Volume 50 Number 38
                    Produced: Fri Dec  2  5:11:50 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Disclosure of Rabbi's Salary
         [Martin Stern]
         [A.J. Hyman]
Hebrew "origins" of English words
         [Richard Schultz]
Hebrew source of English words (2)
         [Saul Davis, Bernard Raab]
Hillel's Sig Line (Foxes and Fish)
         [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
Mem-Chet-Lamed **is*** a Biblical root according to Rashi/Mendelkorn
         [Yehoshua Steinberg]
source of Kaddish melody
         [Deborah Wenger]
Starbucks and use of term "homophobia" (2)
         [Goldfinger, Andy, <asapper@...>]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Dec 2005 21:07:40 +0000
Subject: Disclosure of Rabbi's Salary

on 1/12/05 10:53 am, Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...> wrote:

> However, in shuls that are tightly controlled by the board or a narrow
> subset thereof, a rabbi might well feel that his going public with his
> meager salary would get him fired.

Unfortunately this oligarchic style of management is all too
prevalent. What can be done about it?

Martin Stern


From: A.J. Hyman <ajhyman@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2005 21:02:47 -0500
Subject: Re: Freakonomics

Yes, Freakonomics is a good read, but I am having a bit of problem with
Levitt's section on names as it relates to Jewish names.

He goes to some length to correlate the "blackest" names of children
with economic and educational status of the parents, where "blackest" is
defined as those names that are far more likely to be given to black
children than white (p. 183). For example, the top three "blackest"
names for boys are DeShawn, DeAndre and Marquis, where as the top three
"whitest" names for boys are Jake, Connor and Tanner.

But then several pages later (p. 198), Levitt lists the most popular boy
names for blacks (in the same study area). The top five are: Isaiah,
Jordan, Elijah, Michael and Joshua. These names don't make the
"blackest" list, presumably because they occur with some reasonable
frequency among white children.

The interesting thing is that none of these Biblical names occur in the
list of boys names most likely (i.e., statistically) to signify
high-education parents, which, as Leah points out, includes names like
Dov, Akiva, Elon, Yonah and Zev.

To me this signifies that Hebrew, aka Israeli, but not Biblical names,
are more associated with our traditional identifiers of success,
education and income.  Hmmmm .... I think I will have to re-read
Levitt's chapter ....

Avi Hyman, Toronto


From: Richard Schultz <schultr@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 2005 15:24:51 +0200
Subject: Hebrew "origins" of English words

In mail-jewish 50:35, David Charlap <shamino@...> writes:

: The letter ayin is not silent, even though Ashkenazim pronounce in that
: way.  It is considered a "guttural" letter, to be pronounced at the back
: of the throat (much like a reish or chaf.)  This is why proper names
: beginning with an ayin have been translated into words beginning with a
: "G".  For example, 'Amora becoming Gommora (as in "Sodom and ...")

Actually, AIUI, it's a bit more complicated than that.  Most of the
English transliterations of Biblical names derive from the
transliterations into Greek found in the Septuagint.  Arabic has two
similar sounds, "ayin" and "ghayin."  Apparently, at one point, Hebrew
had these two sounds as well, but since the Phoenician alphabet had
fewer letters than Hebrew had sounds, both of these sounds were
indicated by the letter ayin, but when Hebrew ceased to be a spoken
language, the differentiation between the two sounds was lost.  Such an
hypothesis would explaing why *some* names beginning in ayin were
transliterated into names beginning with gamma (Gomorrah, Gaza) while
others were not (Eden).  On the other hand, it's not always safe to rely
on the Septuagint as a guide to pronunciation of Hebrew -- some of their
transliterations are very different from any expected pronunciation of
the Hebrew.  (Moshe becomes something with a diphthong, IIRC -- Moiseh
or Mouseh, IIRC.)

In the same issue, Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...> writes:

: And here is my sincere question once more: is it not presumptuous of
: linguists to determine word meanings without even taking into account
: the traditions of the native speakers of the language? 
: . . .What am I missing?

