Leaves That are Green Turn to Brown
The warmer weather slips away as October settles in and the leaves start to fall. A week ago I was feeling lighter post all the Jewish holidays; there’s a lot of action in a short period of time. I was both glad to be back to my “regularly scheduled programming” and, to my surprise, feeling a little sad the holiday season was over.
After the Nov/Dec holidays pass, there’s always a chance of sinking into the “January Blues”: the quiet and literally dark period after a warm and busy time.
The month that we’re in now on the Jewish calendar is called Cheshvan, and it also goes by the name “Marcheshvan”, bitter Cheshvan. The name Marcheshvan is the Jewish version of the “January Blues”, the name reflects the bitter lull. Without the sweetness of the holidays (there are none this month aside from Shabbat), this time takes on a darker and quieter note as the days get shorter.
Another name (the OG name) for Cheshvan is Bul. Bul can mean “wither” and one explanation of why this month was originally named Bul is to reference the fading green as we head towards winter.
Even though I’m all for chunky sweaters and pumpkin-cinnamon-apple flavored everything, I think our ancestors were onto something as they watched the bountiful seasons slip away. There is a sadness in the transition as we watch the colors dim and the earth prepare to rest.
Of course, references to life transitioning in the fall exist outside of ancient Jewish text too. A sampling of personal seasonal favorites:
Simon & Garfunkel’s “Leaves that are Green”
Mary Oliver’s poem “Song for Autumn”
“The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D.
Birth, death, and transition are common themes in the natural world and while there’s no one “right time” to confront mortality, I think the fall, and particularly Cheshvan, lend themselves to these concepts.
The Jewish calendar is rooted in the natural world and its rhythms and fall extends an invitation to explore this transitional time. I hope there’s meaning for you in this coming season, whether you’re starting from Paul Simon’s lyrical genius, diving deeper into the ebbs and flows of the Jewish calendar and its history, or by going for a walk under the falling leaves.
ON THE POD
If you haven’t listened to Merissa Nathan Gerson’s story yet, here’s a reminder to do that! In this episode Merissa talks about her new book, “Forget Prayers, Bring Cake: A Single Woman’s Guide to Grieving”, and about her experience of her father’s death.
IN THE WORLD
In partnership with R’Chaya Gusfield and Kavod v'Nichum, we've created Lifnei. Lifnei (Hebrew for "before") is a group for those providing care and support for parents and loved ones, and who can benefit from community and facilitated time that explores individual experiences through Jewish wisdom, writing, reflection, and texts. More information below and if you know someone for whom this would be meaningful, please feel free to share.