Volume 36 Number 02
                 Produced: Wed Mar  6 23:32:22 US/Eastern 2002

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Baal Koyre and Sifrei Kodesh
         [Shlomo Godick]
Cheilek Elokah MiMaal
         [Stan Tenen]
That's **it??**
         [Yeshaya Halevi]


From: Shlomo Godick <shlomog4@...>
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 13:41:39 -0000
Subject: re: Baal Koyre and Sifrei Kodesh

Regarding the words "tallis" and "taleysim", R. Seth Mandel presented this
learned discourse on the Avodah discussion list about 9 months ago:
(The discussion began on Areivim, then switched to Avodah.)


Date: Thu, 10 May 2001 20:19:43 -0000
From: "Seth Mandel" <sethm37@...>
Subject: Tallit/talles

SBA posted an article from the Philologos column of Forward about the
word tallis to Areivim. Since I was one of the posters about the word
several months ago, and I was m'qattzer in some of my comments, I feel
it necessary to bore everybody with a brief review of the issue.

PHILOLOGOS explains the following: <One occasionally does come across
Hebrew-derived Yiddish words that do not take a Hebrew plural; the word
sotn, for instance, "devil" (from Hebrew satan), is not pluralized as
stonim (Hebrew setanim) but rather as sotons. And the reverse is also
sometimes true: There are a few non-Hebrew-derived words in Yiddish that
take Hebrew plurals, such as dokter, "doctor," which becomes doktoyrim,
or "poyer," peasant, which becomes poyerim.
<But why -- as is the case with tallis -- should a Hebrew-derived Yiddish
word take a Hebrew plural but an incorrect one, using the Hebrew masculine
plural ending -- im for the feminine Hebrew word tallit instead of the
Hebrew feminine plural ending -- ot? The answer becomes obvious if one
looks at other members of the small group of Yiddish words in which
the exact same thing happens. This group includes shabbes, "Sabbath,"
pluralized as shabbosim, although Hebrew shabbat is feminine and becomes
shabbatot; taynis, "fast day," pluralized as taynisim as opposed to
Hebrew ta'anit/ta'aniyot; takhlis, "goal, practical purpose," pluralized
as takhlisim unlike Hebrew takhlit/takhliyot; and shtus, "foolishness,"
pluralized as shtusim whereas Hebrew has shtut/shtuyot. What all these
Yiddish words have in common is that their singular form ends in an "s"
- -- and since the feminine Hebrew -- ot plural becomes -- es in Yiddish,
using it for them would yield such slightly-difficult-to-pronounce
"double s" endings as tallises, shabbeses and shtuses, which Yiddish
rejects as uneuphonious. This is the reason that it ungrammatically
chooses the masculine -- im for such words instead. (Of course, you
might ask why in the last three of these cases the Yiddish doesn't
simply follow the Hebrew more closely and give us tayniyes, takhliyes,
and shtuyes, but for that I have no answer.)>

Philologos' explanation is fine as far as it goes, but there is a lot
more going on here. He is answering the question posted by a reader: "I
always knew the Yiddish plural of tallis to be talleysim, but in Hebrew I
see tallitot. Moreover, while [in Yiddish] tallis is masculine in gender,
the Hebrew dictionaries tell me that tallit is feminine." Philologos uses
the Yiddish plural to explain the gender difference as well, presumably.
But an examination of the facts clearly show that there are more factors
at work.

First of all, as he notes, the plural of tanit is taaiyot, the plural
of shtus is shtuyot. And that is correct: in all Hebrew words ending in
- -- ut or ^Öit, the final tav is just a feminine ending (in other nouns,
ending in a consonant, it was -- at, which became qomatz he unless in
s'mikhut). So the feminine plural ending, -- ot, was added on to the root
ending in -- u or -- i, and the result was -- uyot or -- iyot. The same in
Leshon Hazal: the plural of malkhut is malkhuyot (malkhiyot is the correct
form in Leshon Hazal, since the plural ending was standardized for both,
but that is not the point here). Similarly a word for a vegetable that
takes an -- im ending even though it is feminine (like hitta -- hittim,
s'ora-s'orim): qishut (variously translated as a kind of melon or squash,
again not the issue here) has the plural qishu'im; the tav is dropped,
since it is only the feminine singular ending. Therefore, if there
really were a Hebrew word tallit, the plural would be talliyot. The
plural tallitot itself proves beyond a doubt that this is not a real
normal Hebrew word.

