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June 2022 | סיוון תשפ''ב
חַגִּים וּמוֹעֲדִים – Holidays and Occasions

חַג הַשָּׁבוּעוֹת

H̱ag HaShavu'ot,

the Feast of Weeks

As for the sabbatical year and its cycle, the Mishna terms them, respectively, שְׁבִיעִית (‘the seventh [year]’) and שָׁבוּעַ, while also using שָׁבוּעַ for ‘seven-day period’; and Nedarim 8:1 attests שָׁבוּעַ for ‘seven-year period’ in spoken Hebrew.
The peculiar name “Feast of Weeks” refers to the way we time the festival – by counting seven weeks from the onset of the [barley] harvest: שִׁבְעָה שָׁבֻעֹת תִּסְפָּר־לָךְ; מֵהָחֵל חֶרְמֵשׁ בַּקָּמָה, תָּחֵל לִסְפֹּר שִׁבְעָה שָׁבֻעוֹת. וְעָשִׂיתָ חַג שָׁבֻעוֹת (Deut. 16:9–10). On day 50 the count culminates with the festival, a celebration of בִּכּוּרֵי קְצִיר חִטִּים, ‘the first fruit of the wheat harvest’ (Exod. 34:22).
Luach Shanna
The word שָׁבוּעַ, from the same root as ‘seven’ (שֶׁבַע), today denotes a calendar week (starting on Sunday, in Judaism) or any seven-day span; however, it acquired the sense ‘calendar week’ far later. In the Bible שָׁבוּעַ designates a period of seven days or years.

The abundance of units of seven in the Bible testifies to the number’s symbolic value. Observances lasting seven days include Passover and Sukkot, the wedding feast (Gen. 29:27–28), and the week of mourning (Gen. 50:10); seven days serve also as a period of ritual impurity (Lev. 12:2), quarantine (Lev. 13:4), or atonement and preparation (Exod. 29:36–37). Gen. 41 tells of seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. The Bible refers to these periods usually as שִׁבְעַת יָמִים (‘seven days’) and שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים (‘seven years’), respectively, and only occasionally as שָׁבוּעַ.

Although many ancient cultures attributed special significance to the number seven and to seven-day periods, the organization of time into a continuous cycle of weeks based on a focal day observed at seven-day intervals seems to have originated from the Jewish Sabbath; Christianity and Islam greatly contributed to the diffusion of this convention. Along the way, the Sabbath-based week converged with the seven-day astrological week that names the days after celestial bodies (e.g., Sunday, Monday, Saturday); exposure to the latter inspired the name שַׁבְּתַאי for the planet Saturn. The modern calendar week, now fundamental to our day-to-day orientation in time, became widespread so late in the history of human civilization understandably: whereas the day, the lunar month, and the solar year all correspond to salient cycles of nature, no manifest natural cycle lasts seven days (or a similar whole number of days).

The Bible uses the word שַׁבָּת (‘sabbath’) for both the Sabbath day and the sabbatical year, each a time of rest that forms the seventh and final segment in a cycle of work followed by rest (6+1 days or years). The earliest Hebrew references to the calendar week and the sabbatical cycle call them שַׁבָּת as well, extending the meaning of the word שַׁבָּת to denote the cycles that the sabbath ends. Thus Lev. 25:8 directs us to count שֶׁבַע שַׁבְּתֹת שָׁנִים, ‘seven “sabbaths” of years’ – i.e., seven sabbatical cycles.

Similarly, the Mishna calls the calendar week שַׁבָּת. (Aramaic does, too, as in שִׁבְעָה יְמֵי שַׁבְּתָא, ‘seven are the days of the week,’ in the Haggada song.) One mishna (Nedarim 8:1) attests colloquial use of the word שַׁבָּת also for a week-long period, a further extension of meaning.
Does the word שַׁבָּת ever mean ‘calendar week’ in the Bible? The two sole candidates occur in Lev. 23:15b, 16, in the command to count to Shavu'ot. Their interpretation depends on that of the phrase מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת (‘from the day after the sabbath’) in 15a. During the Second Temple period, conflicting interpretations of that phrase sparked a fierce dispute about when to start the count and, accordingly, when to observe Shavu'ot; to this day Rabbinic Jews differ from other groups on this point.

