On Wednesdayand Thursdayof this week, we markthe arrival of the month that is usually referred to as either חֶשְׁוָןor מַרְׁ חֶשְׁוָן. It is common knowledge that the second name developed from the first: the word מַר, which means “bitter,” was added to חֶשְׁוָןbecause it is the only month in the Jewish calendar with absolutely no holidays or other out-of-the-ordinary days —not even a fast day.
Although the High Holidays —the two days ofRosh Hashanah(the Jewish New Year) andYom Kippur(the Day of Atonement) —occupy three days only, they lie within a web of liturgy and customs that extend from the beginning of the preceding Hebrewmonth of ElulthroughYom Kippur. The focus of this entire period is the process ofteshuvah, or repentance, whereby aJew admits to sins, asks for forgiveness, and resolves not to repeat the sins.
The “Three Weeks” between the 17th of Tammuz and the Tisha B’Av have historically been days of misfortune and calamity for the Jewish people. During this time, both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, amongst other tragedies.