The Month of Cheshvan

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13 Feb 2014

Sign: Akrav (Scorpion) – because the earth is thirsty for water
Other Names: Mar Cheshvan, Bul, Hachodesh HaShmini

Significance: Cheshvan, the month following Tishrei on the modern Jewish calendar is referred to in the Tanach as Yerach Bul (Kings I, Chapter 6:38). Bul refers to the idea that during this month the grass withers (baleh) and feed is mixed (bolelin) in the house for the animals (Rashi’s interpretation). Others think it may come from the word yevul (produce) for during this month plowing and planting begin in Israel. Still others see a reference to Mabul, flood, since according to the Midrash more rain falls in this month since it marks the beginning of the great Flood during the time of Noach.

In modern times, this month has become known as Cheshvan or MarCheshvan, which seems to have originated at the time that Jews came back to Israel after the Babylonian Exile. The prefix Mar (which means bitter) is a reference to this month having no festivals or rejoicing, but much suffering for Jews throughout the ages. Also during this month, God brought down the Flood and drowned the world (except for Noach and those with him on the ark.) Mar also means drop and refers to the first rains (the Yoreh), which fall in Cheshvan.

Ritual Practices: Cheshvan always has a two-day Rosh Chodesh, the second of which, the first of the new month, always falls on a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday or Shabbat.

On the seventh day of Cheshvan those living in Israel begin requesting rain by adding “Veten Tal U’Matar” to their Shmone Esre prayers. If no rain has fallen by the 17th, a drought is feared and ritual fasting ans special prayer begins.

The 27th of Cheshvan is observed by those who fast on Erev Rosh Chodesh as a Yom Kippur Katan (small scale Yom Kippur) fast day. If ten or more men are fasting, the passages of Vayechal are read at Mincha.

Other facts: King Solomon completed the seven-year building of the Sanctuary during Cheshvan and there should have been a festival. Though all Israel waited for G-d’s command concerning this dedication, G-d waited until the next Tishrei (11 months later) before he finally commanded the dedication.

Yet our sages tell us (Yalkut Melachim 184) that Mar-Cheshvan will be repaid by G-d for its loss in the world to come.

Important Dates During Mar Cheshvan:

4 RAMBAN (Nachmanides) Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman Died 1270 (5031)
11 Rachel Imeinu Wife of Yaakov Died
12 Yitzchak Rabin Prime Minister of Israel 1974-77/92-95 Assassinated 1995 (5756)
13 Zeev Jabotinsky Great Zionist Leader Born 1880 (5641)
15 Kristallnacht Night of Broken Glass 1938 (5699)
17 Balfour Declaration British Gov’t Agree to Jewish Homeland Issued 1917 (5678)
20 Don Isaac Abarbanel Biblical Commentator, Statesman Died 1508 (5269)
26 Yitzchak Shamir Prime Minister of Israel 1983-84/86-92 Born 1915 (5676)

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