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Friday, February 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Bo

In this week's parsha, Moshe and Aharon are given the commandment (12:2) of "hachodesh hazeh lachem rosh chadashim," establishing the month we know as Nisan as the first of the twelve months. Ramban famously declares this aspect of the calendar to be a mitzvah, explaining that just like we count the days of the week towards Shabbos as a means to be constantly mindful of Shabbos, we count the months from Nisan to recall the exodus from Mitzrayim. He goes on to describe, based on the Yerushalmi, that the names we use today for the months originated in Bavel and remained in use after we returned to Eretz Yisrael to build the second Beis HaMikdash as a means of recalling HaShem's having brought us up from there. And as we know, those names persist to this day.

R' Yaakov Kamenetsky, in Emes L'Yaakov, is puzzled by this last point. Why would we celebrate our exodus from Bavel by hanging on to a practice which originated from those dark days of exile? Aside from abandoning the practice of referring to the months numerically, we are adopting the Aramaic language and even worse, some names which are references to avodah zarah, such as Tammuz.

R' Yaakov references a mishnah (Shekalim 6:2) which retells a story in which the location of the aron was almost revealed during the second Beis HaMikdash. However, the end of the mishnah makes it quite clear that there was an understanding as to where it was hidden. If that is so, why did it remain concealed for the duration of the second Beis HaMikdash? He explains that there was a clear awareness that this iteration of the Beis HaMikdash would not be the final eternal one. Rather, the conditions of the exile in Bavel made it necessary for this brief return as a preparation for the long and arduous exile that would follow. As such, we maintained the usage of the Babylonian months as a reminder that this redemption is not complete. He also suggests that it is for this reason that even the Talmud Yerushalmi, which was arranged in Eretz Yisrael, is written in Aramaic.

It is interesting to note that while names were adopted for the months in lieu of ordinal numbers, the same was not done for the days of the week. It could be that this was circumstantial and there were no names for the days of the week in the Babylonian culture. Perhaps, as Ramban explains, only the names of the months were adopted to fulfill the directive stated in Yirmiyah (16:14-15) to ultimately replace the recollection of the exodus from Mitzrayim with that of Bavel and other lands. The recollection of Shabbos, however, can never be replaced.

That said, in English and other languages, there are names for the days of the week that are widely used while leshon hakodesh has maintained its original form. I am not familiar with the historical process of the framing of the Yiddish language but it has always puzzled me that names were adopted for the days of the week from the common secular sources which also have ties to avodah zarah, rather than reverting to ordinal numbers which have such deep religious significance.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Talented Locusts
AstroTorah: Korban Pesach in the Sky by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: The Death Star (Ra'ah) the classic by R' Ari Storch

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