Secondly, the form tallit. Where is that pronunciation from? The
word in not in the Bible, so it presumably comes from the traditional
pronunciation of the various Jewish communities and the mss. of the
Mishna with vowels. But surprise, surprise: the form tallit is MOA. Not
attested at all.

Sefaradim pronounced the word (up until recently) as tallet (dagesh in the
lamed, tzere before the tav). Ashk'nazim pronounced the word in accordence
with the Ashk'naz pronunciation rules: "tales," with a single lamed, and
a shva after the lamed, as is standard for an unstressed syllables (just
like shabbes, not pronounced shabbos). Certainly no reason to think that
the vowel after the lamed is a hiriq any more than a tzere or a qomatz
or anything else. The plural taleysim would imply, if anything, a tzere.

Teimanim pronounced the word t'lit. Shva after the tet, sinle lamed. What
about mss. with vocalization? All of the early mss. (including the most
reliable, like Kaufmann and Parma A & B) have tallet. Dagesh in the lamed,
tzere after the lamed. The ancient siddur of Worms/Vermayze has the word
as talet: with a segol after the lamed (which alternates with tzere,
as is common in the ms.) and no dagesh in the lamed (omission of the
dagesh is also common). So it would seem that in the 13th century the
word in Ashk'naz had a tzere, and that was still clearly the case in the
16th century, when the Bohur in HaTishbi punctuated the word as tallet.

So how do the dictionaries and everyone else know that the word is tallit?

The dictionaries follow the father of Hebrew dictionarydom: Eliezer ben
Yehuda, who decided, by royal droit (or droit du roi, if you want the
French order), that really the Ashk'nazim meant to say tallis in the
singular. He had no evidence, but since he was the first of the modern
dictionaries, he arrogated the right to make his own decisions as he
saw fit.

Since the evidence points to tallet, then the word is not a normal Hebrew
word with an -- it ending. So where is the word from?

Look in Even Shoshan, and he says it is possibly from the Aramaic root
tll. Yes, indeed, the root tll is well atttested in Aramaic, as in
the word m'tallalta for Hebrew sukka. The root tll (initial tet) is
the Aramaic cognate of the Hebrew root tz-ll, as in the word tzel. If
this is correct, a Hebrew word would have to have a tzadi, the Aramaic
word a tet. All find and dandy, except... there is no Aramaic word
tallit/tallet attested anywhere in Aramaic. Unlike Mishnaic words like
ilan, a common Aramaic word, this word seems to have been created ex
nihilo by the Mishna.

Furthermore, there is another, less well-known word in the Mishna which
is certainly associated in meaning (remember, in the Mishna, tallet/t'lit
does not mean exclusively "prayer" shawl). The word in most modern printed
editions is vocalized itzt'lit: aleph, tzadi, lamed, tav, with some immot
qriah thrown in as well. Look in Yoma 7:1 and Gittin 7:5. That word in
the manuscirpts is written in various ways: the Kaufmann ms. has estalet,
with no yod at all, a segol under the aleph, then a samekh, then a tzere
after the lamed (which has no dagesh). The Rambam own hand ms. of the
Mishna also has the word without a yod before the tav, indicating the
vowel is not a hiriq. That word, as the various spellings give away,
is the Greek word stolé (also borrowed in English, by way of Latin,
as meaning robe, commonly used as in mink stole). Aramaic and Leshon
Hazal could not tolerate two consonants together beginning a word, and
so a proclitic vowel was added to such Latin and Greek words, as also in
words like itztadion (stadium) and many others. That Greek word, with
the feminine Aramaic ending, was then estaleta/estalet or estalit. It
seems clear that tallet was either a shortened form of this loan word,
or some original Aramaic word from the root tll (which word is unattested)
became influenced by the Greek loanword and its pronunciation. That would
explain both tallet and t'lit: the Greek loanword had a short a vowel
(commonly used as a reflex of the Greek omicron), so it either became
a shva in Hebrew (and hence the Teimani form) or a pasah (which would
require doubling of the lamed with a dagesh). Not only does a foreign
origin explain the varying forms of tallet/t'lit, it would provide an
explanantion for the third point, namely:

