Updated: Nov 5
As the hot summer days slightly begin to change into cooler temperatures, the morning air turns crisp, and warmer clothes are taken out from under the closet. Since the previous festive month of Tishrei, the world begins to slow down in the month of Cheshvan (חֶשְׁוָן). Cheshvan corresponds to October or November on the Gregorian calendar and is the second month from Rosh Hashana and the eighth month from Nissan. Each month, with the renewal of the moon, there is a renewal of energy for every person in the entire world to absorb and experience. Jewish and Kabbalistic teachings provide spiritual wisdom on how to utilize the month, recommended meditations, actions to take (or not to take), and what you can do to benefit your personal and spiritual growth.
This blog post introduces the energy of the month, personal benefits, possibilities, and Jewish and Kabbalistic wisdom.
To begin learning about Cheshvan, let’s start by briefly looking at the previous month, Tishrei. Tishrei is an extraordinary month with the holy Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hoshana Raba, Simchat Torah, and Shemini Atzeret (can you believe they are all in one month?). These holidays are introspective holidays where each person goes on a self-exploration accounting of the soul, actions, and an annual review of the year. There are costumes and tools to having a great year according to Jewish wisdom and Kabbalah such as asking and giving forgiveness, emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual cleanse of returning back to Self, and a manifesting process for an abundant year. Tishrei is a train and you are the passenger entering a tunnel into your inner world. Tishrei and the holidays return you back to Self after the summer energy when the urge and desire to go out, go on vacation, and experience the world outside of Self is at its peak. If you want to learn more about Tishrei and the holidays, click here to download our ebook!
Cheshvan on the other hand is the opposite of Tishrei although it strengthens focusing attention within. Cheshvan marks the start of the rainy season, it has no holidays or special mitzvot and is also known as Mar-Cheshvan, which translates into English as bitter-Cheshvan. In the Mishnah (a collection of Jewish oral law) and Talmud (source of Jewish religious law), the month is called Marcheshvan however in everyday speech and in Sefer Yetzirah 5:8 (the Book of Formation), it is referred to as Cheshvan. Additionally, the Zohar calls this month Cheshvan. Some explanations behind the word mar in Marcheshvan are:
The word mar means bitter, which relates to Passover and maror, a bitter food eaten on the holiday. Cheshvan is considered bitter because, after a rich month of holidays, Cheshvan has no holidays in it.
The passing of Sarah and Rachel the matriarch
The Hebrew word mar has another meaning; “a drop of water” as in the verse “like a drop (mar) from the bucket” Isaiah 40:15. This month marks the beginning of praying for rain, a special prayer is added during morning services.
The great flood, Mabul in Hebrew, in the times of Noah began this month
17 Cheshvan may have been the day that the Great Flood began. Genesis 7:11 says, "In the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened." The sages debated whether this referred to Iyar (the second-month counting from Nisan) or Cheshvan (the second-month counting from Tishrei). It was determined that this second month was Cheshvan, due to the fact that Nisan was not considered the beginning of the months until the time of the Exodus (see Exodus 12:2)
Head or Master
Mar is another Hebrew word for great master or head, giving the Mar in Marcheshvan a positive twist to the name. The greatness that happened this month is the completion of the First Temple by King Solomon (Melachim 6:38). Although the First Temple was finished, it was not dedicated until later, leaving the month lacking a holiday.
According to the Midrash (a completion of Jewish sages commentaries on biblical texts), the Third Temple will be dedicated in Cheshvan (Yalkut Shemoni, Melachim 184). Therefore, rather than Cheshvan being a “bitter” month, it will be a month of rejoicing. We are taught that it is “reserved” for the time of Mashiach, who will inaugurate the third Temple in Cheshvan.
After a full month of basking and absorbing in the light of the holidays in Tishrei, we are now transitioning inwards and the weather corresponds with this as well. In this time, take with you the inspiration, light, and energy you absorbed during the holidays and integrate it into your life. By doing so, you learn how to create a harmonious balance of the spiritual and physical elements of life. It is up to you to see the good and experience light each day, even in the most mundane parts.
Mar-Cheshvan can be transformed into Ram Cheshvan, which means "elevated Cheshvan". Throughout the month our opportunity for growth is to transform the bitter into sweet and the lows into high. It takes a strong consciousness and self-control to achieve this transformation. It is not easy to turn darkness into light.
Cheshvan is the natural down after the holidays in Tishrei. The Hebrew calendar is brilliant and intentionally designed. It knows that following a high comes the fall of depressive and sad feelings. Energy is low and we all have taken the turn into the deep blues. The Hebrew calendar is navigating every person to honor this time and be in the thick of this feeling. In Cheshvan, we land in stillness. You are invited to use this month as a spiritual tool to bring yourself back down with love and care, plant your feet firmly on the earth, and nourish the seeds of your garden.
