Sivan is the month when summer is already permeating the senses. The bloom of the perennial flowers from the shining sun sings summer. Yet the magic of Sivan and the reason why it is such an extraordinary month is because in the month of Sivan, the Jewish people received the Torah.
Sivan is the third month of twelve, according to the Jewish calendar. It is referred to in conjunction with Exodus and arrival by Har Sinai (Shemot 19:1) – “In the third month of the exodus from Egypt, they came to the Sinai desert.” The name Sivan, however, is only found once in all of Tanakh, in the eighth chapter of Megillat Esther, referring to the month when the initial law of Jewish genocide is repealed. The etymology of the word Sivan is said to be Assyrian and means joy, as it is the season when the wheat is harvested. Imagine the joy when the healthy abundant wheat crop is piling up in the markets; the mills start churning, and the smell of bread fills the air! Indeed this month is replete with celebration and happiness, which we are meant to share with all members of the nation.
On a more mystical plane, the word Sivan can teach us a powerful message as we enter this celebratory month of the giving of the Torah. The word is formed by the Hebrew letter Samech and the word Hebrew word יָוָן-Yavan. The design of the letter Samech is a perfectly closed circle, a shape that has no beginning and no end. The word יָוָן-Yavan means “he Hellenized”. The Greek-Hellenistic culture is centered around polytheistic and anthropocentric worship – the aggrandizement of the body, aka Olympic Games, and of the many Greek gods and myths.
Why then is Sivan the name of the month in which the Jewish people received the Torah? What holiness is perhaps contained in the undertone of the word?
The round Samech is illustrative of a wedding band, expressing the mutual investment in a continuous relationship. Regardless of a bad day or the many mistakes humans make, a marriage is two people committing fully and wholly for a greater purpose. The shape of the letter Samech is a circle that loops forever, also representing infinity. In Kabbalah, the Samech is the infinite power of Ein Sof- God’s inner, infinite divine light. Ein Sof is the transcendent light of God which is infused in every individual.
Appropriately then, in the month of Sivan, the Jewish people were wed with Hashem at Har Sinai, as Chazal state in Talmud Taanit 26b that the giving of the Torah was “the betrothal ceremony.” God provided us with a “wedding band” representing our eternal obligations and commitment one to the other. What does this marriage entail? What is it that we, the Jewish people, are committed to? The answer is found in the full word of Sivan- the Jewish people committed to bringing the infinite light of Ein Sof into a secular Hellenistic world. We incorporate the Samech – the all-encompassing pure light of God, into the physical world of יָוָן-Yavan. We remember the contract that binds us to God and we infuse spiritual meaning into the mundane, transforming an anthropocentric Hellenized world into a theocentric godly existence!
In the month of Sivan as we celebrate the gift of Torah, we are reminded through the name of the month of the purpose of this gift – i.e, to infuse this world with meaning. May we feel and share the joy of harvesting our physical bounty of wheat and our spiritual staple of Torah in this extraordinary month as we anticipate the potential fruits to come.
Chodesh Sivan Sameach!
Matan Women's Institute for Torah Studieshas been at the cutting edge of Torah learning for women since it was established in 1988.