Saturday, February 25, 2006


This morning the upcoming month of Adar was announced. The original names of the Hebrew months were numerical starting with the month of Pesach, so Adar was known simply as the twelfth month. But during the Babylonian exile, the Jews began adopting the Babylonian names, and later, according to the rabbis, the "names of the months went up (made aliya) from Babylonia." These are the names we are all familiar with today.

What is the meaning of the name Adar? There are two primary theories. Jastrow claims that it derives from an Assyrian word - adaru -meaning cloudy or dark. I suppose this is connected to the fact that Adar falls during winter.

A more popular theory is that Adar comes from the Akkadian word iddar, meaning threshing floor. It's unclear why Adar would be associated with a threshing floor, but one guess is that this was the month that the threshing floors were prepared for the upcoming spring harvest.

While Jastrow doesn't suggest an iddar - Adar connection, he does give some interesting possible origins to the word iddar. He translates it as a "place cut off, circle...whence threshing place, barn". The word אידר would then derive from the root dor - דור - meaning to go around in a circle. Dor is the root of many Hebrew words, most notably cadur - כדור - "like a circle." Due to the substitution of Z for D in Hebrew and the related languages (for example נדר and נזר), we can add a few more words - zira זירה (arena) and zer זר - wreath.

According to this site, the Biblical place name Adoraim also derives from the same root - threshing floor. Adoraim was several kilometers south of Hebron, and the name is preserved in the Arab town of Dura.

One place name that certainly doesn't come from the month of Adar is the town of Har Adar. Har Adar was originally a British radar station, and had the name "Radar Hill" (Givat Haradar). When the town was built, the name transformed from ha-radar to Har Adar.

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