It is not presumptuous, and in fact would be dangerous for them to take
into account the "traditions" of the speakers of the language rather
what can be proven from attested usage and derived from regular sound
correspondences among languages.  What you are missing is the process
known as "folk etymology" in which people come up with
plausible-sounding, but completely wrong, explanations for the origins
of words.

Of course, your whole hypothesis suffers from one major logical flaw:
how is it that the English words that supposedly have Semitic roots bear
striking similarities to the cognate words in other Germanic languages,
but the words with the same meanings in Romance languages do *not* have
similar sounds?  As far as I can tell, Southern Europe, where Romance
languages are spoken, is closer to the Middle East than England is.

Richard Schultz


From: Saul Davis <saul.davis@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 2005 21:41:26 +0200
Subject: Hebrew source of English words

Mike Gerver wrote a fascinating posting on this subject. I want to take
him up on one central feature of his argument. He wrote: " borrowed
words are almost always borrowed from languages spoken by neighboring
people, or by people who conquered the people doing the borrowing. Very
few people in England knew Hebrew between the Anglo-Saxon and modern
English periods, when Anglo-Saxon "eage" would purportedly have been
replaced by a word that comes from Hebrew "ayin" ".

The contention of the argument (Hebrew source of English words) is not
that cave-men in the British hills decided to learn Hebrew! Rather just
that words, over very long periods, traveled (not replaced) from one
culture to another neighbouring culture. Etymologists have not done a
full job on many words that could be traced back to Hebrew and have
stopped mostly at northern Europe (German and old English) or Latin and

I used to think that eye and ayin were not connected because ayin starts
with a guttural letter, but discovering (from Mike Gerver) that the
word's origins are Old English ege or eage and from
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=eye that the plural was een or
ene I am not so sure!


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Dec 2005 14:30:17 -0500
Subject: Hebrew source of English words

>From: David Charlap :
>I would just like to add, regarding the "eye vs. ayin" example, that the
>similarity between the words fades rapidly if you know the Hebrew.
>The letter ayin is not silent, even though Ashkenazim pronounce in that
>way.  It is considered a "guttural" letter, to be pronounced at the back
>of the throat (much like a reish or chaf.)  This is why proper names
>beginning with an ayin have been translated into words beginning with a
>"G".  For example, 'Amora becoming Gommora (as in "Sodom and ...")

Which also explains why "Yaakov" is pronounced "Yankov" in Yiddish,
"Jahn" (pronounced "Yahn") in Dutch, "Johan" (pronounced "Yohan") in
German , and "John" in English. So many of the early Dutch settlers in
America were named Jahn, Americans became known as Yankees, which is the
equivalent of the Yiddish "Yankel", the diminutive of "Yankov". Thus
"Yaakov" is the quitessential American name, whose English version can
be either Jacob or John, which incidentally explains why a coomon
nickname for John is "Jack", a variation of "Jake".

b'shalom--Bernie R.


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Dec 2005 15:14:26 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: Hillel's Sig Line (Foxes and Fish)

>From: A.J. Hyman <ajhyman@...>
>I am fascinated by (and love) Hillel's sig line (above) ...
>It raises so many questions; who is the fox? what really is "ashore"? Of
>course, the literal meaning is that if we stay immersed in a
>Torah-informed life, then we will survive, as a fish in water, and if we
>leave a Torah-filled life, like the fish out of water, we will die. But
>is the "shore" simply only the absence of Torah? Or is it something of
>its own? Wearing my scientist's kippah for a moment, we recall that one
>of God's evolutionary miracles might have been that land animals
>actually evolved from sea animals that left the water and went ashore?
>What then, does that do to Hillel's metaphor?

Originally, I came up with the line when writing to soc.culture.jewish
and alt.messianic as a way of sticking it to the "messy-antics" who were
always trying to "missionize" the Jews. Besides the reference to Rabbi
Akiva's mashal (foolish fox who is thought to be so wise), I also
intended it to be a reference to the sly fox who wanted to have a fish
dinner (ala Chicken Little).  As far as the evolutionary idea, that
would imply that the animals are actually the goyim who gave up the
Torah (see the Rambam on the generation of Enosh).  That would imply
that we are indeed a minority in the world.

