And no plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no
herb of the field had yet grown; for the L-rd G-d had not
caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not yet a
man to work the land.
[Then] there arose a mist from the earth and watered the
surface of the land.
In the land of Israel, the rains are confined to the half-year
from Tishrei to Nissan (roughly, October to March). This six-month
period is therefore referred to by the Talmud as the Season
of Rains (Yemot HaGeshamim), while the
six months from Nissan to Tishrei (AprilSeptember) are
called the Season of the Sun (Yemot HaChamah).
The calendar is more than a measure of time: it is a cycle
that charts our inner life and our relationship with our Creator.
And this spiritual cycle is comprised of two basic parts as
wella Season of the Sun, and a Season
A Rising Mist
Sunlight and rain are both critical to the sustenance of
life on earth. Indeed, there is a certain similarity in the
manner in which these two sources of nourishment are bestowed
upon usboth rain down upon the earth from
above, drenching it with energy or moisture. In both cases,
we seem quiescent recipients of a showering of blessing from
But a closer examination reveals a significant difference
between them: while sunlight is a unilateral gift from above,
rain originates as moisture which rises from the earth, forms
clouds, and returns as life-giving waters. So the earth is
not, in truth, a passive beneficiary of the rain falling from
the heavens: it is she who generates it in the first place,
raising columns of mist from her oceans and lakes to water
the soil of her land masses.
The earth, of course, could not do this on her own. It is
the sun who stimulates the release and ascent of her watery
stores; it is the sun who causes the weather patterns that
carry them through the atmosphere and impel them earthward.
In other words, the sun, ultimately, is the force behind both
sunlight and rain. But the suns nurturance of life on
earth takes two forms: a) nourishment which the earth simply
absorbs from her benevolent provider, such as the suns
light- and warmth-purveying rays; b) nourishment, such as
rain, which the earth generates herself, with the sun serving
as the catalyst that wakens her potential for self-nurture
and assists in its realization.
All of the above also applies to the miniature world
that is the soul of man. Here, too, there is sunlight
and rain; here, too, the soul is dependent for
both upon her sun, yet differs in her relationship
with these two purveyors of her nourishment.
Ultimately, everything we possess, including our potential
to initiate and create, is granted us from Above. Yet G-d
sustains our inner lives in two ways: a) by bestowing direct
and unilateral enlightenment and experience (sunlight);
b) by enabling and assisting us to gravitate upward in our
own search for truth and meaning in life, and thereby generate
a spiritual nourishment of our own making (rain).
Both divine gifts are crucial to the spiritual life of the
soul. In the first case, we recognize our inherent limitations.
We understand that if there is to be anything that is absolute
and transcendent in our lives, we must open ourselves to a
higher trutha truth to which we can relate only as a
wholly passive recipient, for it is beyond anything we could
possibly generate by ourselves.
At the same time, however, human nature dictates that we
identify more with what we ourselves have achieved: that something
earned is more appreciated than a gift, that an idea independently
conceived is more meaningful than a teaching from the greatest
master. That for an experience to become real
to usfor it to be grafted into our nature and personalityit
must stem from within.
The real or the ideal? Mine or more? We need them both. Indeed,
the tension between these two needs is crucial to our growth
in all areasintellectual, emotional or spiritual.
Seasons of the Soul
In the cycle of the Jewish year, the six months from Nissan
to Tishrei comprise the Season of the Sun, and
the Tishrei to Nissan months are our Season of Rains.
During the Season of the Sun, we celebrate and
re-experience the great unilateral acts of divine involvement
in our destiny: the Exodus on Passover, when G-d descended
to Egypt to take for Himself a nation from the womb
of a nation, amidst trials, signs, wonders and battles;
the giving of the Torah on Shavuot, when G-d came down
on Mount Sinai
to grant us His blueprint for life and our charter as His
kingdom of priests and holy nation.
The Season of Rains, on the other hand, is a
half-year characterized by human endeavor and initiative.
The month of Tishreithe month of Rosh HaShanah, Yom
Kippur and the Ten Days of Repentanceis a time of teshuvah,
of soul-searching and self-improvement. The two rabbinical
festivals of the Jewish yearChanukah (Kislev 25 to Tevet
2) and Purim (Adar 14)are also contained
within the Season of Rains. Unlike the biblical
festivals, which were unilaterally commanded by G-d, these
are humanly initiated festivals, instituted as our
response to the milestones in our relationship with G-d which
Another winter festival is the Chassidic New Year
celebrated on the 19th of Kislev. The teachings of Chassidism emphasize the need
for intellectual appreciation and emotional experience in
our fulfillment of the mitzvot (as opposed to mere mechanical
observance of the divine commandments). Chassidism thus belongs
to the rainy season of our spiritual livesour
capacity for initiative and involvement in our relationship
Sometimes More, Sometimes Less
The Jewish calendar is based upon the lunar cycle, with the
beginning of each month falling within a day or two of the
new moon. Since the moon completes its orbit of the earth
every 29.5 days, the Jewish month alternates between 29 and
30 days. A thirty-day month is called a malei (full
month), and a twenty-nine-day month is called a chasser
Generally speaking, the months follow a set pattern: Nissan
is always full, Iyar always lacking,
Sivan full, Tammuz lacking, and so
on. However, two months, the months of Cheshvan and Kislev
(the second and third months after Tishrei), have no fixed
length: in certain years both are full, in other
years both are lacking, and in others still, Cheshvan
is lacking and Kislev is full.
In other words, the summer months are fixed and unvarying,
while the months of the Season of Rains are subject
to changes and fluctuations.
In this, too, our calendar reflects the dynamics of the seasons
of the soul. The sunlight aspect of our spiritual
lives is fixed and unvarying. When we surrender ourselves
to a higher truth, we also surrender our human frailties and
inconsistencies. We surrender to what is infinite, perfect
and unequivocal, and what we receive is likewise infinite,
perfect and unequivocal.
But when we turn to our rainmaking self, our
initiatives and achievements are subject to the rises and
falls of a finite, imperfect self. This is a season with fluctuating
months, sometimes lacking, sometimes full,
reflective of the vacillating nature of everything human.
Therein lies the weakness of our rainy season as well as
its strength. By all objective criteria, this is the lesser
half of our internal cycle, plagued by the instabilities and
deficiencies of the human state. But it is also our more resilient
half, where a lack might be transformed into a gain and a
vulnerability exploited as a source of blessing.
Based on the Rebbes writings and talks, including
a number of talks delivered during the month of Kislev 5750
(December 1989) and a journal entry dated Kislev 19
Adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by
. Midrash Tanchuma, Pekudei 3; cf. Ecclesiastes
3:11: Also the world He has placed within their hearts.
. Or 3, depending on whether Kislev has 29 or 30
dayssee further on in text.
. See Accumulating Lights, WIR, vol. IX,
. On Kislev 19, 5559 (1798), Rabbi Schneur Zalman
of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassidism, was released from
Czarist prison after being exonerated of charges leveled
against him and the Chassidic movement. Rabbi Schneur Zalman
saw these events as a reflection of what was transpiring
Abovehis arrest as the result of a Heavenly indictment
against his revelation of the most intimate secrets of the
Torah, and his subsequent release as signifying his exoneration
in the Heavenly court and its endorsement of the continued
dissemination of Chassidism. The 19th of Kislev therefore
marks the birth of Chassidismthe point
at which it emerged into the world to grow and develop as
an integral part of Torah and Jewish life.
. Reshimot #1, pp. 8-9.