Mishpatim — what did a witch ever do to me?

The purpose of life is to live it. The allegory of Torah reiterates this over and again. In parashat Mishpatim. The text says: מכשפה לא תחיה “A witch, you shall not allow to live.” The root for the word for witch K.Sh.P (כשף) has a variety of meanings across the Semitic languages. In Akkadian, Ugaritic and Hebrew; the root just means to conjure spells and engage in witchcraft. In Arabic the root varies from “to pull away, remove, take off, unveil, reveal, disclose, uncover, and expose” to “show, demonstrate and shed light,” to “study, investigate, examine and scrutinize.”

Were we simply to utilize the Arabic to inform our understanding of the root, we would be at a loss to see what is so wrong with allowing a witch to live. What is wrong with revealing, shedding light, examining, and scrutinizing something? Perhaps the use of this root in Amharic can unveil the intention behind this mitsvah? In Amharic, the cognate of this root means: “to fail, foil, frustrate, fail to go off, and misfire.” The common idea to be found with all of these definitions is the essential meaning of this root: to pull away. The witch, sorcerer, wizard and magician pulls away the curtain and הנה (HinaeH – viola)…reveals something magical. But in Amharic, a person pulls away from a challenge and misfires, foils, frustrates and fails. Could this be how to understand the allegory of the witch in the Torah?

The Torah text is visually divided into two types of paragraphs. There are larger, open paragraphs called petuchah that are identical to the way paragraphs are formed in English. But within these paragraphs, there can be found sub-paragraphs that are divided by a line internal tab or spacing called setumah or closed. As with English, paragraphs and sub-paragraphs are designed to demarcate sentences of similar ideas. However, as one sub-paragraph between two setumah breaks, the line regarding the witch is juxtaposed with the following: כל שכב עם בהמה מות יומת “Anyone laying with a herd-animal, shall assuredly be put to death.” Can you see the common idea between these two sentences? The word for herd-animal is B’HaeMaH (בהמה). It evolved from an unattested root BuM (בום — to push into / between) that gave us three other words BaMaH (במה – bulge, protrusion, or haunches), YaBaM (יבם — to squeeze in or intercede on one’s behalf through marriage) and BuN (בון — push into / between). The literal meaning of B’HaeMaH (בהמה) is “one who pushes (the head) between the rest of the herd” and therefore, its allegorical meaning is “one’s pushing in to make observations.” The word for lay down is ShaKhaBh (שכב). It also means “to snuggle up, huddle, and lie up against.” It evolved from the verb ShuKh (שׁוך — to cordon off), which itself evolved from SuKh (שוך — to hedge in). Most often ShaKhaBh (שכב lay down) is used allegorically to mean “to hedge in.” Therefore, allegorically the above sentence means: “Anyone who hedges in ever presently with an act of pushing in so as to make observations, shall assuredly be completely drawn away (from the experience being observed).” Both of these sentences refer to “a failure to launch,” a failure to engage experience — the witch who pulls away and fails, and the person constantly observing, but never engaging. Allegorically, the two sentences in this sub-paragraph are not meant to be two separate but comparable ideas. Instead, allegorically they form one complete idea.

After the setumah, the text says: זבח לאלהים יחרם בלתי ליי לבדו “One making an offering to the Elohim, shall be excommunicated-destroyed; excepting to HaShem, him alone.” Even though, this line is separated from the previous two by a setumah, it is still within the same petuchah paragraph, so it should be somewhat thematically connected. The word meaning to make an offering, ZaBhaHh (זבח), literally means to flow, having evolved from ZaBhaH (זבה – to flow). The word ChaRaM (חרם) can mean “to destroy, excommunicate, and even, paradoxically. to dedicate.” It is most closely related to the word HaeRyM (הרים) meaning to lift up and remove. Allegorically, the above text means “One’s flowing forth to the guidance found in experience,1 shall be removed, excepting to God’s bringing forth of existence, by itself.” Although in the peshat (simple translation), the word ZaBhaHh (זבח – to offer) probably refers to a flowing forth of blood; allegorically it refers to a flowing forth of oneself to experience by engaging in different ways of paying attention and noticing things in experience.2 HaShem or God’s bringing forth of existence refers to the specific experience created by God for a specific person in a particular moment. Whereas Elohim can refer to anything in experience from which a person can attain or infer guidance. My favorite example describing this distinction is as follows: when crossing a highway, it is best to pay attention to the cars, rather than to a flock of birds flying overhead. Guidance can be inferred from anything in life, certain guidance is more helpful for particular situations than others.

