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04/01/2022 11:04:19 AM


This week we read from 3 Torah scrolls: the regular parasha Tazria, the portion for the new Month of Nisan, and “parashat ha-hodesh” from Shemot, chapter 12.

The reading from the 2nd and 3rd Torahs is a wakeup call to all of us: Pesach is fast approaching. In the selection we read from the 3rd sefer (Shemot/Exodus chapter 12), Moshe is telling the people to prepare themselves for the Paschal sacrifice and for leaving Egypt.

The selection begins: “this month is the first of all the months.” The great 13th century Spanish commentator Nachmanides (Ramban,) in his comments on Exodus chapter 12, points out that the month names with which we are familiar do not appear in the Torah. Rather, the months are simply numbered beginning with the first month, which we know as Nisan. Thus, Rosh HaShanah, the beginning of the year, is in the 7th month! Go figure! You need a yiddesh kop to figure this out!

Well, according to Nahmanides, the answer is simple. We count the months from Nisan, in order to remember the great event of the Exodus, which happened in Nisan. This is modelled after the fact that there are no names for days of the week in Hebrew. Unlike English or French or Yiddish, which call the 2nd day of the week “lundi,” or “Monday, "or “Montog,” the Hebrew speaker says simply yom sheni, “the 2nd day.” That is, the 2nd of the week, which will culminate in Shabbat!

The names of the months that we use nowadays appear only in the later books of the Bible, such as Zecharia, Ezra, Nehemia, and, of course, Esther.  Why is that? Nahmanides quotes the Jerusalem Talmud that after the destruction of the 1st Temple, and the subsequent return to Zion, we call the months by their Babylonian names, in order to always be reminded how HaShem brought us out of the Babylonian exile and returned us to the Land of Israel.

May we merit a full redemption, speedily in our days!

P.S. Here are the names of some of the Babylonian months. Note the similarities to the Hebrew names with which we are familiar.

1. nisanu   2. ayyaru (Hebrew iyyar)   3. simanu (Hebrew sivan. As our Iraqi friends know, the Hebrew letter v was originally pronounced w. And these two letters could interchange, since both letters are pronounced with the lips (bilabials.)   5. abu (Hebrew ‘av: the sounds b and v are similar.)   6. ululu (think of elul.)   7. tashritu (think tishrei) etc.

Anyhow, whatever you call this month, have a kosher and happy Pesach, and may there be peace in the world.

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782