Volume 39 Number 98
                 Produced: Tue Jul  1  5:30:15 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Abracadabra (5)
         [Shalom Ozarowski, David Waxman, Jay F Shachter, Mike Gerver,
Yisrael Medad]
Keil Adon
         [Saul Mashbaum]
Question re Meat and Fowl
Where do words come from (2)
         [Mike Gerver, Bill Bernstein]
Word Origins
         [Carl Singer]


From: <Shalomoz@...> (Shalom Ozarowski)
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 17:39:37 EDT
Subject: Abracadabra

Yeshaya Halevi asks, in v39n96,
     Has anybody pointed out the possibly Hebrew origin of the English
     phrase "abra cadabra?"  Those who say the phrase is Hebrew in
     origin say it stems from a kabalistic term, meaning "I have created
     as I have spoken."

Ive heard it's aramaic ["abra k'adabra"].  does the dikduk make sense?
does anyone know a source for this?  does mozeson talk about it in The

shalom ozarowski

From: David Waxman <yitz99@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 03:56:11 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Abracadabra

Aramaic, actually.  Sounds nice, but it is likely an unprovable claim.

From: Jay F Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 09:21:21 -0600 (CDT)
Subject: Re: Abracadabra

It is Gentile in proximate origin, and it is a parody of Christian
mystical incantations which are Hebrew in origin.  "Abrac" (an acronym
for Av, Ben, Ruax HaQodesh) is part of a Christian mystical incantation,
the rest is parody.  Compare "Hocus Pocus", from the Black Mass, a
parody and corruption of "Hoc Est Corpus [Dei]".

Read the text of the Black Mass if this stuff interests you.  It will
remind you of our Purim Torah; the big difference is that its authors
were in deadly earnest.  It was born of the devastations of war, famine,
and -- above all else -- plague, and it was written out of a white-hot
hatred of the religion.

		Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
		6424 N Whipple St, Chicago IL  60645-4111
		<jay@...>; http://m5.chi.il.us

From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 19:20:55 EDT
Subject: Abracadabra

Eric Partridge's book "Origins," quoting Webster's New International
Dictionary, 2nd edition, gives something similar, saying it is from
"avada cadabra," meaning "Disappear at a word," in Aramaic. J. K.
Rowlings, in the Harry Potter books, certainly seems to like this

Partridge also mentions another possibility, that it comes from a Greek
word "Abraxas," some kind of mystical word that has a gematria (in Greek
letters) of 365. This is the only etymology given in Webster's New World
Dictionary, and in Ernest Klein's Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary
of the English Language, which is rather disappointing since you would
expect Klein, a Hebrew scholar, to prefer the Hebrew or Aramaic origin
if he thought it had merit. Then again, Klein was a Greek scholar too,
so maybe he didn't play favorites.  I suppose it's possible that the
word originated from "Abraxas," but it was influenced by the Hebrew or
Aramaic phrase.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel

From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 21:50:37 +0200
Subject: Abracadabra

A recent CSI episode shown here in Israel, concerning magicians, also
made this claim.
One of my dictionaries claims is is Kabbalistic "when written triangular"
Crowley writes:

The word Abracadabra is familiar to everyone. Why should it possess such
a reputation? Eliphas Levi's explanations left me cold. I began to
suspect that it must be a corruption of some true "word of power". I
investigated it by means of the Cabbala. I restored its true spelling.
Analysis showed it to be indeed the essential formula of the Great Work.
It showed who to unite the Macrocosm with the Microcosm. I, therefore,
adopted this word and its numerical value, 418, as the
quintessentialized expression of the proper way to conduct all major
Magical Operations.

and then we have this:

ABRA has a supposed significance as it is composed of the first letters
of the Hebrew words for: Father = Abba, and Spirit = Rauch Acadosh.
However, J E Cirlot in A Dictionary of Symbols, Dorset, page 2,
considers the whole word a Hebrew phrase.

Abracadabra: This word was in frequent use during the Middle Ages as a
magic formula. It is derived from the Hebrew phrase abreq ad habra,
meaning "hurl your thunderbolt even unto death".

Go figure it out.