Of course, one can actually take a mashal too far.  However, one can say
that just as a fish had to "change" its very being to be able to live on
the land, so to the goyim cannot be what they are and try to also accept
the Torah.  One is either one thing or the other, one *cannot* be both.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz | Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore"
<Sabba.Hillel@...> | The fish are the Jews, Torah is our water


From: Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 2005 18:10:02 -0500
Subject: Mem-Chet-Lamed **is*** a Biblical root according to Rashi/Mendelkorn

> From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
>Recent postings have stated that the root Mem-Chet-Lamed is not a
>Biblical root and that eg it is not mentioned by Rishonim (as a Biblical
>root) and not listed in Mendelkorn.

>This is not true. You have to know how to read Mendelkorn. ANd you have
>to know how to use Rashi as a grammatical source. Let us begin with

Machalat is a name. The discussion began with a quote from the Talmud,
"al tikrei me-hallelo ela machul-lo" which was dismissed as a cute play
on words. I simply pointed out that the word "machul" (infinitive
"mechila") is itself of Rabbinic origin, in that it is not used in the
Tanach to denote forgiveness, which is covered by other terms. On top of
that, the words in the Bible which do contain these three letters are
classied by the traditional etymological works under chet-lamed or
chet-lamed-lamed, becaise the "mem" is not a radical.

Although names are often derived from roots and have meanings, they are
generally not listed in the various sifrei hashorashim, so the name
"Machalat" being listed under "Mem" in one or another book would not
affect the fact that the "mem" is extraneous to the root of the biblical
verbs and nouns which include those three letters.

Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...>


From: Deborah Wenger <debwenger@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Dec 2005 17:22:25 -0500
Subject: source of Kaddish melody

Does anyone know the source of the traditional (Ashkenaz) melody used
for the Kaddish before musaf on Shabbat? (sorry I can't hum a few bars



From: Goldfinger, Andy <Andy.Goldfinger@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2005 08:23:16 -0500
Subject: Starbucks and use of term "homophobia"

Leah S. Gordon comments that the term "homophobia:"

"is the right word here.  It means, in modern usage, the tendency to
discriminate against people by virtue of the fact that they are

I would like to clarify my point.  Ms. Gordon may be correct regarding
the dictionary meaning of the word, but the term is clearly perjorative
in tone.  It conveys the impression that the "homophobe" has some sort
of defect, and has a definitely negative connotation.

Calling people such as myself (who do not discriminate against
homosexuals, but definitely regard their sexual acts as morally wrong)
by a perjorative name is an example of bigotry, pure and simple.

--- Andy Goldfinger

From: <asapper@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2005 10:33:04 -0500
Subject: Re: Starbucks and use of term "homophobia"

Leah S. Gordon wrote: "(Whatever some MJ'ers may say, 'homophobia' is
the right word here.  It means, in modern usage, the tendency to
discriminate against people by virtue of the fact that they are

        We should in this forum avoid ever using the term "homophobe."
Contrary to Ms. Gordon's assertion, it connotes far more than mere
discrimination, and is intended to connote far more.  The word trades
falsely on the definition of the term "phobia" in clinical psychology,
which is "an irrational fear or an obsessive dread."  ("Phobos"
originally meant "panic" in Greek.)  As Wikipedia puts it, the term is
part of "an attempt to disempower [opponents of homosexual conduct] by
artificially medicalizing a legitimate point of view."  Homosexuals have
come to employ the term to imply (without actually saying so) that there
are no rational criticisms of homosexual conduct, and to slanderously
imply that opposition to homosexual conduct is a medical illness.

        Avoidance of the term in this forum is particularly important.
Aside from the high level of respectful discourse that we try to
maintain, the term insults Jews who dispassionately follow the Torah,
which not only bans homosexual conduct but calls it further "an
abomination," and those of many religions who follow similar principles.

 Moreover, the term is false, for there are indeed rational criticisms
of homosexual conduct.  At the very least, we should avoid using terms
that imply the inability to maintain such criticisms unless that
inability is first established beyond cavil -- which, of course, it has


End of Volume 50 Issue 38