All of the months are interrelated, each connecting to the next in the cycle of the seasons, the ‘round’ of the year…set up by The Creator from the beginning for our benefit to make up what we call time…like a beautiful string of pearls…each is significant to the whole…and each carries within it a special spark that lies hidden beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered!
Looking back on the month of Cheshvan we see that it was a time of silence, quietness… Ches Shhh van…a month in which there are no holidays. It is a time of reflection after the busyness of the glorious festivals of Tishrei.” It is a time to heed the words of the Psalmist, “Be still and know that I am HaShem!” Psalm 49:10
Cheshvan or Mar Cheshvan as it is sometimes called is also a time of bitterness as indicated from the Hebrew word mar meaning bitter, for Cheshvan was the month which marked both the beginning and the end of the Great Flood which covered the face of the earth in the days of Noah. The flood acted as a cleansing and a new beginning for our world and its inhabitants.
As a sign of this new beginning and a promise never to flood the world again, HaShem placed a beautifully colored rainbow in the sky. This was at the beginning of the month of Kislev, the time of the New Moon. It is this rainbow of hope stretching across these two months that connects them to one another. It connects the silence, the cleansing and the introspection associated with the month of Cheshvan to the miracles and the lights of Hanukkah in the month of Kislev…a time when we can once again re-dedicate ourselves to the service of our Creator as did the Maccabees in the days of old.
When we take a deeper look at the meaning behind the New Moon or Rosh Chodesh, we see that it is intricately connected with the month Kislev and the message of Hanukkah? What is Rosh Chodesh really all about? What can it teach us? It can teach us many things, but we can sum it all up in a few words …Concealment and Revelation and Trust, trust in a New Beginning. What does the term Rosh Chodesh actually mean? If we break it up, we have Rosh = Head; Chodesh = New; so we have a new or renewed head or a renewal of consciousness.
With the birth of each New Moon something new is born. There is a teaching from our sages of blessed memory that the First day of the New Moon actually holds within it the entire month to come, yet only a tiny sliver is first visible.
It is interesting to make a comparison between this tiny sliver of the New Moon that is birthed each month with that of the tiny little human fetus and the latent potential existent within each of them.
In a fetus the head develops first; and the head with the brain actually contains the entire body within it. Ultimately the limbs and all the organs will develop, but in the beginning there is merely a latent potential in that tiny little creature, one that is concealed, but one that is to be revealed in its proper time.
This is the message of every Rosh Chodesh…potential to actualization, concealment to revelation, but the month of Kislev is the one in which these concepts of Concealment and Revelation are the most clearly seen.
If we take the name of the month itself, Kis lev, we find that in the Hebrew it is spelled Chaf Samach Lamed Vav. If we break it down into syllables we find that Chaf Samach or Kis derives from the word to cover or to conceal. Lev has several meanings; one meaning is, His or to Him. If we relate this to HaShem, it means HaShem is concealed, or His concealment.
Yet Lev has another meaning. In Hebrew it is spelled Lamed Vav which has the gematria or numerical value of the number 36 (lamed is 30, vav is 6). In Jewish tradition the number 36 is mystically associated with revelation. The sages of blessed memory teach that there are 36 righteous people born in every generation; no one knows who they are; they are concealed yet they mystically keep each generation from annihilation. These 36 righteous are referred to in Hebrew as the Lamed-Vav Tzadikim. This teaching is based on a Talmudic statement in the Talmud that says that in every generation 36 righteous “greet the Shekhinah,” the Divine Presence (Tractate Sanhedrin 97b; Tractate Sukkah 45b).
But they are hidden, concealed within the rest of humanity. There are many Chassidic stories of these Lamed Vavniks or Thirty Sixers and how they appear in different situations to avert a disaster and then blend back into the population. So even within the name of this month, Kis Lev, we have a paradox; we have concealment, but within it, a revelation. And is this not the story of the creation and everything within it?
How does Beresheit, the Book of Genesis, start? In the Beginning or When G-d began to create the world…the earth was without form and void and darkness covered the face of the deep… G-d’s Ruach (Spirit) moved upon the face of the waters…and what did He say…”Let there be Light, and there was Light.”
Was there light before He spoke these words? Yes of course, for HaShem was there and He was the Light…it was just concealed…just not yet made manifest.
So we have concealment and a revelation…from the Beginning…where Light broke through upon HaShem’s command! We might say that He called to the Light and it came forth!
If we relate this to Rosh Chodesh and the cycle of the moon, we ask another question. Is the moon really non-existent at the beginning of each month when the sky is dark? No, we just cannot yet see it; it is concealed from our view because it has not yet become revealed, but we Trust that it is there!
Everything has an order. Just as Cheshvan is a time of Silence and Quietness, a time of inner reflection, Kislev is a time of Concealment, but also a time of Revelation and Trust. Kislev brings with it the beginning of the Winter months when we have to physically cover ourselves more…we wear more layers of clothing, so we could say that even on a purely physical level, it is a time that brings with it a greater concealment.
Kislev is also the time of year when it is the darkest…and that is when we light the candles of Hanukkah, a sign of hope and bitachon (trust) that HaShem is here with us today amidst the darkness just as He was with our forefathers in days of old.
We have the opportunity to reach deep inside ourselves, into our hearts and souls…our innermost being and bring out that hidden light within, that Light that our Creator so lovingly placed within us that may have gone dim or even dormant and let it shine forth even in our darkest moments.
Psalm 18:29 says, “He (HaShem) will light my candle: HaShem my G-d will enlighten my darkness.” Proverbs 20:27 says “The flame of HaShem is the soul of the human being.”
When we are in the darkness, we are actually the closest to HaShem because we are more dependent upon him. No matter what our emotions or our physical bodies tell us, we must develop an attitude of devekut, that of sticking like glue to Him and one of bitachon, trusting that He is with us and live out the words of King David, “Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet and a Light unto my path!” (Psalm 119:106).
We just need to surrender to what the darkness has to teach us and then then come into the fullness of the light! This is our challenge every day, but especially during this month of Kislev, a time of concealment and a time of revelation and even more so during the upcoming Festival of Hanukkah when it is the darkest!
In the Kabbalistic commentary on the Book of Eichah or Lamentations, Bochim and The Crying Voice, we find the incredibly encouraging words, that we need to let sink deeply into our hearts, “Everything, no matter how or how seemingly bad, has the ability to turn around.”
So as we kindle our Hanukkah lights this season, may we kindle with joy as we remember that HaShem is right there beside us… within us… to always give us encouragement and hope…even and most especially in the darkness!
By Elisheva Tavor aka Betty Tabor Givin Kislev 5778