorious setting sun when I return with a carpool full of chatty, sweaty boys in the evening. These un-monumental tasks, these ordinary events, remind me to be grateful for the little things that we so easily take for granted.

Finally, Cheshvan allows me time to look back and forward. She offers me time to reflect on Rosh Hashanah and the start of the year, on the promises I made to Hashem and myself, on the lofty expectations I might have for the year. She allows to me look ahead with anticipation to Chanukah, to family time and trips we might plan, to cozy winter nights and to holiday events. I cherish this opportunity to reflect, regroup and plan ahead. Reflection and anticipation are the perfect counter balance to activity and action. But they require time, space and quiet, all of which Cheshvan offers.

So welcome Cheshvan. You are anything but Mar to me.


This post was first published at Times of Israel.

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