Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Aromatic Roots Deliciously Delightful

י"ב בשבט תשס"ז

In my previous post, I wrote the final 4 word phrase - ארץ-זית שמן ודבש - which ends Devarim 8:8, and translated the word זית as olive. This is the way the word is translated traditionally. However, the shoresh [1] of olive is זות, not זית.

Consequently, there is room to suggest that the word זית in this pasuk is not olive from the root זות meaning to "flow out slowly". I think the word in this pasuk is from the root זיו meaning "brighten" and "being bright and shiny". The word זית therefore, can be implying a "tree" (another meaning of זית)-root or botanical which "brightens". The Hebrew root of the tree-root which brightens is זיו.

Another root [2] that is bright and shiny is shechelet (onycha), an ingredient of the Temple incense. Incense is often mixed with oil - like the next word in the 4 word phrase following זית is oil, shemen (שמן). Controversy exists regarding the identity of onycha. While many believe onycha comes from the operculum of a shell fish from the Red Sea, there are equally as many who believe it is an oil derived from a plant. Thus, as easily as זית שמן could mean olive oil, it could also mean onycha oil.

The last word in the phrase derives from the root דבש which implies "delicious", "fat" or "thick" - these are all descriptors of Asher, the epitome of pleasure and happiness.

Taking all this together, we have here in the 4 word phrase a code for "a woman who brightens reality with onycha oil, making it deliciously delightful and thick with happiness and pleasure."

I imagine no one has ever heard those 4 words translated quite this way before, yes? I just love being a Jewitch. It makes me so happy.

HeBrew Cauldron


[1] Etymological Dictionary Of Biblical Hebrew, R' Matityahu Clark (p. 66)

[2] Rashi believes that shechelet is "an aromatic root that is smooth and shiny like a fingernail" - Kjeld P. Nielsen, Incense in Ancient Israel (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986), 65

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