Can I be honest with you? I’m tired. Really tired. These last two months, Elul and Tishrei were some of the most spiritually significant months of HaShem’s1 calendar that I remember experiencing in all my years walking with Him. I’d prayed that I would receive all that the Holy One wanted for me in His Fall Holy Days. I wanted all the blessings, chastisements, inspirations to do better, all the forgivenesses, all the miracles, and every bit of His Presence He wanted to offer.
Well, He came through in big ways on all fronts. But I am just a human, and all this touching of the Divine has left me spent. You too? I call it intimacy fatigue and I am thankful our Father understands and even helps me to break through the wall and not shrink back now.
Enter the month of Cheshvan or Marcheshvan as it’s more properly called. Note that “Mar” means “bitter”. Some say the bitter comes because this is the only month with no biblical holidays. That makes sense but I can’t help but think that additionally, maybe the bitter has to do with a kind of feelings that I call “intimacy fatigue” that often settles in for a little while after such special times of connection with our Father.
Let me explain what I mean by intimacy fatigue by relating it to what often happens to our bodies when we have been stressed, but then release the physical or emotional tension. Have you ever had a really good cry with your friend(s), letting out and releasing the tension you had built up? Maybe you were more emotionally vulnerable than usual and “spilled your heart” to them and let them really see your pain. If you are like many women (I am especially this way) you might feel a sort of regret that you shared so much – a feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you uncomfortable after the fact. Often, for me, the next morning I feel emotionally ‘hung-over’. That, I believe is intimacy fatigue and I am learning that it is not only not a bad experience, it is a normal thing that happens to us all when we have held on to something for so long and then release it.
My husband and I were blessed to take a trip for his 60th birthday a few years ago to Costa Rica, a dream of ours for many years. Somehow, I got tricked into a whitewater rafting experience, which was my first ever. I thought I held my own pretty well down the river, and I was proud of myself for doing it despite my great fears. I am not one for physical adventure or the adrenaline rush like that.
It wasn’t until the next morning when I awoke and peeled myself out of bed that I realized just how much I had clenched every muscle in my body during that two-hour trip the day before. I laughed at how sore my hands and forearms were from gripping the paddles so hard! It’s often not until we release the tension that we realize how hard we were gripping. It’s exhausting!
I think it is the contrast that is most profound. We only know cold by experiencing heat; we know the extent of tension after we relax. We feel spiritual intimacy fatigue when the devechut (attachment to God) opportunities we took during the last two months brought us release from many things we’d been holding onto too tightly. We feel the fatigue most when the contrast of letting go has been so great.
The Jewish sages teach that stillness is in order. We need the stillness of the month of Cheshvan to process all that we’ve learned, experienced, and let go of up to this point. What we might label as fatigue is the Father’s ordained space for you to process all that has happened between you two. Yes, the stillness of this month is a chance to settle back into the routine of life, but with a significant difference: by having spent so much of the last two months attached to God through His jam-packed Feast schedule, we remain changed for the better.
We can let the inspiration of the last two months carry us into the long winter months, which are naturally more dormant on the surface. I say on the surface because there is always a lot of growth hiding where we can’t see it, like the muscles that are built in a body after a good workout. I can only imagine the hand and forearm muscles I built up after that joy ride down the Costa Rican river!
There is a danger lurking in stillness though, if we are not aware of what’s happening and God’s redemptive purpose in it for our good like everything He does for us. In essence, this month gives us room to experience the fullness of the letdown. Do you know this feeling? As a young child, the day after Christmas was always a bummer, even though that was the day I got to play with every new toy I had received the day before. I think that let-down feeling is also part of intimacy fatigue. If we are not careful, it can be a wedge between us and God. It can negatively affect our prayer life, which is our lifeline to the Father.
The highs of devuchut with the Holy One turn to deep lows in the mundane day to day life, felt most profoundly in stillness. The last two months created portals of Divine Presence not experienced in any other months, although we always have access to the Father. Sometimes I think God’s glory is just too much and when I get too close but can’t sustain that nearness, I feel the letdown. Not, as in He let me down, but in that sinking feeling that something is missing.
It’s like HaShem gives us Cheshvan to honor the letdown and to assist us to take what we learned, take our new growth, and bring it into the rest of the months. How do we do that? The Jewish sages teach that in Cheshvan we have our marching orders for the upcoming year and we can begin anew to work with the Holy One to repair our part of the world. Tikkun Olam. Pushing our sleeves up and getting to work is the best balm for the kind of fatigue you may find yourself experiencing.
All the promises and releases of the last two months can become so much more than good intentions. They can become action steps. The sages teach that every soul is sent down to fulfill a specific mission; we may not know exactly what that mission is but we can know that it involves overcoming personal obstacles and helping as many people as we can, to live inspired lives for God. The Holy One gives us opportunities to accomplish our mission within the confines of our specific environment, talents and abilities, strengths and weakness, and the particular situations we find ourselves in. This month lets us settle in with the new insights of the preceding Holy Days coupled with action.
Now is not the time to become complacent in our devachut to Him, which could happen with intimacy fatigue. I know that for me, when I have had a particularly close prayer time, I can struggle getting started again to talk with the Father with that same kind of fervency. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I am spent. This is when I need to ask the Father to help me pray to Him. Does it sound strange to ask the Father to help you talk to Him? It did me too, at first. Try it, you will be amazed at the difference. Who better to ask for any kind of assistance than our Father? I truly believe that He knows it is difficult to talk to an unseen Being and I believe He wants to help us even in our relationship with Him; perhaps especially in our relation with Him.
Cheshvan is all about figuring out with the Holy One what we can do and how can do it to break through the fatigue and press in even closer to Him. Oh, the places He will take you and I when we do!
Father, I thank you for how you met with me during the High Holy days! I thank you for your kindness, compassion, mercy, and love. Help me to take what I’ve learned and apply it to my life. Help me to break through the fatigue I experience living in a finite body in the presence of the Infinite. Teach me how to reach you in the mundane of life.