[Avodah] Names of Months

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Wed Oct 21 14:25:04 PDT 2020

On Tue, Oct 20, 2020 at 09:46:35PM -0500, Brent Kaufman wrote:
> Now that the ancient pantheons of gods have been brought up, can anyone
> give an explanation for why the we name our months after Babylonian gods?

Of the ones we know translations for, only Tammuz. Warach Dumuzu means
"the month of [the god] Tammuz".

This month, Warach Samnu, which becomes Marcheshvan when mem and yud/vav
swap during the borrowing, simply means "8th month".

> Why does Megilas Esther change the Hebrew names of the 2 heroes of the
> story to those of Babylonian gods? (marduch and ishtar) ...

I assume these were the names they were called by in the royal court.
Like the way the Babylonians decided to call Chananiah, Mishael &
Azariah by the names Shadrakh, Meishakh, and Aved-Nego

And the use of Pesachyah's (?) and Hadasah's royal identities rather
than their Jewish ones is important to a point the megillah is trying to
make. You are effectively asking what that point is, but while I don't
know, I can tackle your first question.

The Ramban, R Bachya, Abarbanel (all on Shemos 12:22) and the Iaqim (3:16)
give variants of the idea that we use the Babylonian names in order to
commemorate our ge'ulah from Bavel. Just as the original month numbers
commemorate our ge'ulah from Mitzrayim.

Which has me wondering if after the next ge'ulah Marcheshvan will be
called October. (Which also means "8th month", and it was 8th before Jan &
Feb were inserted at the start of the year*.) This would fit the pattern
of the two previous returns to EY. BUT, the Babylonian calendar really
matches ours -- months are based on the actual moon, and they had leap
months. In fact, it was during our stay in Bavel that they shifted from
doubling Ululu (Ellul) to doubling Addaru. Just like us. The Gregorian
"months" of 30 or 31 (or 28) days don't line up one-to-one with ours
the same.

The whole thing about Babylonian month names reminded me of a story R
Henoch Teller tells about a BT who was feeling awkward in the miqvah. On
his arm, usually under his sleeve, was a tattoo that he got back when
living a very different lifestyle. An older gentleman saw how he was
holding his towel, angling his arm to always be near the wall, and
otherwise avoid it being scene.

The older man showed him his arm, which (as you knew was coming) had a
very different kind of tattoo on it.

"You see this? I don't hide it. I wear it with pride. It reminds me of
where I once was, and how far I have come."

Expanding on what those rishonim write, that's what the Babylonian month
names mean to me. Few chose to come back to Israel, and of those who did,
a shocking number were intermarried. Assimilation was commonplace.

But then Hashem took us out of Bavel. But we kept the month names to remember
when we used them caring about who Demuzi was supposed to have been.

(* I know many of you were under the impression the two added months are
Jul and Aug, but really they were renamings of Quintilis and Sextilis. Jan
and Feb were added later. In Julian and Augustus's era, Rome had a decimal
system -- 10 months for a total of only 304 days per "year".)

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 If you're going through hell
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   keep going.
Author: Widen Your Tent                      - Winston Churchill
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF

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