Image: Tea light candle menorah with 4-petal flower decorations; in antique gold finish; wire and galvanised iron material; handcrafted. (Jcgumpal via Wikimedia)
It’s Rosh Chodesh Kislev! Rosh Chodesh means “first of the month.” Look at the sky and you will see almost no moon at all – the New Moon is the signal for the new month.
The most famous thing about Kislev is that on the 25th of the month, we will begin the celebration of Chanukah.
The name “Kislev” (KEES-lev) comes from the Akkadian word kislimu, which means “thickened.” Since it’s a month in which rains come to the Middle East, perhaps it’s a reference to the mud that come with heavy rain. The Akkadians were an early civilization in Mesopotamia, and much of the modern-day Jewish Calendar comes from Mesopotamia.
Why Mesopotamia? Because that’s where our ancestors were exiled after the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 586 BCE. There was an earlier calendar, with its New Year in the month of Nisan in the springtime; remnants of that calendar may still be found in the Torah, which speaks of Nisan as “the first month.”
This month we remember a struggle between the Maccabees and the Hellenizers that took place in the 2nd century BCE (Before the Common Era.) For that story, check out the summary in MyJewishLearning.com.