The sentence that follows is not separated and yet from a peshat reading, it appears to be a non-sequitur. וגר לא תונה ולא תליצנה כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים “And a sojourner, you shall not treat overbearingly and you shall not overly squeeze. Because you were sojourners in the land of Mitsraim.” Literally, a GaeR (גר – sojourner) is one who draws into a place.3 For this reason, the word GaeR also refers to a convert, one who draws into the Jewish religion. Allegorically, it refers to a person’s drawing into the experience. The admonition is against our pushing ourselves too hard to engage too much experience — your ability to draw into experience, you shall not treat overbearingly, nor push too hard. Why? Because we were those of many acts of drawing into experience when we were disposing ourselves to the acts of feverishly focusing upon the many things narrowing in from experience (land of Mitsraim).4,5 Now, the connection to the previous line becomes more clear. “One’s flowing forth to the guidance found in experience, shall be removed.” Because there is too much of it. Don’t push yourself and take too much on. Focus on what God’s bringing forth of existence gives you, not on all of the things narrowing in from experience. Don’t treat your ability to draw into experience overbearingly and do not push yourself too much.

Next, we encounter a petuchah — the completion of the open paragraph. The lines discussed above the petuchah focused on a person’s avoiding or engaging experience. Below this petuchah, in the following paragraph, the allegory focuses more on how one attains the impressions and guidance from experience, in order to make a decision regarding what to engage in experience.

If our job is to focus on what God brings forth for us in a given moment, then how are we to know which of the many things happening around us, are specifically coming forth to us from God’s bringing forth of experience? The text says: אם כסף תלוה את עמי את העני עמך לא תהיה לו כנשה לא תשימון עליו נשך “If silver, you shall lend my people, the poor with you – you shall not be to him as a creditor. You shall not impose upon him interest.” The allegory: “If many impressions,6 you shall make cling7 upon the being mindful of me,8 the being overwhelmed (that is) with you, you shall not be, with respect to it, as one procrastinating.9 You shall not impose upon it a hedging in.”10 So this line of text is telling us that in the case of our being overwhelmed by many impressions, we should nevertheless not allow ourselves to procrastinate, nor should we try to limit those impressions. Furthermore, in the next line of text: אם חבל תחבל שלמת רעך עד בא השמש תשיבנו לו “If you shall assuredly take as pledge the robe of your neighbor, unto the coming in of the sun, you shall return it to him.” Here “the robe of your neighbor” allegorically means “the fulfilling of what you perceive and delight in”11,12 and “the coming in of the sun” means “the coming in fortitude.”13 The gist then is: when mindful of many impressions of experience, don’t procrastinate. Rather pledge to the one that you delight in and settle into that when you find the fortitude within yourself to do so..

Skipping a few lines of further details to the next sub-paragraph, the text says: אלהים לא תקלל ונשיא בעמך לא תאר “Counselors (those of guidance), you shall not make light of, and a chief among your people, you shall not curse.” Here the word for Elohim1 is being used for counselors (not God), but its allegorical meaning remains unchanged. The word for chief, NaSi/ (נשיא) literally means “one lifted up.” Allegorically, it represents an activity lifted up from experience, as a result of the being mindful of the many things crowding in from experience (people).8 In other words, do not make light of the guidance found in experience and don’t ignore what might be gleaned from it. The next line emphasizes the importance of making a strong effort: מלאתך ודמעך לא תאחר בכור בניך תתן לי While the peshat reads “Your fullness (of produce) and your pouring forth (of juice), you shall not delay. The first of your children you shall give for me.” The allegory says: “Your fullness and your pouring forth, you shall not delay. What wells forth of your behaviors,14,15 you shall give for me.” But there is still the question of how are we to determine which of the things found a midst the abundance of guidance to engage with? The next line gives the answer: כן תעשה לשרך לצאנך שבעת ימים יהיה עם אמו ביום השמיני תתנו לי “So shall you do for your ox and your flocks – seven days shall it be with its mother, on the eighth day you shall give it to me.” Allegorically: “Firmly shall you perform, with regard to your unwavering focus,16 with regard to your considering things in experience.17 Bubblings18 of things that are stirring in experience19 shall it be with the being mindful of it.20 On the stirring event of exuding out21 into experience, you shall give it to me.” Where “it” refers to the welling forth of your activities. Because it is the welling forth of our taking action that God requires from us. In other words, the ability to gaze with unwavering focus and to consider the guidance to be found in experience will result in the bubbling up of many stirring things. Be mindful of it and then, when you are ready, exude into experience and engage with God’s bringing forth of existence.

