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Wooden Ships: Almanac For A Cold November

Wooden Ships: Almanac For A Cold November

Associate Editor

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

This is the season of Mashiv HaRuach, “He makes the wind blow and the rain fall.” And this was Shabbat Mevorchim, the Blessing of the New Month — Chanukah’s month, Kislev, beginning Thanksgiving night, Nov. 27.

Here’s a lovely and wistful niggun, The Fields of November by Norman Blake, a great Nashville musician who some may first remember from Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline,” and a player in the band with the Carter Family and Johnny Cash. It’s music for late November. (”Fields of November” is the name of the album but scroll down to Track 11 for the tune itself. The link works best with Internet Explorer or Firefox).

If you can’t be wistful in November…

It was on Kislev 6 (Nov. 21, 1620), that 102 spiritual refugees, carried by the winds at sea aboard the wooden Mayflower for 65 days, landed on Plymouth Rock.

November was the month when Noah — along with family and animals — boarded another wooden ship, the Ark.

An old New Yorker cartoon depicted the Ark sailing away, while on a distant hilltop could be seen a unicorn, eyes filled with tears.

It began to rain — to flood — on Cheshvan 17. It was the Hebrew year of 1656, exactly 4,113 years ago.

Kislev 27 (this year on Dec. 24, the night of Chanukah’s 4th candle): The rain stops, 40 days after it starts. The end of the rain is followed by 150 days of the water’s swelling and churning, during which the water reaches a height of 15 cubits above the mountain peaks.

Sivan 1 (next May): The waters calm, subsiding at the rate of one cubit every four days.

Sivan 17: The ark touches down on Mount Ararat.

Av 1 (next July): Mountain peaks break the water’s surface.

Elul 10 (next August): Forty days after the mountain peaks become visible, Noah opens the ark’s portal and let’s fly a raven.

Elul 17 (next September): Noah sends the dove.

Elul 23: The dove is sent a second time, returning with an olive leaf.

Cheshvan 27 (next November): The ground has fully dried. Noah, his family, and the animals leave the wooden ship.

The total time that Noah spent in the ark: One year and 11 days, according to the lunar calendar, or one complete solar year.

Look here for Chasidic insights into the flood. (Chabad was the source for these flood dates).

And please, check out the annual gathering of Chabad shluchim, this Sunday at 5:30 p.m. The great Yehuda Avner, a top aide to several prime ministers, including Rabin and Begin, will be the lay keynote speaker, and the state-by-state, country-by-country roll call of Chabad emissaries from every continent, ending in a 5,000-man dance, is must-see TV. You can see it broadcast as it happens right here. I circle this on my calendar months ahead of time, I haven’t missed one of these exhilerating evenings in at least 15 years. But into everyone’s life floodwaters rise, and so I’ll be elsewhere, sailing away.

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