"Mar" Cheshvan

by Carrie Bornstein

We made it.

October 10; a.k.a. the 24th of the Jewish month of Tishrei; a.k.a. the first day in three-and-a-half weeks we are no longer in the midst of “the holidays.”  Phew.

In one week we begin the month of Cheshvan, a.k.a. “Mar Cheshvan,” or the bitter month of Cheshvan; bitter because it is the only month in the Jewish year that contains no specific holidays other than Shabbat.

Kudos to former intern Avi Killip and Rabbi Rachel Silverman for this brilliance.

I know I speak for at least some others, assorted rabbis and other fellow Jewish professionals included, when I say that right now, nothing sounds sweeter than a full month without special meal preparation, fast days, building projects, or especially… multiple days missing out of the work week.

In my next life I’d like to come back as someone of a different faith tradition who works in the Jewish community.  In the meantime, my life revolves not only around preparing for these holidays, but also cramming full weeks of work into four or three days as I separate myself from computers, phones, writing, and other such classified “work” during these days “off.”

In The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel invites us to remove ourselves from the world of creation during these holidays, to exist simply in the world of time, of being.

In theory, I love this.  As a full-time working mom, Shabbat and other holidays are often the only times I slow down.  I relish the times my face is removed from a screen and I’m not racing from one place to another.  I can enjoy time with my family and allow (encourage!) a leisurely bowl of Cheerios at the kitchen table.  This past Shabbat I even read a magazine and determined a plan for this spring’s Purim costume.  (Purim is a pretty big deal for me.)

In reality, separating from the world of creation seems to get harder over time.  Slowing down can be a challenge – time away often causes my brain to work overtime, in ways it just doesn’t during the rest of the week.  I think about big ideas – Mayyim Hayyim’s transition from start-up to grown up, cultivating leadership, securing our financial stability (sometimes all this at 2:00 a.m.)… with no way of following up until the frenetic work week again.

As we move into Cheshvan on the heels of all this time away, I breathe a sigh of relief, still grateful for Shabbat, but with a newfound gratitude for rest of the full week for creation.

Does this resonate for you?  What advice do you have?  Whether on Shabbat, other holidays, vacations, or otherwise, how do you maintain time “off” as a time to exist in the world of being?

Carrie Bornstein is Mayyim Hayyim’s Executive Director.  Follow her on twitter @carolinering.


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