Ashk'naz rishonim use the word as masculine. As I pointed out, the terms
talles qoton and talles godol are from the Ashk'naz rishonim, not the
S'faradim. Other adjectives show that the word was masculine in Ashk'naz,
even though it is feminine in the Mishna (and in Greek). Ashk'naz rishonim
did not take such liberties with other feminine words with the im plural,
such as taynis or shtus or shabbos. It is very plausible that the word
was still felt to be a foreign one by the ge'onim and came in that way
to Ashk'naz. This also would explain how an abberant plural like tallitot
developed: take the singular and just add an -- ot. This was common with
Greek words, and then was transferred by analogy to native Hebrew words.
Eg. the Rambam has the plural of miqva as miqvot, but the standard form
in Ashk'naz was miqva'ot, an analogy to Greek words ending in -- a.

So Philologos' explanation why the plural -- im may be partially
correct. But it is also true that in Ashk'naz the word was treated as
masculine. And the plural taleysim is correct, since the singular was
tales, with a tzere. What about taneysim, the plural of taynis? That
can be a simple analogy from the more common talis: tales (remember,
shva after the lamed): taleysim = tanis (similarly shva): taneysim.

Philologos also does not mention (he does not have to, it's not directly
germane) that the Hebrew plurals -- im and -- os fit right in to the
Yiddish scheme of things. -- Os was pronounced -- es, with a shva,
since it was unstressed, and that almost exactly equalled the Yiddish
plural -- s/-es. The plural -- im/-in was pronounced -- em or -- en,
which almost exactly equalled the Yiddish plural -- n. As a matter of
fact, one of the words that Philologos does not mention is makhloykes
(squabble, defined by R. Noakh Vebster as what people on Areivim do),
and the plural is makhloiykesen, not -- kesim.

Just as in the mishan -- im and -- in alternate, I suspect that in early
Yiddish the "Hebrew" plural form used for Hebrew words alternated between
- -- em and ^Öen. And the fact that this "Hebrew" plural form is built
on the analogy of the Yiddish plural ending explains what Philologos
didn't solve with his teyretz: why the Yiddish plural is not tayiniyes,
takhliyes or shtuyes, as would have been if these were really the Hebrew
plurals of the words taken into Yiddish. My answer is they are not: the
plural endings -- em/ -- en and ^Öes in Yiddish operated as Yiddish plural
endings, which are added on to the base form in the singular. If the
singular was shtus, the plural -- es had to be added drirectly on to it.

So: pronounce talitot if you wish. It is not a correct form, but neither
is taleysim. One has the original tzere, but a non-original (even if
justified by the fact that it was felt to be a loan word) masculine
plural. The other has a "Ben Yehuda" vowel, with no tradition behind
it. Or, even better, if you like the hiriq esthetically, use a plural
t'litot. That would be from the Teimani form, except then you will have
to say t'lithoth.

All the betht,
Theth Mandel


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 10:11:38 -0500
Subject: Re:Cheilek Elokah MiMaal

This is an attempt at a short response to Peter Borregard and his response 
to Eliezer Finkelman's posting.

My research for the (non-profit) Meru Foundation deals with some of these 
issues.  Those interested should get in touch with me directly.

Eliezer Finkelman writes:
> > The objections and defenses of this phrase in Mail Jewish seem focused
> > on its apparent sympathy with the idea that a human could qualify in any
> > way as divine.
> >
> > A different, but related, objection: According to Rambam, "Now it has
> > been demonstrated that in the necessary existence there is not
> > composition in any way at all."  (Guide 2:1.  In the Pines translation,
> > p. 252).  I understand that to mean that the holy One logially cannot
> > consist of, or have, parts.  Nothing, therefore, should qualify as "a
> > part of the divine" according to Rambam.
> >
> > Does anyone have a cogent alternative to Rambam's assertion?

Rambam is 100% correct.  It is essential that "The One" be without any 
internal parts that we can be aware of.  This is an essential part of the 
definition of what we mean by "One" in combination with what we mean by 
"infinite".  There's a productive, modern metaphor that expresses this idea 
in a completely non-idolatrous way.  Of course, as a finite definition, 
it's subject (like all of math) to limitations discovered by Godel.  These 
limitations do not apply to Hashem of course.  So, accurate and precise as 
this model is, it cannot be perfect (even though the mathematician's 
intention is that it be perfect in a math-definitional sense).

