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10/14/2021 07:43:36 AM


Rabbi Ron Segal

Having concluded the Hebrew calendar month of Tishrei along with our observance of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Sh’mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, this past week we began the new month of Cheshvan, also known in some circles and sources as “MarCheshvan.”  Why the different names?  What is the significance of appending “Mar” - the Hebrew word for “bitter” – to the beginning?

As the names of all the months in our calendar all derive from a Babylonian calendar in use during the period of the Babylonian exile (6thc BCE), there are various linguistic and midrashic explanations as to why Cheshvan is sometimes called MarCheshvan (Bitter Cheshvan). The most oft-cited reason that Cheshvan is described as bitter is because it happens to be the only month during a calendar year that does not contain a single Jewish holiday.  From the perspective of the Jewish people writ large, it is not hard to appreciate the significant, unifying role that holidays and festivals play in the life of the community. Ironically, though, were one to ask this rabbi (and I imagine many others as well), the fact that there are no holidays during this month is anything but bitter. Quite the opposite! On the heels of Tishrei which is playfully considered to be a rabbi’s ‘tax season,’ I believe that a month with no holidays is actually incredibly sweet. From my perspective, Cheshvan provides clergy, educators, and synagogue professionals with the welcome opportunity simply to catch our breath.

The issue of varying perspectives has surfaced in several conversations and settings over the past few days. Whether concerning the lens through which we interpret Torah, or different views regarding the pursuit of justice and social action, or contrasting thoughts about local and national government, or even the best name for our current month, we would do well to remember that differences of opinion are seldom about being right or wrong. Rather, if we can eliminate the pressing need many have to win an argument and prove their point of view is the correct one, and instead appreciate that our differences most often derive simply from contrasting perspectives, we could certainly do our part to foster a greater sense of tolerance, peace, and understanding so desperately needed in our congregation, our community, and our world.

(Enjoy the following and see if you find a different Perspective)

"Worst Day Ever" by Chanie Gorkin

Today was the absolute worst day ever
And don’t try to convince me that
There’s something good in every day
Because, when you take a closer look,
This world is a pretty evil place.
Even if
Some goodness does shine through once in a while
Satisfaction and happiness don’t last.
And it’s not true that
It’s all in the mind and heart
True happiness can be attained
Only if one’s surroundings are good
It’s not true that good exists
I’m sure you can agree that
The reality
My attitude
It’s all beyond my control
And you’ll never in a million years hear me say
Today was a very good day

(Now read the poem again, but this time, from the bottom to the top.)

Wed, December 1 2021 27 Kislev 5782