Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Connecting Words

According to the internet’s fun holiday websites, January 18th is Thesaurus Day.  The date is in honor of the creator of the first modern thesaurus, [Peter Mark] Roget’s Thesaurus.

A thesaurus is a reference work that lists synonyms and antonyms of words and is particularly useful in a language such as English that is really a combination of many different languages. Hebrew, on the other hand, is a language that is built on a root system. Words, both nouns and verbs, are built on 3 (sometimes 4) primary letters - although Hebrew has, by necessity, also absorbed certain unique foreign words that do not use a root system.

Like all languages, Hebrew is complex, and the interaction of different works build on the same letters in different order can be fascinating in their connections. Here are a few examples:

The word for intuitive understanding is binah, which shares the bet - nun - hey root in the same order with the word for building–boneh.

Words related to getting dressed are based on the root of lamed - bet - shin, but when one removes the lamed, one finds boosha, embarrassment!

And perhaps there is a connection to a first born son, a bechor (bet - chet - reish) getting a double blessing (bracha: bet - reish - chet).

Language analysis can often provide great insights into a nation’s culture and mindset. From this perspective, one could say that the root system of Hebrew is an expression of the Jewish understanding of how everything in the world is somehow connected to everything else and how everything in existence is built upon the “creating words” of the Ultimate Creator.

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