I love that my job allows me to do such a variety of tasks. From teaching to preaching to spending time with teachers and teens. No day as Rabbi-Director of Lifelong Learning is the same as the one before. Of all the many parts of my job, one of my secret favorites is creating flyers for events. Don’t get me wrong, the events themselves are truly where the fun’s at, but there’s something about finding a creative and attractive way to put the event on a page that makes me feel great.
I love finding just the right picture and just the right spot to put it. I know I’m not the only one that thinks fonts are fun. And for someone with few tech skills and absolutely no training, I think I’ve gotten pretty good. My trick is to remember that the space between the words and images is just as important as anything else. The words tell you when and where the event happens. The images help you understand what will happen there, but the space between helps helps you see those words and understand those images. I try to spend as much attention to the blank spaces on my flyers as I do to the words themselves.
As a rabbi and a mom, I’ve come to realize that this is not only a fundamental rule of design but a fundamental rule to life as weThe quiet moments of space give us the energy for the big moments. The days of “regular routine” make a break in that routine all the more tangible. The in-between times give us a chance to look forward and appreciate the special moments.
There is no season quite like this one to help us appreciate this principle. After the month of Elul and our preparations for High Holidays, S’lihot, Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat Shuva, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simhat Torah, the month of Heshvan (which begins the evening of October 20) is the only month in the Jewish calendar that doesn’t have a holiday or festival. The month is sometimes called “Marheshvan” or “bitter- Heshvan” because there is no joyous occasion, however one midrash teaches that “mar” might be read as “mister” rather than “bitter.” In this case the prefix is a sign of respect. While traditionally the term is considered compensation for the month’s lack of festivity, a way of making the month Heshvan feel better about herself, I like to look at it differently.
I think the month deserves the extra respect and recognition, not because it is lacking by not having a holiday to celebrate, but precisely because she brings us no celebration or commemoration. After the extreme busyness of Tishrei, how lucky and thankful are we to have a month of quiet, a month of recovery, a month of calm, before the next eight day event comes along! How much more are we able to celebrate the miracle Chanukah with joy because we’ve had a moment of mundanity after Simhat Torah.
Marheshvan reminds us to notice and mark, to truly appreciate, not only the birthdays, anniversaries, the big important Yom Kippurs and exciting Simhat Torahs of our lives, but the all the white spaces in between.
Rabbi Toba Schaller