Nevertheless, God does not want us to feel overwhelmed – neither when observing the abundance of.God’s creation, nor when observing things that we perceive as alarming or particularly imposing. The word for enemy, /oYaeBh (אויב), evolved from the verb YaBhaBh (יבב – to cry out, lament). According to Hebrew, an enemy is someone who causes you to cry out in alarm. The text then says: “Given that you shall come upon an ox of your enemy or his donkey wandering about, you shall assuredly return it to him.” כי תפגע שור איבך או חמרו תעה השב תשיבנו לו Because allegorically an ox (ShuR – שור) represents “one’s unwavering focus”16 and a donkey (ChaMuR – חמר) represents “one’s conscientiously loading up details,”22 we get: “Given that you shall come upon an act of unwavering focus regarding what makes you cry out or the conscientious attention to details associated with it, wandering about, you shall assuredly return it to him.” In other words, when you have allowed your focus to go astray from something that alarms you and makes you cry, it is imperative that you make the effort to return your focus back on that thing.

The line that follows says something very similar: כי תראה חמור שנאך רבץ תחת משאו וחדלת מעזב לו עזב תעזב עמו “Given that you shall see a donkey of one who hates you sprawling out under its load, then you will refrain from abandoning it. You shall assuredly assist with it.” Allegorically, the word SoNa/aKha (שנאך) can be read as “one hating you” or “your hating.” If we understand it as the former, then it is not that different from the previous line. But these two lines are separated by a setumah, so the latter interpretation subtly changes its meaning: “Given that you shall see an act of conscientiously loading up details22 regarding a thing of your hating, sprawling out under its load, then you will refrain from abandoning it. You shall assuredly assist with it.” It is an unfortunate fact that not everything that occurs in our lives in pleasing to us. We are often inclined to abandon those challenges in our lives that we find odious, uncomfortable and objectionable. But, because everything comes to us from HaShem, God’s bringing forth of existence, it behooves us to stick with even those things that we hate.

It is equally true that we are often inclined to stick with those things in life that we find pleasing even when they are best avoided. The text says “And a bribe you shall not take. Because the bribe blinds the opening of the eyes and it perverts the words of those who are righteous.” The word for bribe, ShoHhaD (שחד), evolved from the verb HhaDaH (חדה – to be joyful). Essentially, people take bribes because the item received makes them happy. When we understand that our life experiences are created for us by God, we then realize that we should not avoid what God gives us just because we don’t like it, nor should we take on things that are not appropriate for us, simply because they give us joy.

In the previous paragraphs, I have shown that the focus of the allegory of Torah is to motivate us to engage experience and to instruct us on how to make the observations necessary to aid in engagement. The name Elohim (God’s guidance found in experience)1 implies that God is always guiding us. However, it remains difficult to know which of our many observations come to us from God or from some other observation of experience. In this parashah, the text says specifically: הנה אנכי שלח מלאך לפניך לשמרך בדרך ולהביאך אל מקום אשר הכנתי “Here, I am sending an angel before you to keep you on the way and to bring you to the place the I have prepared.” Since the word for angel (מלאך – maL/aKh) comes from the Semitic root (לאך – to send a messenger, message), allegorically it means “a message sent forth.” Additionally, the verb associated with the word for way (דרך – DeReKh, DaRaKh) means to thresh. So this line tells us that as we thresh through experience, there will be messages sent to us by God aimed to bring us into specific experiences created for us. The text recognizes that the angel, or God’s message, may bring us into the act of relentless examination (Amorite),23 and the feeling frightened (Chittite),24 and the detached, sorting through of experience (P’rizite),25 and the feeling subdued by many things drawing in on us (Kanaanite);26 the act of recoiling and curling up (Hhiwite)27 and the being driven into so as to instigate us (Y’busite).28 Nevertheless, God promises to suppress those feelings; while it is on us not to lay ourselves out to them, devote our attention to them or behave in accord with them. Of these six, three have the potential to be positive if utilized correctly: relentless examination (Amorite), detached, sorting through of experience (P’rizite), and the being driven into so as to be instigated (Y’busite). While regarding the other three – the act of recoiling and curling up (Hhiwite), and the feeling subdued by what draws in upon us (Kanaanite); and the feeling frightened (Chittite) – God says: “And I will send the hornet (צרעה – Tsir\ah) before you that will drive out the Hhiwite, the Kanaanite, and the Chittite from before you. The word for the hornet (צרעה – Tsir\ah) literally means “that which narrows in upon.” When we allow ourselves to recoil, feeling subdued and frightened it is often necessary for life to narrow us in, so as to get us moving again.

