Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan began on Oct. 9th and was observed through the 10th. During specific months, we have two days of Rosh Chodesh. The reason is that a lunar month is made up of 29.5 days. The 30th day is supposed to be divided in half, evenly, between the previous month and the new month, and is intended to begin Rosh Chodesh. We begin our holidays at sundown, however, we can’t cut a day in half. Most months on the Hebrew calendar contain the full 30 days, while others are shorter, with 29 days.
Originally, the Sanhedrin, an assembly made up of 23 or 71 rabbis appointed to sit as a tribunal in every city in the ancient land of Israel, would convene on the 30th of each month and listen to witnesses who testified that they had seen the last crescent of the moon’s phase just before it goes dark at the new moon.
The Chachamim, the title of honor given to one well-versed in Jewish law and Torah, decided that, in order to keep our holidays occurring at the same time each year, the 30th day of the month would be grouped with the previous month, and that the 30th and 31st days would host Rosh Chodesh.
These months always have two days of Rosh Chodesh: Cheshvan, Adar, as well as Adar II, Iyar, Tammuz, and Elul. The following months always have one day of Rosh Chodesh: Tishrei, Shevat, Nisan, Sivan, and Av. The months of Kislev and Tevet alternate. Some years they each have one day of Rosh Chodesh, while in others, they each have two. Sometimes, Kislev has one day and Tevet has a two-day Rosh Chodesh.
Cheshvan is often referred to as “Mar” Cheshvan, meaning “bitter,” because there are no holidays to celebrate. Given that we’ve just come through the stream of holidays of Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of Repentance, Shabbat Shuvah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, and Shabbat Bereshit, it seems fitting to have time to quiet ourselves again.
Our lunar calendar keeps us perfectly aligned with the seasons. Autumn tiptoed in on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 9:54 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Having used our energy for outward connection to community and inward reflection with Hashem, fall begins the time when the earth settles and the glory of Mother Nature diminishes.
It’s only natural that we should align ourselves with that energy and pull inward a bit. The events on the Gregorian calendar are about to rev up and it is important not to get swept up and turned away, so quickly, from the plans and decisions made during the holy days.
This Cheshvan marks a reversal from “Mar,” bitter, to “Ram,” elevated. Last month, during Tishrei, represented by the scales of justice, Bill Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison for the crime of aggravated indecent assault. He was denied bail and began his prison sentence immediately. The verdict elevated the energy of bitterness for the survivors of his sexual assaults. The women were vindicated when Cosby was stripped of his status, and his reputation as “America’s Dad.” The seemingly impenetrable Hollywood wall crumbled under the weight of the truths told from the women of the #MeToo movement.
The element of water is highlighted during Cheshvan. Our ancestral energy recalls the great flood rains in our history. During the televised event of Cosby’s verdict, rain poured down from the heavens and mingled with the tears streaming down the faces of the women.
This season, bringing with it decreased hours of light, beckons us to release an out-breath, the kind needed after a sobbing cry. Finally, being heard, believed, and finding their voices, marked a milestone for women everywhere. This action makes Kislev’s rainbow possible.
Meditation Focus: Consider what action you can take to be a light in this darkness.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. In the U.S., one in three women and one in six men have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.