Yisrael Medad


From: Saul Mashbaum <smash52@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 21:29:36 +0300
Subject: Keil Adon

Keil Adon, which has been mentioned several times recently in
mail-Jewish, contains an allusion to the planets known at the time of
its composition.

After mentioning the sun and the moon, the poet writes
Shevach notim-lo kol tzva marom (the entire heavenly host gives Him praise).

The first letters of the words in this line refer to the planets as follows:

Shevah = Shabtai ( Saturn )
Notnim-lo = Noga (Venus )
Kol = Kochav (Mercury)
Tzva = Tzedek (Jupiter )
Marom = Maadim (Mars)

This is pointed out in the Iyun Tefila, a commentary on the siddur
printed in the Siddur Otzar Hatefillot. I believe Dr. Phillip Birnbaum
cites this idea in this siddur.

Saul Mashbaum


From: <chips@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 18:40:24 -0700
Subject: Re:Question re Meat and Fowl

> From: Yehonatan and Randy Chipman <yonarand@...>
>    This year, I suddenly thought of a problem with this, so obvious that
> I was amazed I had not thought of it before: namely, that quail, being a
> bird, is not considered "meat" on the de-oraita level but, as is well
> known, is prohibited only by Rabbinic ordinance. 

My question had been why don't we see from here that fowl, or at least
quail, is real meat from a Torah level.  One answer I got was that the
term "bosur" does not refer to "real meat" on an exclusive level. You
need look no further than the section where the BnaiYisroel ask for
"bosur" before the quail storm. They pine for the "bosur" of fish.



From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 03:09:04 EDT
Subject: Where do words come from

Yael Levine Katz writes, in v39n91:

      I would refer those interested in the topic of possible affinities
      between English and Hebrew words to the work of Isaac E. Mozeson,
      The Word: The Dictionary That Reveals the Hebrew Source of
      English, New York: Shapolsky, 1989.

By all means look at The Word, but I hope that readers of that book will
also read my posting in v38n33, under the topic "Hebrew and English
Cognates," to get a more balanced view, especially if they do not know
much about this topic already. By the way, the files I mentioned in that
posting, "Comments on the Word," and my own list of related Hebrew and
English words based on the results of standard academic research in
linguistics, have now been converted from old incompatible Mac format,
and handwritten notes, to Word files, readable with any Hebrew-capable
version of Windows.

Also in v39n91, Stan Tenen quotes from the introduction to "The Word,"
raising points that I did not discuss in my posting in v38n33, so I
would like to briefly address those points now.

I think that the relationship between the Indo-European languages, and
the relationship between Hebrew and other Semitic languages, has nothing
to do one way or the other with acceptance or rejection of the Torah and
Judaism. Whatever the nature of Hebrew is as "lashon kodesh," it was
also, at the time of matan Torah and for thousands of years before, a
language spoken by people, most of them not Jewish, living in and around
what is now Israel. As such, Hebrew underwent changes in the way words
were used and pronounced, like any other language, and as it clearly did
after Matan Torah. The Hebrew used in Nevi'im and Ketuvim is not the
same as the Hebrew used in the Torah, and the Hebrew of the Mishna and
of the Rishonim and Acharonim is different still.

So I don't see why Stan, and Isaac Mozeson, object to the idea that
Hebrew evolved from proto-Semitic (which no serious linguist claims was
a "more cumbersome form"). It seems to me that it's just a matter of
semantics. If you want to call proto-Semitic an earlier form of Hebrew,
fine. You could also call proto-Afroasiatic, proto-Nostratic, and The
Mother Tongue (the latter terms used by some historical linguists) still
earlier forms of Hebrew, and say that Hebrew was the original language
of mankind.

Whatever you want to call these earlier languages, reconstructing some
of their vocabulary and grammar with the help of more recent languages
is a task which is based on written evidence and perhaps statistical
analysis.  It doesn't depend on whether or not you accept the Torah. The
same is true of the Indo-European languages. The empirical evidence for
the Indo-European languages developing from a common origin, and being
more closely related to each other than to other languages such as
Hebrew or Chinese, is overwhelming. There are well over a thousand
purported Indo-European roots, most of them occurring in dozens of
different Indo-European languages, with regular patterns of sound shifts
relating the forms found in different languages, which make up the bulk
of the vocabulary of those languages. While it is quite likely that a
few of these purported roots are actually just coincidences, similar to
"isle" and "island," and the other examples I gave in my recent posting,
the odds are overwhelmingly against the hypothesis that all
Indo-European roots are just coincidences, and that Indo-European isn't
a real category at all. (This is not to deny that some German scholars
of Indo-European made implausible claims that Indo-European was
originally spoken in Germany, or even used their research to bolster
Nazi racist theories.)

