Last night at sundown, we concluded the Jewish lunar month of Cheshvan, the first month following High Holidays and the only month on our calendar without a Jewish holiday. For this reason, there’s a tradition dating back to the Mishnah(~200 CE) of calling this month Marcheshvan, meaning “bitter Cheshvan” (mar like marror on Passover).
This bitterness seems to have been reflected all around us these last thirty days. Here in Michigan, the leaves started turning, and then falling. We turned our clocks back, and all of the sudden it’s dark by 5:30pm. There’s a chill in the air we haven’t felt since the final snow melted late last winter. And most bitter of all, we’ve faced numerous heartbreaking tragedies as a Jewish community and a country.
However, there is another interpretation of mar that may provide us some clarity and hope – mar can also mean “drop,” as in a drop of water. During this month, mar is our prayer for rain and the month when Noah’s flood swept through the land. When read with this in mind, we begin to understand that we must act and live with a sense of sacred responsibility, adding our drop to the turbulent waters of this historical moment, trusting that with enough drops comes a sweeping flood of righteousness and love. In our tradition, Torah is likened to rain and justice to water. Through doing our part – in our communities, on the streets, and at the ballot box – people of conscience across this country and across this world will bring forth the living waters that will sustain the next chapter of life on this planet. Along these lines, we are humbled to have helped organize sacred space for the Detroit Jewish community to mourn, grieve, and affirm our common humanity in the wake of Pittsburgh, and we are proud to have stood alongside Michigan communities of faith in sending a clear message of unity and love.
As we enter the new month of Kislev, we reaffirm Hazon’s mission to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, and a healthier and more sustainable world for all. While we know this vision remains beyond the horizon, Cheshvan forcefully reminded us of what we already knew – that the only way to get there is through elevating the level of love, the threads of connection, and the wellsprings of compassion that stitch us and this world together. As we enter into the month of Kislev, we commit to protecting our hearts and the hearts of all those on the side of love, and take solace in the knowledge that by the time Hanukkah rolls around, we’ll be adding more and more light to the darkest of nights.
In loving community,
Rabbi Nate, Wren, Marla, Brittany, Hannah, and Megan