Having acknowledged that despite our recoiling, feeling subdued and frightened, God will not relent in guiding us by narrowing in upon us, He instructs our many mental faculties to ascend toward God’s bringing forth of existence (Y-H-W-H). These are: the mental faculty drawing out particular things from a midst the many stirring things encountered in experience (Moshe),29 the mental faculty of repetitively bringing things to light (Aharon);30 the devoting attention to particular things (Nadav)31 and the taking notice of what exists (Avihu);32 and the many bubblings18 of acts of seeing things clearly as a result of the making of a sustained survey of the many things advancing forward in experience (elders of Yisrael).33,34 At first, only our Moshe (the mental faculty drawing out particular things from a midst the many stirring things encountered in experience) ascends to God’s bringing forth of existence (Y-H-W-H). Additionally, the many acts of being mindful of the many things crowding in from experience (people)8 do not ascend. As the intermediary between God and out being mindful, our Moshe performs a number of rituals so as to make the encounter easier to deal with: he recounts,35 and he makes impressions,36 and he investigates,37 and he builds up the ability to flow forth to make observations of experience, and he sends forth acts of becoming mental stirred with particular things in experience38 that meander about busying themselves with particular aspects of experience,39 and he splits off half of what flows forth in experience40 so as to struggle to draw inward and take on of the perplexity of things.41 In response, the acts of being mindful of the many things crowding in from experience say: נעשה ונשמע “We shall perform and then we shall observe.” Thus acknowledging that with the difficult task of engaging with God’s bringing forth of existence, one must first throw oneself into experience and then mentally process afterward. Later, when the many mental faculties do ascend, they see Elohim, God’s guidance found in experience1: ותחת רגליו כמעשה לבנת הספיר וכעצם השמים לטהר “And beneath its many traipsings42 was like a performance of layers43 of things recounted44 and like a great density45 of the many things put forth in experience.46 To be regarded as a thing of perfect clarity.” Which is to say that although our encounters with the complexity of God’s guidance appear random and without purpose, there is an order and logic to them that can be made clear.

Then our Moshe (our mental faculty drawing out particular things from a midst the many stirring things encountered in experience) – with our ability to dwell upon the extensiveness of G-d’s bringing forth of existence (Y’hoshua)47 – ascends toward the act of bringing to light48 God’s guidance found in experience.1 Yet Moshe tells the elders that Aharon and Chur are to remain behind. Why? Because the mental faculty repetitively bringing things to light (Aharon)30 and the ability to examine what is evident (חור – ChuR) will remain behind with those things that are already clearly apparent in experience (זה).49 Our Moshe then ascends to the ability to brings things to light,48 where the intensity of God’s bringing forth of existence settles upon mount Sinai, the ability to bring things to light by being restrained, filtering through things and making clarifications.50 As our mental faculty drawing out particular things from a midst the many stirring things encountered in experience, Moshe sees the appearance of the intensity of God’s bringing forth of existence “as a thing of persistence,51 embracing and consuming,52 through the seeing53 that is associated with the act of bringing things to light,48 regarded as the observations made as a result of the behaviors of making a sustained survey of the many things advancing forward in experience.”34 And there Moshe remains, forty days and forty nights – many things inundating54 of what is stirring in experience19 and many things inundating54 of acts of laboring exhaustively.55

