Category: Jewish holidays
Rosh Chodesh or Rosh Hodesh (Hebrew: ראש חודש; trans. Beginning of the Month; lit. Head of the Month) is the name for the first day of every month in the Hebrew calendar, marked by the birth of a new moon. It is considered a minor holiday, akin to the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot.
The Book of Exodus establishes the beginning of the Hebrew calendar:
"And the LORD spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: 'This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.'" (12:1-2)
In the Book of Numbers, God speaks of the celebration of the new moon to Moses:
"And on your joyous occasions - your fixed festivals and new moon days - you shall sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being." (10:10)
In Psalm 81:3, both new and full moon are mentioned as a time of recognition by the Hebrews:
"Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon, at the full moon, on our solemn feast day. For this is a statute for Israel, a law of the God of Jacob."
The occurrence of Rosh Chodesh was originally confirmed on the testimony of witnesses observing the new moon. After the Sanhedrin declared Rosh Chodesh for either a full month or a defective, 29-day month, news of it would then be communicated throughout Israel and the diaspora.
A custom was developed in which an additional day could be added to the month to ensure that certain holidays (such as Yom Kippur) did not fall on the days before or after Shabbat.
The Month of Cheshvan
Beginning of new Hebrew month of Cheshvan. Cheshvan is the 8th month of the Hebrew year. Corresponds to October or November on the Gregorian calendar.
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.
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.
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.
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