I'm referring to the Dirac delta function, which has the quality of 
infinite amplitude (potency) and no extension in time.  This is a 
mathematical model of something utterly singular.  (And again, singular as 
it is, it can't be as Singular as God.)  What the mathematicians know is 
that if the delta function is anything but absolutely infinite, and if it 
has any structure whatsoever other than its complete singularity, then the 
spectrum of frequencies that make up this singularity would be flawed.  Let 
me put it another way.  If the "One" is not perfect (if it has structure, 
parts), then it can't apply to "All-There-Is".

The analogy here is that unless God is without structure, God cannot 
account for the entire universe.  This is a logical consequence of the 
(Godel)-limited mathematics of singularity.  It should hold even more 
strongly for the infinitely more Infinite "One".

Peter Borregard writes:
>Perhaps to answer Rabbi Finkelman's question we first need to see to
>what extent Rambam and the Ba'al HaTanya are even talking about the same
>The Arizal, and so the various approaches in Chassidut, tries to
>understand how the Infinite can give rise to the finite, and coexist
>with it. Part of the answer that is implicit in this system is, and not
>just in the matter of the soul, that the the process is not graspable by
>intellectual process; it is suprarational.

This is not entirely true.  There are aspects that can only be grasped in 
proportion to the extent of a particular person's humility.  (This is one 
reason why Moshe must be the humblest of humans.)

>The only way it can be communicated is with analogy and metaphor;
>Kabbalah takes for granted that the metaphors that the Torah uses
>contain some resonance of the true essence.

This is very important.  But there is a presumption that creeps in that has 
to be dealt with.  It is true that "the only way it can be communicated is 
with analogy and metaphor...".  But the "analogy and metaphor" is not 
poetic, wordsmith, verbal, or narrative in character, as is now generally 
assumed by both Talmudic and secular scholars.  This is because there is no 
way to _discuss_ the ineffable.  The only _functional_ source of metaphor 
must be at a more universal level than narrative language.  It must be 
geometric in nature.  (This is why the Greeks required knowledge of 
geometry for entrance into the Platonic academy -- which after all, shared 
its science with the Sanhedrin of its day.)

As it turns out, there are a series of very robust, elegant, and compact 
geometric models that make near-immediate, explicit sense of many Talmudic, 
rabbinic, and Kabbalistic teachings which have now become hard to 
understand, because of the presumption of literary instead of geometric 

For those interested, I can send a set of drawings and notes that show how 
the Sh'ma can function as the source of nearly all of the fundamental 
principles of Greek mathematics, and resolve the mysteries of the "One and 
the Many", the "Same and the Different," and their relationship to modern 
ideas involving the Dirac delta function and its Fourier transform spectrum.

>Finally, although his is a different approach to the Kabbalah of the
>Arizal than the Tanya, the second preface (which he instructs us to
>learn seven times before we move on to the text itself) to the Ben Ish
>Chai's sefer Da'at Utevunah tells us that the entire structure of
>worlds, sefirot, etc. is a mashal and not to be taken literally. Mamash.

Yes, exactly.

Purim Sameach.


From: Yeshaya Halevi <chihal@...>
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 20:49:49 -0600
Subject: That's **it??**

Shalom, All:

	For years I've noticed that at the very end of the Megilla of
Esther it says that Mordechai became second only to the king, was a
white hat-wearing good guy and did many things to help his fellow Jews.
In the middle of this laudatory phraseology comes this very puzzling
description: "And he was 'ratzooy' -- accepted/acceptable -- by the
majority of his brothers (fellow Jews)."

      Mordechai is just "acceptable?"  "Accepted?"  Here's a man who
saves all his fellow Jews from being murdered, and that's **it??** The
best he can do is be "accepted (or acceptable) by the majority?"  And
there's actually a minority of his fellow Jews who don't accept him?

      I've always taken this to be a wonderful insight into human
psychology; that you just can't do enough to satisfy some people. Is
there more -- or even less -- to it than that?  

Yeshaya (Charles Chi) Halevi (<chihal@...>)


End of Volume 36 Issue 2