Notes:
1 – Elohim (אלהים) plural of Eloah (אלוה) – Although most derive it from El (אל), I believe that the word evolved from LaWaH (לוה) meaning to escort and guide. Hence, initially the word Elohim (אלהים) referred to the pantheon of gods, whose purported purpose was to guide and escort humanity. With the advent of monotheism, the word was used with a singular verb to represent G-d, but continued to be used to represent the pantheons of others, a council of judges and people of similar purpose.
2 – ZaBhaHh (זבח – to offer) this assertion that allegorically it refers to a flowing forth of oneself to experience by engaging in different ways of paying attention and noticing things in experience is based on the allegorical meanings of the words for different types of offerings and the animals offered. For example: one can meander about and busy oneself with particular things (from עלל > עלה – elevation offering), submit oneself to things (שלם – peace offering), consider things (צאן – flocks; based on an Arabic cognate), and investigate things (בקר – cattle; from the verb to investigate).
3 – sojourner, convert (גר – GaeR) from the root GuR (גור – sojourn) literally meaning “to draw into something, somewhere, somebody.” גור to sojourn, gather together, be afraid (draw inward), incite; GaRaR (גרר) to drag along, saw, draw up cud; GaRaBh (גרב) to scrape; GaRaPh (גרף) to scrape up, sweep away; GaRaM (גרם) to draw along, carry with, to gnaw on or crush bones; GaRa\ (גרע) to drag away, reduce, diminish; Ga\aR (גער) to draw into, rebuke; GaRaSh (גרש) to drive into so as to drive out / divorce; SaGaR (סגר) to close in upon
4 – land (ארץ – /eReTs) evolved from RaTsaTs (רצץ to run upon / crush), which evolved from RuTs (רוץ to run) > RaTsaH (רצה to run toward, show favor). The allegory comes from a related noun /aRTsuT (ארצות one’s disposition, how a person runs-shows favor)
5 – Mitsraim (מצרים). This word for Egypt probably was derived from there being two narrow (צר) strips of arable land on either side of the Nile river. The allegory is based on the idea that narrowing in upon something can have a visual component. Evidence for this can be seen in the evolved words צוהר window; צהרים (time of clarity) before and after noon; יצהר (transparent) oil and the related Arabic ד’הר to be / become visible, perceptible, distinct, clear, apparent, appear, know, learn, noon. Therefore, MiTsRi (מצרי – Egyptian) allegorically represents one’s visually narrowing in upon something. The doubling in Mitsraim (מצרים) suggests a person’s viusally narrowing in upon what narrows in upon the person. I added “feverishly” because the king of Mitsraim is Pharaoh, chaos.
6 – silver (כֶּסֶף – KeSePh) evolved from the root K.S.H (כסה) which means “to make marks, cuts, impressions and to cover over.” Over time, silver tarnishes. K.S.Ph. Silver, literally means “that which is marked up (tarnished)
7 – lend (לוה – LaWaH) literally means “to cling or join to”
8 – people (עם \aM) allegorically means “being ever presently (mindful) of what crowds in.” It comes from the related roots \aMaH – \aMaM (עמה – עמם) literally meaning to be ever present with. However, when something is ever present with something else, it can be close or too close. Therefore, the words derived from this root reflect closeness: with (עם – \iM), people-crowd (עם – \aM), and connecting (עמה – \uMaH); and those representing being too close: covered over, suppress, ignorant, dim, dark, and blind. In ancient Hebrew and in those Semitic languages retaining the ghayin variant of ayin, the latter words are spelled with ghayin, but are nevertheless etymologically related.
9 – creditor (נושה – NoSheH) Allegorically: procrastinate. This root evolved from MaShaH (משה – to draw out). In Hebrew it means (to draw out > postpone >) to grant credit > slip past the time of payment and to forget. In Arabic: put off, postpone, defer, procrastinate, allow some time to pay, grant credit; longevity, stick
10 – interest (נשך – NeSheKh) from the verb NaShaKh (נשך – to bite, take a bite off) which evolved from SuKh (שוך – to hedge into).
11 – robe (שלמה – SaLMaH) Allegorically: the fulfilling or completion of, from the verb ShaLaM (שלם – to suspend, compete, make peace, make restitution). Technically, the word means “what drapes, hangs, or suspends.”
12 – friend (רע – Ra’a\) from the verb Ra\aH (רעה – to welcome, to receive, take delight in) which evolved from Ra/aH (ראה – (be penetrated) to see, perceive) from YaRa\ (ירא – (be penetrated) > be in awe, be afraid) from YaRaH (ירה – to aim > penetrate). Note also רע (perception) thought (Ps139:2) and רעא (Syr- think, be minded, be of opinion, reason, purpose)
13 – sun (SheMeSh – שמש) Allegorically: unwavering, fortitude, balking (from the Arabic cognate). The root evolved from ShuM (שום) which essentially means “to stay put.” Hence ShaMaR (שמר – guard, watch), ShaMa\ (שמע – be attentive, listen), ShaMaSh (שמש – to serve, attend to, wait upon) and SuM (שום – to put, place).
14 – first born (בכור – BaKhuR) from BaKhaR (בכר – to bud (well up), to be born first), which evolved from BaKhaH (בכה) to cry, weep, vent and trickle; which evolved from NaBhaKh (נבך) (welling up) spring, source (Jb38:16)
15 – sons (בנים) – From the root BuWN (בון) to push between. The masculine Ben (בן) is used to express belonging to category of, or of the characteristic of: such as בן הכות deserving of death penalty, בן לילה of the night, expressing one’s age, בן חיל one of endurance. Allegorically, a son is a subsidiary behavior and from context daughters are ways of endeavoring
16 – ShuR (שור – Shur) Allegorical: unwavering focus, fixing one’s gaze. This root (ShuR – שור), like with Yisrael, means to be fixed either physically or visually. Hence, physically (wall, ox, umbilical cord) and visually (to get a fix on (see) (Nm23:9,24:17)(Hs14:9)).
