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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

Rabbi Andrew Ergas Welcomes Dr. Esty Gross to HATC

 

On behalf of the leadership and staff of Hebrew at the Center (HATC), I am thrilled to announce that Dr. Esty Gross will be joining our professional team as Chief of Staff and Director of Education as of May 16, 2022. 

For the past five years, she has served as the Education Director for Hebrew Studies, Global Division for the Center for Educational Technology (CET), a leading provider of Hebrew curriculum and professional development for the Jewish educational field worldwide. She has worked within academia as a former Associate Coordinator of DeLeT L’Ivrit and currently serves as a Visiting Lecturer at DeLeT Lehoraat Ivrit at Hebrew Union College and as an Adjunct Professor in the MAT-TESOL program for the University of Southern California. Esty has over twenty-five years of field experience… Read the full announcement regarding Dr. Esty Gross

New Hebrew Teacher Boot Camp

Registration is open for the New Hebrew Teacher Boot Camp מכינה למורים חדשים on Tuesday, Aug. 2 to Thursday, August 4, 2022, 11:30 AM – 5 PM EST. This virtual training provides basic preparation for teachers’ first days at school. This intensive workshop is designed for beginning Hebrew teachers or teachers early in their career who are interested in the Proficiency Approach. Cost is $749 for the entire course; 10% discount for HATC or Prizmah members. Click here to register today.  

 

Relationship Between Modern & Classical Hebrew

On the November 12, 2021 HATC hosted Dr. Tali Artman, who discussed how to optimize integration of both Classical and Modern Hebrew into the school curriculum, and demonstrated the importance of Modern Hebrew in the teachings of Classical Hebrew.