Following the Hebrew month of Tishrei, a month filled with holidays, comes the month of Marcheshvan, a month devoid of any holidays. One interpretation of the name Marcheshvan is that the month is really called Cheshvan, but the word Mar – meaning ‘bitter’ – is added on to denote the bitterness of the month lacking any days of significance.
Unfortunately, the month of Marcheshvan has indeed been “marred” this year by the latest round in the ongoing Muslim-Arab terrorism directed against Israel. In this current vicious campaign, knife-wielding jihadists have embraced the incitement of their religious and political leaders to go out and murder innocent Jews going about their daily productive lives. With this, the world's all-too-predictable but wholly unfounded condemnation of Israel – a cover for anti-Semitism – is perversely all too common. These horrific and immoral behaviors are absolutely deplorable, yet too often are accepted, excused, or defended. All of this is indeed bitter.
Yet, as is true with our calendar, people, history, and experiences, attention to distressing circumstances has always been mixed with even greater attention to wonderful moments of joy and celebration. No matter what, our life-affirming people always revels in simcha – happiness!
Marcheshvan at ACI this month is filled with days of great joy and significance. Besides the regularly occurring very special and meaningful day of Shabbat (each and every week!), and all our classes and programming, this Marcheshvan we celebrated the profoundly moving conversion to Judaism of four women who have been studying with me for two years – and two of their children. Annabel Aumeller, April Hinkle, Jeanette Rubio and her 10-year-old daughter Genesis, and Hanna Chazbani and her 1-year-old son, all came to the mikveh. There, after appearing before the beit din I convened for this purpose, they each underwent the prescribed ritual immersion. The following week, during Shabbat services, all were formally and publicly welcomed into the Jewish community. It was all so moving and joyous – these were extraordinary days of celebration. Then at services on the following two Shabbatot we rejoiced in the auf rufs of two ACI couples who were to be married within days. Mazal tov to all! What great simcha!
Jewish law helps in this context – while we feel and share keenly and deeply the suffering in our Jewish community, we may not allow that to overwhelm or stifle our religious and communal joys.
May all the months of our calendar, and all the days of lives, know the blessing of being filled with a preponderance of simcha!
Rabbi Jonathan Pearl