17 – Tso/N (צאן – flock) essentially means “what holds back”. Cognate with Arabic S^WN-S^/N (to protect / guard/ safeguard, preserve, conserve, sustain; seclude o.s, protect o.s, be chaste); Th^N ((regard = re – guard >) to think, believe, deem, suspect, suppose, consider, presume); and D^N (to keep back, be stingy, thrifty, meager >) in due consideration of
18 – Sheva/ (שבע). Although with a shin, this word appears to have been derived from the similar root with a letter sin, SaBha\ understood as satiated, it derives from either NaBha\ (נבע – to swell or well up) or Ba\aH (בעה – to bubble up, boil). Perhaps it means the number seven because it fulfills a period of one week, although this too is not completely clear. Metaphorically, from context and this etymology it means “being satiated by what bubbles up” or just “a bubbling up of something.
19 – YoM (יום – day), from HaMaH (המה – to stir up), literally means “time period causing a stirring.”
20 – The unattested root /uM (אום) literally means “what is ever present.” Therefore, the word /aeM mother literally means “one who is ever present,” the word /aYaM (אים) foreboding literally means “an ever present feeling,” and m’/uMaH (מאומה) something literally means “a thing of that is ever present.”
21 – eight (שמונה – Sh’MoneH) and oil (שמן – SheMeN) literally mean “what exudes outward.” It evolved from the verb MaNaH (מנה) – to distribute, count, assign, classify. The number is possibly based on the image of putting the two hands together palms down, with the thumbs tucked under the palms with eight fingers splayed out like the exuding of oil (or maybe not).
22 – donkey (HhaMoR – חמרים) From HhaMaR (חמר – to heap up, load), but also related to the Talmudic word HhuMRaH (חמרה – a stringent, fastidiousness and attention to details). Usually allegorically means “acts of conscientiously loading up details.” However, Arabic cognate also means: constraining or harboring resentment
23 – /aMaR (אמר) to say (explicitly), Amorite. This root evolved from מר (pouring) a drop (Is40:15) and מור myrrh (sticky and bitter). Most Semitic words of the /aMaR (אמר) root mean sticky, or to stick with. Arabic: constantly urging > command; spirit, soul, mind; pericardium, characteristic; Ugaritic: look at, be seen; order, demand; lamb (matted); Akkadian look at, see, inspect, examine, catch sight of; Syriac: muse, preach, expound, say, speak, renounce (declare away from), tell affirm, assert, intend, chant; predict
24 – Chittite (חתי) based on the root ChaTaT (חתת) meaning to press down upon, to subdue, and to frighten.
25 – P’rizite (פרזי)Allegorically: detached, sorting through experience, based on the verb PaRaZ (פרז) which in Arabic means: set apart, detach, isolate; to sort through, classify, examine, screen, select, distinguish
26 – Canaan – from the root KaNa\ (כנע) meaning to subdue or oppress. A comparison with related roots such as KaNaS (כנס to enter), KaNaPh (כנף wing, (what is drawn in)), KaNaN (כנן to wind around), and KineReT (כנרת the lake, ?drawn into) suggest that literally it means to draw in upon. So Canaan allegorically means one’s being subdued by the many things drawing in from experience from context.
27 – Hhiwite (חוי) Allegorically: an act of recoiling and curling up. From the verb HhaWaH (חוה)> In Hebrew, this root means to point toward, to point out, instruct. However, in Arabic it means: to collect, gather, contain, hold, unite, clasp, encompass, include, coil, curl up; convolution, intestines and evolved from this ChaWaH (חוה) means hungry, desolate, waste, empty, bare, dreary
28 – Y’busite (יבוסי) Allegorically: the being driven into so as to be instigated. This is the pual form in which BuS (בס) and BaSaS (בסס) would require two samakhs. This leaves only BaSaH (בסה) as the appropriate verb. Jastro indicates that this root means both “to trample” and “to drive and instigate.”
29 – Moshe (משה) allegorically complex, with all of the details of the story, the archetype of Moshe means: “A behavior of being mindfully present with many startling things coming in from experience, in mentally clinging to a scene, sucking up some details and looking them over, considering the many possible directions that one particular thing may go, being more mindful of it, channeling this one particular thing while subduing the thoughts about the others, and in showing resolve and being decisive in attending to this one particular thing, making it a priority, thus drawing it out from a midst the many other stirring things found in experience.” Simplied: “the mental faculty drawing out particular things from a midst the many stirring things encountered in experience.” The verb MaShaH (משה) simply means “to draw out.”
30 – Aharon (אהרן) “the mental faculty bringing things to light;” from the verb HaRaH (הרה – to conceive), but like the related verb HaRHaeR (הרהר), it refers to one’s ability to conceive of something in mind (not in the womb). Also related to these words is the noun HaR (mountain – הר) which literally means “the place of bringing things to light,” a place where one can see and conceive of what is coming due to its elevated perspective.
31 – Nadav (נדב) one’s devoting attention to an aspect of a scene; from (נדב) in Hebrew: to give willingly or volunteer, in Arabic apply / devote o.s, be willing, stand ready.
32 – Avihoo (אביהוא) one’s taking notice of what exists; from /aBhaH (אבה) which in Hebrew means “to be willing to give forth of oneself,” whereas in Arabic it means “to take notice of.” + Hu/ (הוא) derived from HaYaH (היה – to be, exist).
33 – elders of (זקני – ZiQNae) allegorically “the acts of clearly visualizing things of the making of a sustained survey of what advances forward in experience” from (זקן – (be clear) beard, old), related to ZuQ (זוק – (Arb- (make clear in the mind) to visualize) and ZaQaQ (זקק – (to make clear / purify) to distill).
