Leaving the Jewish Holydays and Entering Winter

    October 2010            
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Opinion & Society


The Changing Seasons

By Michael Baer

The festivals have passed. Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur with their solemnity and Succot and Simchat Torah with their joy are now behind us. The summer months with out-door activities, picnics, beach visits, and vacations has come to an end. The new fruits have all been enjoyed and are gone. Winter is now on the horizon, the days are shorter and cooler.

Winter appears so dark, so cold, so gloomy. The trees are barren; the leaves become brittle and fall to the ground. The Jewish month of Tishre was so full of life; the month that follows, Cheshvan, appears by comparison cold and barren. Tishre had so many holidays and Cheshvan is so barren. It seems that Cheshvan is the perfect month to accompany the nature of this time: the portal to the cold, barren and dark winter.

The summer is a time when we enjoy the outdoors and life feels so real; the winter is a time when we spend more time indoors and life appears to be frozen. Fall is the passage from one season to the next. Although winter is a dark and dreary time, with rain and snow, it is a not just a time of hibernation but a time for growth, a growth that is not immediately perceptible. It is during this dark rainy season that the trees and ground absorb the so important moisture that is necessary for their growth.

Nature was created by G-d. In His wisdom He gave us the four seasons. Each season came to teach us something. Tishre, although it is the beginning of the New Jewish Year, is really the end of the summer season. The holiday of Sukkot is a time of rejoicing over the successful summer crops and harvest. Cheshvon is different, it a time that begins the period of introspection, the contemplation of life and its purpose. It is the dark time, spend inside, and looking inside of ourselves. But this is the time that prepares us for the spring sprouting.

God not only created the world and put into it its very nature, but He hid in the creation the truth of nature. The world for nature in Hebrew is teva, and ha-teva means the nature. The rabbis explain the the numerical equivalent of ha-teva is the same as E-lohim, the name of God that is ascribed to the powers of nature. The root of teva also means drowning, as it is written that the Egyptians drowned in the Sea of Reeds. We can understand the deeper meaning of nature by comparing the two uses of the word. When some one drowns he is completely submersed and covered by water to the point that it is impossible to see him. Nature is the same, God not only creates every thing, but He is in everything. However nature (teva) does not permit us to see Him. Therefore we relate to our inability to perceive God's powers in the creation as 'nature'.

During this time of darkness, when the sun's rays weaken and we begin to spend more time indoors, it is a good and proper time to begin to contemplate on God and our relationship to Him. It is a time set aside by Him for us to try to see through the curtain of nature to see the 'hand' of God in our lives. The long night are not given for sitting with our brain turned off in front of a television but for thinking and reflecting on God and His goodness. Let us make the most of this time. If we use it wisely we will reap dividends later. Just like the water that is absorbed by the tree during the winter gives the tree's ability to produce tasty fruits, so too, our contemplation during the winter on God's goodness will produce fruits of happiness in our daily life.


from the October 2010 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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