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Question: I see that some people refer to the month of Cheshvan as Marcheshvan. Which is correct?

Nachman M.



Answer: Before going further, we should note that the answer to this question also carries halachic ramifications. When writing a get, for example, the Rema (Even Ha’ezer 126:6) rules that one is required to indicate the second month as “Marcheshvan.” When writing a ketubah, a person should also – although isn’t obligated to – use “Marcheshvan” as opposed to “Cheshvan.”

In addition to the reasons we mentioned last week for this month being called Marcheshvan is the lack of any festival (or the commemoration of any sort, such as a fast day) during this month. Thus, the name Cheshvan is prefaced with the word “mar,” which means bitter.

(Elul also contains no holidays, but it is strongly tied to the following month, Tishrei, and both are periods of teshuvah.)

A number of sad events occurred during Marcheshvan. The Great Flood commenced on the seventh of the month. Also during this month, the Babylonians slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah, the last king of Judea, and then blinded Zedekiah as they carried him away in chains to Babylonia. The 11th of the month is the yahrzeit of Rachel. And the 15th of the month marks the date that Yeroboam ben Nebat created his own festival in violation of Torah law to keep the people from going to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

After many years of learning Ba’al HaTurim, I now come up with some interesting gematriot myself. Here is one of them: The phrase “zayin b’marcheshvan” equals 613, which is the sum of the 248 eivarim (limbs) and 365 gid’im (veins). Indeed, without rain (mar) man cannot exist.

Additionally, the number of letters in the request for rain recited in the blessing of “Mevarech Hashanim” in Shemoneh Esreh – “Ve’ten tal u’matar l’vracha” – totals 14, the very same number of letters in the phrase “sh’eal mi’shivah Marcheshvan – request from the seventh day of Marcheshvan.”

Another relevant gematria that equals 613 is the phrase, “Din mayim l’hachayot – The judgment of water to sustain life.” Noah’s generation was destroyed with water, but Noah and his family were saved – and mankind thus preserved – via an ark that floated on water.

Let us pray that all judgments, especially those relating to the current Covid-19 pandemic, be overturned for good, and may we all experience a year of health, prosperity, and, above all, the peaceful times of Moshiach.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.