19 October 2009

Please Don't Call This Month "Tober" Nor "Heshvan"

Yesterday and today are the first days of the month of מרחשון (Marheshvan) on the Jewish calendar. As to what it means, Rabbi Ari Zivotofsky wrote that
is probably derived from its location in the calendar. In Akkadian (Babylonian/Assyrian), “w” (ו) and “m” (מ) sounds can interchange. As a result, Marcheshvan which is from the two words מרח and שון, would have been ורח and שמן, in Akkadian, corresponding to the Hebrew ירח שמיני, thus “eighth month.” In the Yemenite tradition, the name of the month is pronounced Marachsha’wan, not Mar-cheshvan as in the Ashkenazic tradition, and this would seem to preserve a greater fidelity to the original.
However, it is very common that people call it cheshvan instead of marcheshvan, which is unfortunate, because that's not reflective of what it means. It would be akin to calling the Gregorian calendar month of October, in which we are now, as 'Tober. My plea is that people get their facts right :)

4 comments:

Mike S. said...

Actually, calling this "Tober", thus losing the now incorrect implication that this is the 8th month of the year, might be an improvement. The origin of "October" was in a calendar whose year began in March, which hasn't been the case for centuries. Similarly, although the cycle of yamim tovim begins with Pesach, and the Torah numbers months from Nissan, we really count years only from Tishrei at this point, so Marchesvan, although reflective of the etymology, is not reflective of our current calendar. The fact that the commonly used "Cheshvan" distorts the origin is of no matter.

I will join you in complaining about "Netz hachama" anytime you like, however.

Drew_Kaplan said...

Mike,
Although the meaning is odd for October as it's now the 10th month, it makes less sense to call it 'tober'. Also even though we count years from תשרי, months still go back to ניסן.

Drew_Kaplan said...

oh - and I might put out הנץ החמה out there one day although I would be surprised if no one has yet covered it

Mike S. said...

I know months count from Nisan, and the 1st Mishnah in Rosh Hashana, but wake anyone up at 2:30 AM and ask when the jewish year starts and you will be answered with rosh Hashanah--not with well there are 4 dates depending on for what purpose.

Why does it make less sense to call this month Tober; proper nouns are more or less arbitrary anyway. What is the value of maintaining the connection with an etymology no longer relevant.