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The Times of our Lives

The Times of our Lives

on the significance of Shabbat Mevarchim


A common way of regarding the calendar is as an expanse of 300-plus ordinary days "dotted" with festivals and dates of special import. To make this sea of days more managable — and the special days easier to locate — we chop up the year into twelve segments, calling each a "month."

The Chassidic masters offer a different perspective. As they see it, the twelve months are twelve faces of the year, and the special dates in each month are simply intensifications of the month's quality. Seen this way, the festivals of the Jewish calendar are not islands of meaningfullness 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 expressions of 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 — which can be any day from 23rd of the month to the 29th — 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 its Rosh Chodesh ("head of the month") and beseeches G‑d to "renew it... for life and for peace, for gladness and for joy, for deliverance and for consolation." According to Chassidic teaching, the "blessing of the month" evokes the flow of sustenance and spiritual energy for the coming month.

Thus, the closing days of each month are a unique phenomenon — a juncture in the terrain of time in which two time-qualities overlap. For example, a certain Shabbat may be the 25th 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. At the same time, it is also the Shabbat that "blesses" and calls forth the qualities of the coming month of Elul — a month characterized by divine compassion and intimacy with G‑d.

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 to comprise our 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 teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; adapted by Yanki Tauber.
Originally published in Week in Review.
Republished with the permission of If you wish to republish this article in a periodical, book, or website, please email
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Ella Atlantic county March 27, 2017

Thanks will Read Reply

silene sarah Jerusalem November 8, 2015

so inspiring Thank you so much for this beautiful and clear explanation!!

It will help me a lot to deal with (my) time properly.

S.S.B. Reply

Anonymous Belize May 23, 2014

Re comment by "Anonymous" of Chicago Ill of Dec 4. 2010: "to say that the events on the Jewish calendar are not "islands of meaningfulness in a sea of vapid time" is to passively state that time kept via non-Jewish calendars is indeed, vapid."

Good point concisely made.

However I differ w your opinion.

The key impression I received in studying this article is that the days which are not holidays are not characterless and all the same as one another. For me this is brand new information which I find both stimulating and satisfying, and I did not come away with any impression of aspersions cast on non-Jewish concepts of time, but rather a renewed appreciation for the added levels of understanding and openings for growth which our tradition provides to those who chose to delve into it. Reply

Anonymous March 30, 2014

Thank you for the information. Reply

RMM Boca Raton, FlLUSA August 10, 2012

To Anonymous in Richmond, IN/USA We're glad to have you with us! Thank you for your comment. Reply

Liza Mandaluyong, Philippines July 13, 2012

Thank you for teaching us. Reply

Anonymous Chicago, IL December 4, 2010

How can it be? To say that the events on the Jewish calendar are not "islands of meaningfullness in a sea of vapid time" is to passively state that time kept via non-Jewish calendars is indeed, vapid. Reply

Anonymous November 6, 2010

Shabbat Mevarchaim This article this us know, it is never to late to turn over a new leaf in llfe, if we only trust in G-d to get us through and count our blessings everyday!! Thank you for posting! Reply

Anonymous Richmond, IN/USA March 22, 2008

Jewel Fruit So many lovely fruits hanging on this lush tree: I wish I could eat all of them at one sitting!

But since I can't, I will mark this spot where I can come listen to the birds sing and eat to my heart's content.

Forgive my boldness, but thank you, People of the Book, for bringing your light to the rest of the world!
From a greatful gentile Reply

Anonymous Kansas City, KS November 26, 2005

the significance of Shabbat Mevarchim Since coming to this website I have been fascinated by the amount of knowledge never revealed to me before. This especially was exciting and a great resource for my personal life. Reply

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