34 – Yisrael (ישראל) from the verb Sarah (שרה), from which comes the name Yisrael (ישראל). It does not exactly mean to wrestle, nor does its associated noun exactly mean princess. It means to fix on something either visually or physically. When to fix on something physically, it could be used to mean wrestle. When to fix on something visually, its male counterpart, Sar (שר), means an overseer, a member of the court. Additionally, El (אל) G-d, meaning one advancing forward with initiative such as in el (אל) to, toward; ayil (איל) ram forward; Ya/aL (יאל) to endeavor to advance forward allegorically can be used to mean “what advances forward” and “one’s advancing forward.”
35 – Exod 24:3 “And he was recounting for the people all of the words of HaShem”
36 – Exod 24:4 “And Moshe was writing all of the words of HaShem….” where KaTaBh (כתב to write) literally means “to make an impression.” Where the verbs beginning with (כת) essentially mean “to press in with force.” Hence: KaTaL כתל (Arb- to press into, compact, mass); KaTaM כתם to stain; KaTaN כּתּן (Arb – (compress together > build up) linen); KaTaPh כּתף (Arb- (pressed together) be thick, dense, to condense; to shackle, (Hebrew – shoulder (joint)); KaTaR כתר to huddle, crowd in; KaTaSh כתש to crush; KaTaT כתת to smash
37 – Exod 24:4 “And he was awakening early in the morning..” where ShaKhaM (שכם) means “to shoulder something” and is used to mean “to awaken early, make preparations, set out, venture forth, make a diligent effort.” and morning (בוקר – BoQaeR, time of investigation) / cattle (בקר – BaQaR, those who investigates). From the root meaning “to investigate, search.”
38, 39 – Exod 24:5 “And he was sending forth the young lads of the children of Yisrael and they were elevating elevation offerings.” Where young man (Na\aR – נער) evolved from the verb \uR (עור – to stir up, awaken), allegorically means the act of becoming mentally stirred by particular things in experience mostly based on allegorical context. And elevation offering (עולה – \oLeH) (although coming from the verb \aLaH עלה) could conceivably come from \aLaL (עלל) to meander about and busy oneself with particular things.
40, 41 – Exod 24:6 “And Moshe was taking up half of the blood and was putting in basins.” Where blood (דם – DaM) what flows (of experience) derived from DaWaH (דוה – to flow). Related words are DaYo (דיו – fluid, ink), DaMaH (דמה – congestion) and DaMa\ (דמע – tears) and basin (אגן – /aGoN) evolved from GuN (גון) meaning “to draw in around and in Syriac /aGoN (אגון) means “contest, trial, struggle, perplexity, and discipline.”
42 – leg (רגל – ReGeL) From the verb RaGaL (רגל) to walk about, traipse, spy, and deliver false reports
43 – brick work, paving, tiling (לבנה – L’BhaeNah) from brick (לבן) also means both white and Lavan. The verb means to layer bricks. A comparison of related words indicate that this root means to layer out and stratify things such as LaBhaSh (to layer clothing – לבש), LaBhaBh (to layer a cake – לבב), ShaLaBh (to join layers, rungs of a ladder – שלב), HhaLaBh (milk, what layers out – חלב) and L’BhoNah (frankincense, what layers out – לבונה). In Arabic it means undertaking, enterprise, object, wish, aim, and goal
44 – Saphir (ספיר – SaPiR) related to the verb SaPhaR (ספר to cut, trim, count, recount)
45 – \eTseM (עצם) from the verb meaning (squeeze tight) to compress (Is29:10;33:15), but also meaning might or essence of
46 – heaven, sky (שמים – ShaMayim) from SuM-SYM (שום – שים to put, place, impose, label, arrange). Allegorically: the many things put forth in experience.
47 – Joshua (יהושע – Y’HoShu\a). Allegorically: dwelling upon the extensiveness of G-d’s bringing forth of existence. From: Ya (Y-H-W-H, God’s bringing forth of existence) + HoShu\a (הושוע) from YaSha\ (ישע) the Arabic cognate: (dwell upon / linger with) comprehend > comprehensive, hold accommodate, house, seat, encompass, include, be large enough, wide, roomy, spacious, be capable to do something. From Sha\aH (שעה – to dwell, linger).
48 – HaR (mountain – הר) which literally means “the place of bringing things to light,” a place where one can see and conceive of what is coming due to its elevated perspective. It comes from the verb HaRaH (הרה – to conceive), but like the related verb HaRHaeR (הרהר), it refers to one’s ability to conceive of something in mind (not in the womb).
49 – this (זה) from the verb ZaHaH (זהה) and literally means “what is visually radiant or apparent.”
50 – Sinai (סיני) from the root SaNaN (סנן – to strain, filter, refine). In the Talmud, Sinai is used as a characteristic type of scholar, one who is restrained and refined. As opposed to an \oqaer harim עוקר הרים “a mutilator / one who extirpates / pulls up by the roots of mountains.” But allegorically mountains (הרים – HaRim) represents acts of bringing things to light, (See note 10). So Sinai is a refined scholar who goes through the data slowly and methodically. Whereas, an oqaer harim is one who pulls up ideas (perhaps from nowhere) and throws them out into public view without much support.
51 – Fire /aeSh (אש, fire, persistent existence) from /uSh (אוש – to make persistent, to go on and on, be lengthy, make a steady noise (Jastro))
52 – eat, consume (אכל – /aKhaL) the verb evolved from KaLaH (כלה – to contain); allegorically to embrace, encompass.
53 – head (ראש – Ro/Sh) possibly derived from Ra/aH (ראה – to see) which explains the vestigial aleph. Contextually, this always works allegorically as well.
54 – four (ארבע /aRBa\) derived from RaBha\ (רבע – to lie down, spread out, make square). Allegorically it represents a spreading out in all directions; flooding / inundating hence 40 days and nights of flood, wandering in the wilderness and Moshe’s time with HaShem in the mountain.
55 – night (לילה – LaiLaH) etymologically probably from a doubling of either La/aH (לאה – to be exhausted, to labor exhaustively) or LaHaH (להה – (exhausted) to languish, be tired)