In Tishrei, you promised to be better however, the ego does not like change. You must go beyond yourself, break free of the victim, and self-limitations to be who you want to be. This month, every day, choose to believe in yourself. Notice any resistance you have towards working on a new habit, skill, and so on. Humans are designed to hold a negative bias; even when we don’t want to, we cling to the darkness, a habit that can amplify itself when we’re trying to make real change. The mind fears the unknown of the change thus, holds you back when you try to leave your comfort zone. It’s important to stay clear and committed to your intentions during this time. Don’t let your mind keep you back. Take that jump, no matter how small, out of your comfort zone.
At first glance, it appears there are no opportunities for personal growth and spiritual connection in Cheshvan. Yet, as the rain falls the water is nourishing the earth, giving life to seeds, roots, and growth that is under the surface. By experiencing the physical nourishment of the rain’s ability to give life on earth below, we can learn from this too. Hibernating within your home and going inwards is part of a natural process. As you planted seeds in your beautiful garden of life in Tishrei, take this time to water them and nourish them. Care for the ideas you have, the goals you set, and put in the effort to do what you said you will do. You made a commitment to yourself to be a better version of who you are, use this time to transform into him/her. The potential for your future, the spring, and summer depend on how carefully you nourish the seeds in your garden during the rainy season.
A person’s action and experience can change their life and the world, like the Butterfly Effect. Cheshvan is all about exploring and evaluating what we can do to break through the hardships and bring ourselves to a new and better place, internally and externally. You are here to be better, elevate yourself, and bring kindness to the world. Your job is to love, be kind, and share joy, and to know that what we say and how we act matters and makes a difference. It takes work, commitment, intention, love, and depletion of the ego to grow as a person. Cheshvan asks us to have faith; faith is when you trust and take a step forward without seeing clearly where exactly you’re going. Find time for personal reflection, measure your progress, and practice spiritual growth. Cheshvan was not designed to be easy or comfortable, as Tishrei was. This month, have faith beyond logic knowing this too shall pass and it will get better. Water your seeds, nourish them, and share light through the small everyday things.
In the midst of the darkness, spiritual growth begins deep beneath the surface. A great example of this is the death of Rachel that occurred on the 17th of Cheshvan. The darkness overcame the heart of Jacob but then at this moment, was the birth of Benjamin, the seed and completion of the Jewish nation, which bestrewed that darkness.
The month of Cheshvan is the time to recommit to our mother's guidance and see that with the connection to Rachel the Matriarch. Using numerical observations, Cheshvan is written with these four Hebrew letters- חֶשְׁוָן. If you take the first letter chet (ח numerical value of 8) and the last laster nun (ן numerical value of 50) together spell chen (חן), meaning "beauty." Chen (חן), "beauty" equals 58 in numerical value. The 58th day of the year is the 28th day of Cheshvan.
Take the two middle letters, shin (ש numerical value of 300) and vov (ו numerical value of 6) equal to isha (אשה), meaning "woman." Thus, in the name itself, Cheshvan, hints at the special and unique grace endowed to women.
Tools For the Month
In Judaism, we believe every person and every moment has a chance to be seen with a good eye (עין טובה).
During this month, try to consciously experience the obstacles and challenges as part of a great plan happening for your greater good, they are not punishments but an opportunity for growth.
Let go of control of other people and circumstances. Remember, you can only control one thing, and that is your reactions and responses to an event or people. Trust Hashem that whatever you are going through is to your benefit.
Communicate with your family for they reveal to you exactly where you need to grow the most.
Our inner worlds can be messy, and our minds are designed to focus on the negative. Take this time to observe your thoughts and fears. Explore your thoughts by journaling or talking with someone. Use affirmations to counteract the unpleasant thoughts. For example, if you are pulled between a few decisions and do not know which one to choose and you feel anxious about it, affirm, you know exactly what to do, you are living in your truth, and feel confident that no matter what you choose is for your greatest good.
Go out of your comfort zone. Do something this month that your future self will thank you for.
