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Rosh Hodesh Cheshvan Torah Essay

Devora Aiken

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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 לים ישראל, וזו נועדה להיות נחלת כל בני המין האנושי כשהם שבים אל ‘דרך עץ החיים’ ”

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]

Rav Yehuda[7] explains that ארצות החיים refers to the marketplace, hereby introducing us to the novel idea that שבתי בבית ה’ כל ימי חיי definitely is attainable by connecting to this world and doing it in line with 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 chagim 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 עין יעקב 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]

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.

[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
Devora Aiken

Devora Aiken

is studying in the Matan Bellows Eshkolot Educators Institute, and is studying medicine at Hebrew University. She previously studied at Midreshet Harova. For the past four years Devora has been involved in Achi doing outreach with Israeli secular students.