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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in pagan origins of jewish holidays

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Psalm to Ba'al: For Hanuka

Forget the Maccabees.

This time of year, the press goes into overdrive about the Temple in Jerusalem, miracles, and trick oil cruets.

Don't believe them.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The Jewish year 5775 begins at sundown tonight (Wednesday). In Hebrew, “new year” is r'osh ha-shana: literally, “head [of] the year.” Interestingly, the Arabic term for “new year” is the same: r'as as-sana. Clearly this expression goes back a long, long way, possibly even to Proto-Semitic times. In any event, the phrase long predates monotheism. One should probably posit an Arabic—possibly Moorish—origin for the Italian word for “new year,” capodanno. Three guesses what that means literally.

New Moon” in Hebrew is r'osh hodesh, literally (you guessed it) “head of the month.” Why would the head of something come to mean its beginning?

I can think of two possibilities.

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