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    Names of the months – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Certain months appear in the Torah, e.g. Aviv, the month of spring. Others are identified by numbers, e.g. “The 7th month” (=Tishri). What about the current names?

    A. Some come in the later books of Scripture; most are post-exilic and are from other languages.

    Nisan is linked with the Babylonian first month, Nisanu; some derive it from the Hebrew n-s-a, to start. In the Torah it is Aviv, spring.

    Iyyar may be associated with the Hebrew or, light. In Tanach it is Ziv, brightness.

    Sivan is possibly linked with Assyrian Samu/Asamu, to mark or appoint, like sim in Hebrew.

    Tammuz may be from “Dumuzi”, a semitic deity.

    Av is an Assyrian name not mentioned in the Bible. A fuller version, M’nachem Av, “Av the Comforter”, recalls the belief that the Messiah will be born in this month.

    Ellul is Babylonian (Neh. 6:15).

    Tishri is from sherai/shera, to begin.

    Cheshvan or Mar-Cheshvan (I Kings 6:38) may be from the Assyrian Arahsammus, eighth month.

    Kislev is Assyrian (Zech. 1:1, 7:1).

    Tevet (Esther 2:16), linked with the Assyrian/Babylonian Tebetum, may be from a Hebrew root taba, to dip or sink (there is much rainfall this month).

    Sh’vat (Zech. 1:7) could be from a root sh-t, beating or shrinking.

    Adar (Esther 3:7) is possibly from “Adromelech”, a son of the king (Sennacherib).

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