Heshvan is the second month of the religious calendar, the eighth month of the civil calendar. Heshvan has 29 or 30 days, and its zodiac sign is Scorpio.

Before the Babylonian exile, the month was known as Bul; it appears in the Bible in I Kings 6:38, which reports that King Solomon had completed the building of the Temple: "In the eleventh year in the month of Bul that is the eighth month the House was completed according to all its details and all its specifications. It took him seven years to build it."

Following the exile the month was called Marheshvan, frequently shortened to Heshvan. Marheshvan is believed to be etymologically linked to the word Arahsammu, the Assyrian word for "eighth month." Because Heshvan is the only month in the Jewish calendar that does not contain any festival or fast observance, it has become popular to claim that the prefix "mar," which means "bitter" in Hebrew, relates to the absence of special observances.

Ashkenazim outside the Land of Israel incorporate a daily prayer for rain (in the ninth benediction of the Amidah prayer)[1] from the seventh of Heshvan until Passover; elsewhere the prayer for rain is recited from immediately after Sukkot, Feast of the Tabernacles.

Historic days in Marheshvan include:

6 Heshvan: King Zedekiah was blinded at the command of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar,[2] and hence the day was at one time observed as a fast.[3]

7 Heshvan: commencement in the Land of Israel of the recitation of the Prayer for Rain in the Amidah prayer.

17 Heshvan: Pointing out the linguistic similarity between the word bul and the Hebrew Biblical word for Flood, mabul, there are those who claim that the reference to the flood's commencing "during the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day,"[4] refers to the month of Heshvan. For this reason, pious individuals during Talmudic times conducted a series of fasts during times of drought, with the hope that it would bring the rain.[5]

15, 17, 23 Heshvan: formerly commemorative of the respective victories of the Hasmoneans and Pharisees over the Greeks, Samaritans and Sadducees.[6]


footnotes [1] Ta'anit 1:3
[2] II Kings 25:7
[3] Meg. Ta'anit 13
[4] Genesis 7:11
[5] Ta'anit 1:4
[6] Meg. Ta'anit 8



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