The Month of Sivan

Sivan is the third month of the Jewish calendar, corresponding approximately to the Gregorian month of June. The name itself is of Babylonian origin. In the Bible, it is simply referred to as ‘the third month’.

diagram showing the months in the Jewish year
The Jewish year, showing the sequence of the months and approximately when each month falls in relation to the secular months.

Sivan includes one day of Rosh Chodesh (celebration of the new moon) and is always 30 days long. The great event of the month of Sivan is the holiday of Shavuot, which corresponds with the receiving of the Torah by the Children of Israel on Mt. Sinai. Shavuot is commemorated in Israel on the sixth day of the month, and on the sixth and seventh days in the Jewish Diaspora (outside Israel).

The three days preceding the giving of the Torah: the third, fourth and fifth days of Sivan, are known asShloshet Yamei Hagbalah (the Three Days of Limitation). On the first of these days, Moses set demarcation lines beyond which Jewish people were not allowed to approach the holy mountain. On the second, Jewish men were commanded to separate from their wives so that both men and women could purify themselves for the giving of the Torah.

The Torah was originally meant to have been given to the Jewish people on the sixth day of the month, 50 days after the beginning of the exodus. Moses added an extra day of preparation to ready the people, and God agreed to this initiative. So the Torah was actually given on the seventh day of Sivan. Jews commemorate the holiday of Shavuot on the sixth day, because God’s original plan was to give the Torah on the sixth of Sivan.

The permutation of God’s name through which light flows during this month is YVHH—yud vav hey hey.Yud and vav are the masculine letters in the name, while hey represents the divine feminine. The female and male letters are thus separated in the name, as men and women were separated before receiving the Torah. This is intended to clarify that every Jewish person deserves to receive God’s light as an individual, not merely as part of a couple or family.

Sivan is referred to as ‘the third month’ in the Torah. After the children of Israel left the land of Egypt during the third month, they entered the wilderness of Sinai (Ex.19:1) The Talmud comments: “Blessed be our God who has given a threefold Torah [Torah, Prophets, Writings] to a three-fold nation [Kohanim, Levites, and Israelites] through one who was third [Moses, the third child after Aaron and Miriam] … in the third month.”

The limb associated with Sivan is the left leg. This complements the month of Nissan, whose limb is the right leg. Passover, occuring in Nissan, is a holiday of skipping: God skips over the houses of the Israelites, and Israel skips suddenly out of slavery. During Sivan, Jews receive the ability to walk, strongly and steadily, on two legs. They receive the Halachah, Jewish Law, whose name is derived from the word for walking, ‘halicha’.

The astrological sign of the month of Sivan is twins. This is associated with the central event of the month; the giving of the Torah. Through the giving of the Torah, human beings and God became like twins. People were given a path to draw close to God’s thoughts, as twins do, through their ascribed extra-sensory perception.

The 20th of Sivan was a day on which European Jews suffered a series of tragedies. In 1171, a Jew was accused of drowning a child, and 32 Jews were ordered killed. They died singing the Aleinu prayer. Their bodies, thrown into the fire, did not burn. Rabenu Tam declared this day a public fast day. In 1650, the day was reconfirmed as a fast after thousands of Jews were killed by Cossack marauders in 1648-49.

During Sivan, the drama which began with the exodus culminates with the giving of the Torah. Israel gains the ability to walk, and becomes like God’s twin.