1. It’s Called Cheshvan and Marcheshvan

Like the names for the other months used by contemporary Jews, this month’s current name came with us from Babylon.1 However, there are two variations of this name: the “proper” name recorded in the Talmud and used in legal documents is Marcheshvan, while in common parlance it is truncated down to Cheshvan. What happened to the “Mar”? The most common explanation is that mar means bitter, and who wants a bitter taste in their mouth?

Read: Is This Month Cheshvan or Marcheshvan?

2. It’s Month #8 and #2

The Jewish year has (at least2 ) two “heads,” Nissan in the spring and Tishrei in the fall. This month is the eighth month from Nissan and the second month after Tishrei, when we observe the High Holidays and the joyous month of Sukkot.

This month is one of settling back into a routine in which the inspiration of the previous month is extended into the long, cold winter ahead.

Read: Back to Normal: the Month of Marcheshvan

3. Its Zodiac Is Scorpio

The mazal (zodiac) of this month is akrav (scorpio). The sages say that this is appropriate for a month that follows the judgment of the previous month, Tishrei, which has the sign of libra (scales). Those who fell short in judgment now experience the stinging results of their misdeeds.3

According to another tradition,4 it is a time of protection for the Jewish people, as prophesied by Ezekiel, “And you, son of man, fear them not, and fear not their words . . . and you sit on scorpions.”5

Watch: The Zodiac of Marcheshvan

4. Solomon Finished the Temple in Cheshvan (Bul)

After seven years of construction, the First Holy Temple in Jerusalem was completed by Solomon’s workers “in the month Bul, which is the eighth month.”6 The word bul is apparently related to the word for “withering,” and in Cheshvan the branches and stubble in the field begin to wither.

Watch the Rebbe Learn a Lesson From This Fact

5. The Great Flood Began and Ended

The sages provide us with two possible timelines for when the Great Flood took place. According to Rabbi Eliezer, the rain began to fall on the 17th day of this month, in the 600th year of Noah’s life.7 The Talmud explains that this was the natural time for rain to fall, but the sheer volume of the deluge and the fact that hot springs rose from the earth as well were supernatural. The Talmud concludes that the Jewish sages (as opposed to the wise men of the gentiles) sided with the tradition of Rabbi Eliezer.8

After more than a year aboard the ark, Noah and the animals exited the ark on the 27th of Cheshvan.

Read: The Full Story of Noah and the Ark

6. In Israel We Begin Asking for Rain on Cheshvan 7

Starting on Shemini Atzeret, we begin mentioning rain in our thrice-daily prayers. However, we do not actually pray for rain until later. In the Land of Israel, this starts on Cheshvan 7, which in Temple times was the date when the last of the pilgrims would have arrived home from Jerusalem, so no one would be inconvenienced by the rainfall.

Outside of Israel, we begin praying for rain somewhat later (in early December), at the time when rains begin to fall in Babylon, the historic center of the diaspora communities.

Read: Why Is the Prayer for Rain Based on the Civil Calendar?

7. Some Fast “Behab” in This Month

There is an ancient Ashkenazi custom to fast on the first Monday, Thursday and then the following Monday of the Jewish months of Cheshvan and Iyar—shortly following the Sukkot and Passover holidays.

These fasts serve to atone for any inadvertent sin that may have been committed as a result of over-the-top lightheadedness and merriment during the week-long holidays, when people are off of work for an extended period of time. (Due to the special nature of the months of Tishrei and Nissan, these fasts are postponed until the following months.)

Read: What Is the Fast of Behab?

8. It Can Be 29 or 30 days

The Hebrew months generally alternate in length. One has 29 days, the next has 30, etc. The exceptions are Cheshvan and the following month of Kislev, which can (a) both have 29; (b) both have 30; or (c) have 29 and 30 respectively, allowing for the Jewish months to be calibrated just so.

Explore: The Hebrew Months

9. Mamma Rochel’s Yartzeit is on the 11th

Cheshvan 11 is commonly observed as the yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing) of our matriarch Rachel, known to Jews all over as Mamma Rochel. According to tradition, she was buried along the road so that she could weep for her descendants as they were led off to exile. Her resting place, located in modern day Bethlehem, is a magnet for prayers, especially on and around Cheshvan 11.

Read: Rachel’s Tomb

10. Cheshvan 20: Birth of the Rebbe Rashab

Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber of Lubavitch (known as the Rebbe Rashab) was born on Cheshvan 20, 5621 (1860).

He founded the flagship Chabad yeshivah Tomchei Temimim, the first to incorporate Chassidic thought into its syllabus. His written works provide the first systematic organization of Chabad thought and provide the basis of these studies in Chabad yeshivahs today.

As leader during the upheavals of the turn of the 20th century and Stalin’s crushing rise to power, he laid the foundation for a robust Jewish leadership in the Soviet Union and beyond, which secured Jewish continuity until this very day.

Read: The Rebbe Rashab