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In the spirit of Purim: some antics with Semitic semantics.

In the spirit of Purim: some antics with Semitic semantics.

By Dr. Jeremy Benstein, HATC Senior Advisor

 

1. Shikker House Rules

In Yiddish, “drunk” is shikker, from the Hebrew shikor. You get shikor from liquor, that is, shekhar (Hebrew “k” and “kh” alternate). Shekhar in the Tanakh is usually paired with wine, but its Latin translators didn’t know exactly what sort of drink it was, so they just transliterated it as sicera. That entered Old French as cisdre, and finally came into English as “cider.”

So even if you prefer beer, know that cider is the real He-brew.

2. Purim Unmasked

Another interesting English-Hebrew Purim connection is the word for “mask,” maseikhah. Now masks are daily de rigueur, but once, only Purim had a “mask mandate.” They sound so similar you might think the English word is derived from an ancient Hebrew root . . . but it isn’t.

The modern Hebrew maseikhah comes from the biblical root נ-ס-כ (n-s-k), which means “liquify” or “pour.” This root gives us words like nasikh, “prince,” close cousin to the “messiah,” mashi’akh, both of whom were regally anointed with oil. In Exodus 32:4 maseikhah refers to the formation of the Golden Calf, with molten metal cast in a mold.

With the modernization of Hebrew, many new terms had to be coined. In this case, however, an old word was pressed into service with a new meaning, simply because it sounded similar.

That’s how maseikhah was chosen to mean “mask,” because of the phonetic similarity with mask, masque, maske, maska, etc. (Likewise, the older Hebrew word m’khonah, which was chosen to mean “machine,” because of its similar sound).

3. Come as You (Really) Are

Purim masks are part of getting dressed up to “masquerade,” or in Hebrew, l’hitchapes. Here’s a little grammar to understand why this is such a cool word.

The root is ח-פ-ש (ch-p-s), which means to “search” or “look for,” in a form that describes something you do to yourself. For instance, from the root ל-ב-ש (l-b-sh), “dress, wear,” we get lilbosh, “to wear,” and l’hitlabesh, “to dress oneself” (get dressed).

So l’hitchapes, “to disguise oneself,” hyper-literally means “to look for oneself.” Instead of coming as someone or something else, you’re “coming out” as who you might be if you could. Whether it’s a superhero or celebrity, we express some aspirational part of ourselves through role-playing.

So whether you’ll be inebriating, masquerading, or just plain celebrating, enjoy it while it lasts. Soon enough, we’ll take off the masks, sober up, and start getting ready for Passover.

In other words: eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we clean.

HATC HIGHLIGHTS

Hebrew & Israel Culture and the DEI Lens

הוראת תרבות עברית וישראלית בשיעור עברית דרך העדשה הביקורתית – Hebrew & Israel Culture and the DEI Lens with Drs. Carmit Burstyn & Michal Peles-Almagor

This complimentary workshop, recorded on December 6, 2022, offers a snapshot of HATC’s six-week course and Hebrew teachers will learn how to raise their students’ awareness toward issues of personal and collective identity and help cultivate change agents who impact their local Jewish communities, Israeli society, and the world, using Hebrew languageCore Competency – Hebrew Language Education/Hebrew and Israeli Culture View the recording or Register for the Course

The Reflective Hebrew Educator with Dr. Esty Gross

This workshop, recorded on October 22, 2022,  provided an opportunity for Hebrew educators to explore the concept of transformative reflective practice.  There are 3 main levels of reflection: Traditional/surface, Progressive/theoretical and practical, and Critical/transformative. Core Competency – Personal and Professional Growth 

View the Recording of the Workshop

Hitkadmut: The Annual Hebrew Language Educators Conference

 

JANUARY 29 – 30, 2023 11:00-4:00 EST

Registration is live!

Make certain your Hebrew teachers, Hebrew leaders, and school leaders join us for the annual professional conference that is propelling the field forward. For more information about this virtual gathering, visit the  Hitkadmut page.

State of the Field of Hebrew Language Education Report

 

Hebrew at the Center recently shared the State of the Field Report with the broader community, a document that captured a wide range of research and findings from the field of Hebrew language education in the day school field. These insights and learnings, collected from a wide range of field partners, greatly inform Hebrew learning, faculty effectiveness, and student outcomes.

Join Hebrew teachers, Hebrew leaders, and other school leaders for an intensive, virtual conference on Sunday, April 3, 11:30 – 3:30 EDT. 

Click here for more information and to register