A.F.L Beeston, M.A. Ghul, W.W. Muller, J. Ryckmans (1982) Sabaic Dictionary. Publication of the University of Sanaa, Yar

Ernest Klein (1987) A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for Readers of English. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company

Hans Wehr. Ed by J Milton Cowan (1979) Hans Wehr A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Ithaca, NY: Published in the United States by Spoken Languages Services, Inc with permission of Otto Harrassowitz

Jeremy Black, Andrew George, Nicholas Postgate, eds., A Concise Dictionary ofAkkadian, 2nd corrected printing (Santag Arbeiten und Untersuchungen Zur Keilschriftkunde, 5; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2000)

Marcus Jastrow (1996) A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushlami, and the Midrashic Literature.New York: The Judaica Press

J. Payne Smith’s (1999) A Compendious Syriac Dictionary. Published by Wipf and Stock

David Kantrowitz (1991 – 2009) Judaic Classics version 3.4. Institute for Computers in Jewish Life, Davka Corp., and/or Judaica Press, Inc.

G. del Olmo Lete & J. Sanmartin (2003) A Dictionary of the Ugaritic Language in the Alphabetic Tradition. Leiden: Brill. Translated by Wilfred G.E. Watson

Wolf Leslau (1976) Concise Amharic Dictionary. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles.

H.W.F. Gesenius (1979) Gesenius’ Hebrew – Chaldee Lexicon. Baker Books. Grand Rapids.

About the Author
David Kolinsky is a retired physician born and raised in Monsey, New York. While living in Monterey California, David initially lived as a secular, agnostic Jew. However, in his spare time, he delved into twenty years of daily study of Hebrew etymology and Torah study culminating in the writing of an etymological dictionary of Biblical Hebrew and a metaphorical translation of Torah. Abandoning his agnostic views, David was simultaneously a spiritual leader of the world's smallest conservative synagogue, a teacher in his local reform synagogue, and a gabbai at Chabad. He is currently sheltering in place with his family in his new home in Plano, Texas.
Related Topics
Related Posts
Comments