Thursday, March 30, 2006


Today is the first day of the month of Nisan, which in the Torah was known as the month of Aviv (sometimes transliterated as Abib.) For example, Shmot 13:4 states "This day you are going out in the the month of the Aviv": הַיּוֹם אַתֶּם יֹצְאִים בְּחֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב

While in modern Hebrew aviv means spring, in the Bible it meant young barley. We see this in the plague of hail (Shmot 9:31) "the barley was aviv": כִּי הַשְּׂעֹרָה אָבִיב

Additionally, in VaYikra 2:14 we read about the Omer offering, which was barley poached in fire: אָבִיב קָלוּי בָּאֵשׁ. Since the Omer offering began in the month of Nisan, the barley connection to the original name is very logical.
Yet if we dig a little deeper, we see that aviv comes from the root אבב meaning to bring forth shoots, or to be fresh. For example, in Job 8:12 we have a related word: עֹדֶנּוּ בְאִבּוֹ - "while yet in its freshness". So the connection to spring is not only due to the barley harvest, but because of the general renewal of the season.
Two well known cities derive their name from the root aviv. Of course you will recognize the connection to the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. In 1910, Nachum Sokolow took the name - meaning "hill of spring" from the book of Yechezkel (3:15), where it actually refers to a Babylonian location.
The other city? The Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, meaning "new flower" or "new blossom". Addis comes from the same Semitic root as חדש chadash (new) and Ababa derives from the same root as aviv.

No comments: