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The Times of Our Lives

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To the physicist it is the fourth dimension, to the mystic it is the first creation. To most of us, time is simply a faceless tyrant, an abstract force impelling us from a receding past through a fleeting present to an ever-elusive future.

But viewed from the perspective of Torah, the seemingly homogeneous plain of time is revealed as a complex, multi-faceted terrain. The hour, the day, the week, the month, the year, the millennium—these are not arbitrary grids imposed on time to make it more “manageable,” but demarcations intrinsic to its very nature, each defining an area of time with its own characteristics and qualities.

Thus the Torah tells us that the seven days of the week are embodiments of the seven divine attributes—love, severity, beauty, victory, splendor, foundation and sovereignty—which define G-d’s involvement with our reality, as established in the original seven days of creation.[1] We also learn that the twelve hours of the day and the twelve months of the year correspond to the twelve configurations of the divine name,[2] which serve as channels for various divine energies that vitalize our existence and shape our lives. The same applies to all time designations employed by the Torah: as G-d’s blueprint for creation,[3] the Torah does not merely delegate certain observances and experiences to certain times, but, in doing so, also describes the nature and structure of time as forged by the Creator.

The Month

The concept of the month as an embodiment of a certain characteristic or quality implies a unique perspective on the Jewish calendar.

The calendar is commonly regarded as an expanse of several hundred ordinary days “dotted” with festivals and dates of special import. In truth, however, the festivals are not islands of poignancy in a sea of vapid time, but expressions of the spiritual character of their respective months. The eight days of Passover represent an intensification of the quality of the month of Nissan, the month of redemption; Purim is a one-day eruption of the unbridled joy that characterizes the month of Adar; the awe of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur and the joy and unity experienced on Sukkot are various elements in the “coronation” of G-d as king of the universe, which is the theme of the month of Tishrei; and so on.

In other words, the twelve months of the calendar are twelve time-qualities which flow into each other, each with its unique personality and character. The festivals are the peaks and plateaus of these time-qualities—points at which a particular month’s properties achieve a greater intensity and emphasis.

The Link

The last Shabbat of each month is Shabbat Mevarchim HaChodesh—the “Shabbat that blesses the month.” On this Shabbat, a special prayer is recited which names the coming month, identifies the day (or days) of itsRosh Chodesh,[4] and beseeches G-d to “renew it… for life and for peace, for gladness and for joy, for deliverance and for consolation.” [5] According to Chassidic teaching, the “blessing of the month” evokes the flow of sustenance and spiritual energy for the coming month.

Thus, the final days of each month form a juncture in the terrain of time in which two time-qualities overlap. For example, this Shabbat is the 29th of Av; as such, it is an integral part of the month of Av, a time-segment whose quality is mourning and consolation—mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple and the breakdown in our relationship with G-d that this represents, and consolation in the potential for renewal that lies in every regression.[6] On the other hand, it is also the Shabbat that calls forth the qualities of the coming month of Elul—a month characterized by divine compassion and intimacy with G-d.[7]

The same is true of every Shabbat Mevarchim: rooted in one month and time-quality, it evokes the time-quality of the following month, stimulating the flow of spiritual energy that saturates the next of the twelve time-segments that comprise the calendar.

The Lesson

Therein lies a lesson in how we are to experience and utilize the various time periods of our lives.

Often, we reach a point in our lives at which we are inspired to “turn OVER a new leaf”: to reassess our past, and readjust, or even radically transform, our prior vision and approach to life. All too often, this is accompanied with a “break” from the past, a disavowal of all prior achievement; it is as if all we have done up to this point must be eradicated to give way to our “new” self.

But as the monthly Shabbat Mevarchim teaches us, different and even antithetical qualities of time form a chain in which each link is an outgrowth of its predecessor. Yes, a new year, month, week, day, hour or moment must always provoke us to a new understanding, a new feeling, a new achievement: the very fact that we have passed from one time-frame to another means that we must exploit the new potential implicit in this new environment. At the same time, however, we must appreciate how each new moment is “blessed” by the moment before, which nourishes and enriches its very different neighbor with its own qualities and achievements.

Based on the Rebbe’s talks on Sivan 28, 5735 (June 7, 1975) and on other occasions

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber


[1]. As are the seven years of the shemittah cycle, the seven shemittot of the yovel cycle, and the seven millennia of history.

[2]. The Hebrew letters which spell the ineffable name of G-d, have twelve possible configurations.

[3]. Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 1:2.

[4]. Each month begins with either one or two days of Rosh Chodesh (“head of the month”; if the previous month had 30 days, then the 30th of the previous month and the first of the new month serve as the new month’sRosh Chodesh).

[5]. It is also customary to announce the exact moment of the molad halevanah (“birth of the moon”) that marks the beginning of the coming month.

[6]. Thus the 9th of Av is both the day of the Temple’s destruction and the birthday of Moshiach (see Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 2:4).

[7]. See the following article, A Haven in Time; see also The King in the Field, to be published In the Ki Tavo issue of WIR (vol. VIII, no. 54).

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