Astrological sign (Mazal), Tribe, Hebrew Letter, and Sense Scorpio (עַקרָב), a water sign, is the astrological sign for the month of Cheshvan and is ruled by the planet Mars (מַאְדִים). Just like every water sign, Scorpios are emotional and can be too serious, if not balanced, they can be irrational. Scorpios can be extreme, they have an all-or-nothing attitude with no grey area; this can be a positive benefit or negative expense. Scorpios have a tremendous desire for power and control and have a hard time with change. They do not waver, they know what they want, and they stay their course with total determination and strength which can sometimes result in unnecessary force and violence. Mars, which rules the month of Scorpio, is the planet (and not coincidentally the Greek god of war), which makes Scorpios warriors who have the drive to overcome their enemy no matter what. Scorpios fear losing control. They want complete control over their lives and the lives of those around them. In the world of extremes, love for Scorpios is everything. If they feel their love is not reciprocated, this love can turn into hate. It is very difficult for Scorpios to forgive and forget. The typical Scorpio holds onto revenge. This is the hardest Tikun (correction) of Scorpios - to control the urge to avenge, and instead to live, love and let go.
Scorpios tend to be great business people and politicians, doctors, physiologists, astrologers, and financiers. They like money because it gives them a sense of power and control. They have great intuition with great mystical and spiritual senses.
Tribe: Menashe Menasheh is the firstborn of Joseph. Deriving from the word “to forget” (literally “to leap, up and away”), Menasheh suggests the power of the tzadik (Joseph) to make us forget the hardships, trials, and tribulations of this world, with the coming of Mashiach. Through the power and sense of Menasheh, all of the pain of this world will transform and metamorphose into the pleasure of the Messianic era.
The name Menasheh (מְנַשֶׁה) permutes to spell “soul” (נְשָׁמָה). Menasheh represents the sense to reveal the Divine soul in Israel. In one place in the Bible, Moses is called Menasheh, for Menasheh is Moses (מֹשֶׁה) with an additional nun (the letter of Cheshvan).
Letter: nun (נ)
Nun is considered to be the letter of Mashiach, as is said (with reference to Mashiach): "before the sun, is his name Ye-non [from nun]" (Psalms 72:17). With the coming of Mashiach, the nun will “straighten out” (the shape of the final nun – ן), and will break through the boundaries of nature also descending (“below the line”) into the subterranean realms of reality in order to reveal there God’s all-encompassing Infinite light.
The sense of smell is the most spiritual of all senses. The Hebrew word for "smell," rei'ach (רֵיחַ), is cognate to that for "spirit" (רוּחַ - ruach). Our sages teach us that smell is the one and only sense that "the soul enjoys and not the body."
Mental and Spiritual Exercises for the Month of Cheshvan A thought exercise for Cheshvan taken from the book Practical Kabbalah by Rabbi Laibl Wolf: dedicate at least 10 minutes a day to this exercise. You’ll need a pen, notebook, and timer.
Describe the thought- at least one sentence or more
Origin of the thought- what triggered it?
Value of the thought- was it good, useful, helpful, hurtful, or angry?
Substitute the thought- if you are unhappy with the thought, how might you have thought otherwise?
I use this exercise to replace irrational and limiting thoughts. So far, it has helped me rewire my thoughts on a subconscious level, go out of my comfort zone, and be in a good mood. Remember, you are where your thoughts are.
Meditate on one of the 72 names of Hashem - do not say out loud, simply meditate and gaze on the name to clear your mind of harmful thoughts: ע.ל.ם.
If you want to experience the fruits of your work, it starts this month. The spiritual seeds planted during the Jewish month of Tishrei begin to take root – to be watered and to grow, the seeds need your attention and commitment. This is a great time to review, heal, and let go of negative patterns, unpleasant feelings, and grudges.
Despite the darkness, and as a result of the darkness, a bright future awaits you. Slow down, and take this time to nourish and care for the person you are becoming during the winter months. Until then, you are exactly where you are meant to be to reveal light in the world. This month is an opportunity to exercise this teaching from Parshat Lech Lecha: be willing to leave everything behind in order to receive something better. Take a deep breath, release control, and know that there is something better coming your way.
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Einai, G. (2021). The Month of Cheshvan According to the Book of Formation (Sefer Yetzirah). Retrieved from https://www.inner.org/times/cheshvan/cheshvan.htm
Goldwag, Ari. (2021). The Bitter Month. Retrieved from https://www.aish.com/jl/hol/hm/The_Bitter_Month.html
Itic, R. (2021). Astrology Forecast for October 10-16, 2021. Retrieved from https://kabbalah.com/en/articles/astrology-forecast-october-10-16-2021/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20211011_howtotransform_newsletter_en&utm_content=20211011_howtotransform_newsletter_en+CID_026d9d964ec90477f3690a144cc56a59&utm_source=tkc%20global&utm_term=GO
Kabbalah Center. (2012). Scorpio (Mar-Cheshvan). Retrieved from https://kabbalah.com/en/articles/scorpio-mar-cheshvan/
Shuprin, Y. (2016). Is This Month Cheshvan or Marcheshvan? Retrieved from https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3923500/jewish/Is-This-Month-Cheshvan-or-Marcheshvan.htm