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The Holidays of Cheshvan

Part II

In this installment I’d like to continue recounting some important dates of commemoration that fall out in the month of Cheshvan. I will continue with the largely forgotten minor Purims, other miscellaneous dates of commemoration, and then we move on to some extinct holidays mentioned in the early Mishnaic-era compendium of Megillat Taanit.

 

Ninth and Tenth of Cheshvan

*Purim Vidin, 1807. Background: Passvanoglu, the feudal lord of Vidin (Bulgaria) on the Danube, had in his service a Jewish physician named Cohen. Passvanoglu became mortally ill through contact with a poisoned sword. The Muslim population accused the Jewish physician of causing the poisoning, and the Jewish community was threatened with a general massacre. Fortunately, the dying man himself energetically defended his physician, and the threatened calamity was averted. Hence the ninth and 10th of Cheshvan were declared days of Purim.

 

14th of Cheshvan

*Purim Prague, 1620. Background: During the 30 Years’ War, the Jews of Prague were saved from calamity after Hapsburg forces led by King Ferdinand II repulsed a rebellion by Protestant rebels. There was fear in the Jewish community because the Jews had briefly sided with the rebels who were poised to win. The Jews were grateful when Ferdinand commanded his armies to protect the Jewish ghetto. In commemoration of these events, the eminent Rabbi Yom Tov Lipmann Heller (better known for his magnum opus “Tosfot Yom Tov) instituted a half day of fasting marked by the recitation of Selichot, including “Anusah le’eezra adecha” and “archa haymaim u’tlaah ravta” composed by Heller for the occasion, followed by an evening of feasting. This Purim is described in detail in Rachel L. Greenblatt’s excellent “To Tell Their Children Jewish Communal Memory in Early Modern Prague” (see here

https://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=20110).

 

11th of Cheshvan

*Yahrzeit of Rachel who passed away while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin, the 12th son of Jacob and his 13th child. Tradition has it that Benjamim passed away on the 11th of Cheshvan as well.

 

15th of Cheshvan

*Yahrtzeit of Matityahu ben Yochanan Kohen Gadol of Chanukah fame.

 

16th of Cheshvan

*A night that will live in infamy: Kristallnacht, 1938

 

Forgotten Mishnaic-Era Holidays

The end of Cheshvan includes, as I mentioned, some extinct Mishnaic-era minor holidays. These dates are recorded in an Aramaic chronicle known as Megillat Taanit (a beautiful edition by Dr. Vered Noam and published by Ben Zvi is available here https://www.ybz.org.il/?CategoryID=636&ArticleID=3076#.YWSigqhAr8k.

This “Scroll of Fasts” enumerates 35 days on which the Jewish people experienced joyful events and therefore public mourning was forbidden on 14 of them, and public fasting on all. The book also includes scholia or commentaries on the text, written in Hebrew.

The following text and translation are courtesy of the Sefaria.org website:

 

23rd of Cheshvan

בעשרים ושלשה במרחשון ויסתתר סוריגא מן עזרתא

On the 23rd of Cheshvan the Sorega was torn away from the Azarah.

מפני שבנו גוים מקום בעזרה והיו מעמידים בתוכו אבנים טובות שיהיו מונחות עד שיבא אליהו ויעיד עליהם אם טמאות ואם טהורות הן ונמנו עליהם וגנזו אותן ובאותו היום שגנזו עשאוהו י»ט.

Eleven months following the victory of the Maccabees, when the Temple in Jerusalem was purified and rededicated, the stones of the Temple’s altar that had been defiled by the Greeks were removed and placed in a storage chamber on the Temple Mount. This day was celebrated as a holiday.

 

25th of Cheshvan

בכ”ה ביה אחידת שומרון שורא

On the 25th thereof the wall of Samaria was captured.

ומה היא אחידת שומרון מפני שכשעלתה גלות הראשונה הלכו להם למטליא זו של כותים ולא הניחום באו לים בוסטי

וישבו אותה והקיפוה עיר חומה ונסמכו לה עיירות רבות מישראל והיו קורין, אותה ערי נברכתא.

In 109 BCE, the Hasmoneans (led by Yochanan Hyrcanus, a nephew of Judah the Maccabee) conquered Samaria, the capital city of the Samaritan sect. This conquest was significant because it ended some 800 years of Samaritan influence in Judea. The Samaritans were at odds with the Jews and claimed (still do) to be the descendants of the remnants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the authentic heirs of the Mosaic tradition.

 

27th of Cheshvan

בעשרים ושבעה ביה תבת סולתא למיסק על מדבחא

On the 27th thereof they began again to bring the offerings of fine flour upon the altar.

מפני שהיו צדוקין אוכלים מנחת בהמה. נטפל להם ריב”ז אמר שוטים זו מניין לכם ולא היה בהם א’ שהחזיר לו דבר חוץ מזקן א’ שהיה מפטפט כנגדו ואומר מפני שהיה משה אוהב את אהרן אחיו אמר לא יאכל סלת לבדה אלא יאכל סלת ובשר כאדם שאומר לחבירו הילך רכיך הילך בשר הילך רכיך הילך בשר קרא עליו המקרא זה ויבאו אילמא ושם שתים עשרה עינות מים ושבעים תמרים. אמר לו רבי אתה משחק בנו אמר לו שוטה שבעולם ולא תהא תורה שלמה שלנו כשיחה בטלה שלכם א”ל רבי ובכך אתה פוטרני אמר לו לאו אמר לו הכתוב אומר ומנחתם ונסכיהם לריח ניחוח אשה לה’:

This day is in remembrance of the victory of the Pharisees over the Sadducees (Zedukim) in a dispute about meal-offerings in the Temple.


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