Could William Shakespeare have been wrong? In “Romeo and Juliet” he penned these immortal words spoken by Juliet to Romeo:
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…
With all deference to the Bard of Avon, I say, “Not so fast.”
The month of Tishrei תשׁרי has a fascinating significance in that embedded within the precise word “Tishrei” itself is encoded a unique memory device for learning the title of each of the major holidays. Whether this was mere coincidence or a kind of divine inspiration to the Chazal who codified the names of the Jewish festivals for the Jewish calendar following the Babylonian exile—I prefer to believe it was the former—there is no doubt that within the word Tishrei lies the key to reinforcing the names of each chag of that busy month.
Consider first the holiday of Rosh Hashanah: ראש השנה. Here, one can readily see the Reish, the first letter, matching the third Reish appearing in the word Tishrei.
Yom Kippur? יום כפּור. Check. The final Yud of Tishrei perfectly matches up to the first letter, the Yud, spelling Yom Kippur.
The third letter, “shin” (or “sin,” with some poetic license, thank you) in Tishrei also aligns with the chagim, corresponding to the the first letter of Shemini Atzeret, שמיני עצרת, as well as with Shabbat Shuva, שבת שובה, and Simchat Torah, שמחת תורה.
What about Sukkot? True, this chag starts with a Samech, and there is no Samech in Tishrei; however, one can readily see that there are matching letter Tufs. Tuf, the last letter in Sukkot, clearly aligns with the first letter of Tishrei, also a Tuf.
For our children and grandchildren perhaps diagramming this concept will prove to be a chinuch—a teaching tool—that is both fun and educational. And if I learned one thing during those high school English classes, it was that “if you can diagram it, it must be true.”
Any doubters that this amazing phenomenon is not just coincidence but more likely divinely inspired would do well to consider the major themes of the month of Tishrei—repentance (or teshuvah) תשובה, Torah and tefillah (prayer )—all beginning with the letter Tuf.
Yes, they are all embedded within the first letter, also a Tuf, in Tishrei as well.
Wishing everyone in the community a wonderful and meaningful Tishrei as well as the entire New Year of 5783, May it be a year filled with health, happiness and peace, not only individually but for the entire Land of Israel.Sam Z. Mallin
Chatham, New Jersey (formerly of Teaneck)