Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Perfect Mis-Understandings #3: Cheshvan or MarcheShvan

I originally read Ari Zivotofsky's article in Jewish Action. Ari Zivotofsky & I think somewhat alike - i.e. we both desire to dispel certain mis-understandings...

See Ari Zivotovsky artcile in PDF format at:
AZ Article

Here is how I blogged it on my Rabbi Wolpoe Comment on Tuesday, September 19, 2006
See my post regarding Kivnei Maron.

As far as I can tell all Rsihonim, {e.g. Rashi, Tosafos, etc.} used the termed MarchSvhan as one long word.

Only later did it slide into a mis-understanding of Mar-Cheshvan as 2 words.
Ari Zivotofsky has documented the correct etymology in an article in Jewish Action magazine. MarchShvan therefore indicates
March - month
Shvan - eight.

It is Chaldean for the 8th month!

MarchShvan = Yerach Shmon{e} implying that an embedded inversion of the Meme occured. This would imply ALSO the 8th month with a more Hebraic etymology.

Either way the fanciful ideas that Cheshvan is a word or a month are mis-leading. It is NOT an independent word.

Mail Jewish Volume 38 Number 52:
Marcheshvan-- from the Akkadian "Warchu Samnu" which is cognate to the Hebrew "Yareach Shmoneh," or "Moon {Month) Eight." He says that "m" and "w" frequently get interchanged in Akkadian (see below under Sivan), and I know that "y" in Hebrew sometimes corresponds to "w" in other Semitic languages. "Yareach" and its cognates in other Semitic languages might originally mean "wanderer" and be related to Hebrew "oreach."
The problem is not with this discovery my friends.  Virtually every Rishon says Marcheshvan
and NOT Cheshvan.

The questions are:

  1. How did the original term get lost when it has been carefully preserved in Talmud, Rashi, Rema, etc.?
  2. How did the original meaning get morphed into fanciful "Kiddie Midrash?"

Kol Tuv- Best Regards,
Rabbi Richard Wolpoe

Previously Posted: 10/16/07

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