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1. Cheshvan is the eighth of the twelve months on the Jewish calendar.
2. Cheshvan comes at the same time as the secular months of October/November. Pumpkins, squash, and gourds have arrived, reminding us of the cycle of planting and harvesting. Nature begins to hibernate, and mirroring this process, we too slow down and turn inward
3. The constellation for Cheshvan is Scorpio מזל העקרב
(mazal akrav–the scorpion).
4. Cheshvan is often referred to as מר mar Cheshvan, "bitter." Cheshvan is also referred to as “bitter” because the month contains no holy days, and because it often coincides with the arrival of colder weather. מר "Mar" can also mean a drop of water. According to a מדרש midrash, more rain falls in "watery Cheshvan" since it marks the beginning of the great flood during the time of Noah. We can also think of Cheshvan as a quiet time to reap the benefits of the spiritual growth of the preceding month of Tishrei.
Fabulous Females of Cheshvan
Cheshvan contains the yahrzeits of many important women in Jewish history including:
1. Rachel Imeynu (our foremother) who, along with her sister Leah and their handmaidens Bilhah and Zilpah, gave birth to the twelve sons who were to become the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. Deeply loved by her husband Jacob, Rachel, like her son Joseph, is celebrated for her remarkable beauty. And like Sarah, Rachel was barren for many years. Ultimately she accomplished her goal of childbearing through her courage and persistence. Sadly, Rachel died in childbirth with her second son, Benjamin.Tradition teaches that Rachel died on the 11th of Cheshvan and that she is buried in Kever Rachel (Rachel's tomb), outside of Bethlehem, where she is said to weep for all of us, her children. Our foremother Rachel is remembered for her compassion, perseverance, and devotion.
2. Poet Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) wrote the famous sonnet welcoming new immigrants to America that is engraved on the Statue of Liberty. Lazarus' paternal ancestors were among the first twenty-three Jews to settle in New York in 1654. Her yahrzeit is the 19th of Cheshvan. Emma Lazurus teaches us to welcome people from all backgrounds, to help those less fortunate than ourselves, and to pursue our artistic passions.
3. Author, Zionist and war hero Hannah Senesh (1921-1944) was born in Hungary and made עלייה aliyah (immigrated) to Palestine. Senesh was captured and executed while courageously trying to save Hungarian Jews from the Nazis. Her yahrzeit is the 20th of Cheshvan. Hannah Senesh's poem “Halihah Lekeysaryah” became popularized as the lyrics to the beloved song Eli, Eli. Hannah Senesh is a model of bravery and righteousness whose allegiance to the Jewish people and Israel surpassed everything else in her life.
4. Author Anzia Yezierska (1883-1970) wrote novels and short stories that vividly depict immigrant life in New York's Lower East Side. Her yahrzeit is the 22nd of Cheshvan. Perhaps her most famous book, The Breadgivers, takes us inside an early 20th-century American immigrant Jewish family in which Sarah, the narrator, struggles to find fulfillment through education, work, and love. Anzia Yezierska teaches us about the power of observation and the joys of storytelling.
To learn more about Rosh Chodesh or the month of Cheshvan, visit www.ritualwell.org.