The evidence is also overwhelming for the affinity between Hebrew and
other Semitic languages such as Aramaic and Arabic. The similarities of
Hebrew and Aramaic grammar and vocabulary (in contrast to Biblical or
Mishnaic Hebrew and English, say) are obvious to anyone who has studied
Gemara. Or look in any Arabic dictionary-- about half the words have
obvious cognates in Hebrew, with one-to-one correspondence in spelling,
similar to what you would find comparing Spanish and French, or English
and Dutch. And after all, if the Arabs are descended from Ishmael, as
they say and as we say, why in the world wouldn't you expect them to
speak a language that is closely related to Hebrew? Who cares whether
someone calls the common ancestral language an earlier form of Hebrew,
or proto-Western Semitic?

If you want to buy a book on etymology that was written by an observant
and knowledgable Jew, who worked within the accepted framework of
academic linguistics but did not hesitate to offer alternate etymologies
when he had a good reason to, I highly recommend two books by (Rabbi)
Ernest Klein zt"l. He was a survivor of Auschwitz, and from everything I
have heard, a wonderful person. One of these books, Etymological
Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for English Speakers (Macmillan, 1987)
was out of print for a while, but I found it new a couple of years ago
for $30. The other one, Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the
English Language, first published by Elsevier in 1966, is now in its
seventh edition, and unfortunately lists for $168. These books do not
cover the more speculative and recent work on Nostratic, a supposed
common origin of Indo-European and Semitic (among other language
families). But they offer many examples of English words borrowed
directly or indirectly from Hebrew, Aramaic or Arabic, with
corresponding Hebrew words, or Hebrew words borrowed from Persian, Greek
or Sanskrit, with corresponding English words. They are a delight to
browse through.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel

From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 09:12:02 -0500
Subject: Where do words come from

<<Isle is from Latin insula, from in+sola, "in the sea."  Island, spelled
iland before the spelling was affected by "isle," comes from Anglo-Saxon
iegland or ealand, where the second syllable means "land," and "ieg"
means "island" and "ea" means water (same root as Latin aqua).>>

I dont understand this.  I believe both are from insula.  The Latin word
for sea is not sola but mare or aequus.  According to my ancient Harpers
Dictionary, the -sol- root means "go".  That the -land part of island
may be an anglo-saxonism appended to a latin root does not make them
from different sources.

<<Gold comes from an Indo-European root meaning "shiny" or "yellow," the
same root that "yellow" comes from.
Gelt comes from an Indo-European root meaning "pay," the same root
that"yield" comes from.>>

Again, this makes no sense.  Gelt is not only cognate with gold but
means the same thing.  The Indo-European root is ghel and produces:
gold, gelt, yellow, geller, and zloty among others.  Two words from
connected languages with the same meaning and very similar sounds means:
A comes from B, B comes from A, or both A and B come from a common
source.  But to attribute A from one source and B from another makes no

Another interesting derivation is: punch (a drink with 5 ingredients),
pyat' (five in Russian) and Punjab (a region with 5 rivers) are all

I have found it interesting that the Gemara often derives words from
Aramaic, even where it seems obvious it comes from Greek.  The example
of afikomen comes to mind.  The gemara in Psachim derives it from an
Aramaic phrase to bring down the pots but it would seem more obviously
to come from Greek epikommos.  Any other examples?  

Bill Bernstein
Nashville TN


From: Carl Singer <csngr@...>
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 08:34:39 -0400
Subject: Word Origins

A final jeapardy answer recently dealt with Greek term for a church
(don't recall exact wording)

The question was (what is) Basilica

It seems that  Bais Elo-kha    is close enough for guessing purposes.

Carl Singer


End of Volume 39 Issue 98