The names of the Jewish months

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The names of the month:[1]

The origin:

The Yerushalmi[2] states that the names of the Hebrew months, Nissan, Iyar, Sivan etc, were brought down from Bavel, during the first exile [approximately in the 3200’s or 500 BC]. This teaches us that the names of the Hebrew months are not Hebrew in origin, but are from a foreign language that was spoken in Bavel at that time, which was called Akkadian[3].[4] This was the language spoken by the Chaldeans/Casdians.[5] It is for this reason that we do not find any of these names mentioned in early scripture, prior to the books of Zechariah, Ezra and Megillas Esther.[6] These names are used by the gentiles in Persia until today.[7] Despite the non-Hebrew and non-Jewish origin, the Jewish people adopted these names as they contain a hidden meaning, and disguised holiness. They are not typical Babylonian names. These names represent the elevation of Bavel, which represents exile, into the vicinity of holiness. This explains why these names not only have been adopted, but also why their use has even surpassed the usage of the names written explicitly in the Torah, as brought in B.[8]

Alternative explanation:[9] An alternative explanation is that in truth the names [or at least majority of them] are original Hebrew names which were forgotten with the years and later rediscovered. The intent of the Yerushalmi is hence to say that when the Jews went to Bavel they brought back the names, as the names were rediscovered. Accordingly, the names did not originate from the Akkadian language. This explanation resolves why some of the names have explicit Hebrew meaning, such as Nissan and Av, and also explains the wording of the Yerushalmi that the names were “brought down” and not innovated and the like.

 

  1. The original Hebrew names:[10]

The months in the Torah are called by number and not by a specific name with exception to four months. These are He’aviv[11] [Nissan]; Eisanim[12] [Tishrei]; Ziv[13] [Iyar]; Bul[14] [Marcheshvan]. The reason why the Torah does not give the months a specific name and rather calls it by number is because originally the intent was to count the months in accordance to the exile from Egypt. Therefore, Nissan, which is the month of the exodus, is the first month and all the other months are counted from Nissan.

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[1] See Torah Sheleima 11 Miluim 4-5

[2] Rosh Hashanah 1:2; brought in Tosafus Rosh Hashanah 7a; Brought also in Bereishis Raba 48

[3] Akkadian is an extinct East Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. Many of the words of this language centuries later evolved into Aramaic.

[4] Even Ezra Shemos 12:2; Ramban 12:2; Chizkuni ibid; See Torah Sheleima 11:176 that this has been historically proven from Babylonian writings that were discovered in ancient Ninveh

[5] Sefarim in orevious footnote

[6] Even Ezra ibid; Ramban ibid; There are seven names of months mentioned in Esther and Ezra: Nissan; Elul; Kisleiv; Teves; Shevat; Adar.

[7] Ramban ibid

[8] Toras Menachem 1985 4:2048

[9] Likkutei Sichos 23:215; Toras Menachem 1985 2:1253; See Shelah 409b that all words found in the Torah from foreign languages are in truth Hebrew words that have been implanted into those languages.

[10] Ramban 12:2

[11] Parshas Bo

[12] Melachim 1 8:2

[13] Melachim 1 6:1

[14] Melachim 1 6:38

[15] See Torah Shelima 11 Miluim 5

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