(טו) וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת, מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת־עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה; שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה.
(טז) עַד מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם....
(15) You shall count from the day after the sabbath, from the day you bring the sheaf of waving; they shall be seven complete sabbaths.
(16) Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count 50 days….

If מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת uses the word הַשַּׁבָּת, ‘the sabbath,’ in its ordinary sense (Saturday), then the seven-week count must begin on a Sunday and align with calendar weeks, putting Shavu'ot on a Sunday. Many groups, including the Boethusian sect of the Second Temple period, the Samaritans, and the Karaites, have understood it thus, counting from the day after the Saturday of Passover (or a nearby Saturday, depending on the group). This reading suits construing the “sabbaths” in שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת as calendar weeks (i.e., cycles ending with the Sabbath), analogous to the calendar cycles of seven years called “sabbaths” in שֶׁבַע שַׁבְּתֹת שָׁנִים two chapters hence (and thus Shavu'ot would cap a count of seven calendar cycles just as the Jubilee, year 50, does). In the phrase הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת, “sabbath” could mean ‘calendar week’; but it could also refer to Saturday, since day 50 falls on “the day after the seventh sabbath” either way.

The Rabbis interpreted מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת differently, attributing to the word הַשַּׁבָּת a sense unique in the Bible: ‘holiday’ – specifically, the first day of Passover, 15 Nisan. Per the Rabbis the count thus always begins on 16 Nisan – not necessarily a Sunday – so the weeks of the count do not always align with calendar weeks. Therefore, to reconcile the rest of the passage with the Rabbinic interpretation, we must explain the “sabbaths” in שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת and הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת not as calendar weeks but as week-long periods, a sense not found elsewhere in the Bible.

As they say, it’s all in the timing….

What’s in a Name? שֵׁמוֹת וּמַשְׁמָעוּיוֹת

Mattan – מַתָּן

Idioms and Expressions – מַטְבְּעוֹת לָשׁוֹן

?מָה עִנְיַן שְׁמִטָּה אֵצֶל הַר סִינַי

Matan 02
The noun מַתָּן, from the root נת"ן, means both ‘giving’ and ‘gift.’ In contemporary Hebrew the first sense crops up in new contexts and phrases in addition to fixed ones such as מַתַּן תּוֹרָה (‘the giving of the Tora’) and מַתָּן בַּסֵּתֶר (‘giving [charity] secretly,’ i.e., anonymously). Jewish tradition identifies Shavu'ot as זְמַן מַתַּן תּוֹרָתֵנוּ, ‘the time of the giving of our Tora.’

To express ‘gift,’ speakers today ordinarily use the word מַתָּנָה, reserving מַתָּן for literary or formal settings; in the Bible, too, מַתָּנָה outnumbers מַתָּן. In both words, the first n of the root נת"ן has assimilated to the t (*mantanmattan, *mantanamattana) – hence the absence of the first נ and the addition of the dagesh (diacritical dot) in the ת, indicating the doubling of the t. The asterisk (*) indicates a reconstructed form.

The Bible mentions two men called מַתָּן. The name is attested in other ancient Semitic languages as well. In recent decades the name מַתָּן has enjoyed considerable popularity and now serves as a name for girls, too, albeit infrequently. Babies born around Shavu'ot (also called חַג מַתַּן תּוֹרָה) are sometimes named מַתָּן in honor of the festival.
עשרת הדברות
This rhetorical question (‘What does the subject of shmitta have to do with Mount Sinai?’) now serves as an expression meaning ‘What does one have to do with the other?’ or ‘What does that have to do with the matter at hand?’ It comes from סִפְרָא (Sifra), a collection of halakhic midrash (legal exegesis) on Leviticus redacted around the third century CE. In some versions the wording is מָה עִנְיַן שְׁמִטָּה לְעִנְיַן הַר סִינַי.

In its original context, the question refers to Lev. 25, which opens with the words “The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying–” (25:1) and then sets forth in detail the laws of the sabbatical year (also called שְׁמִטָּה, shmitta, ‘release’). The Tora prefaces many passages of law with the words “the Lord spoke to Moses, saying–”; but the specification בְּהַר סִינַי (‘on Mount Sinai’) stands out here, begging an explanation. Sifra on Lev. 25:1 responds: “What does the subject of shmitta have to do with Mount Sinai? Were not all the mitsvot (commandments) conveyed from Sinai? Rather, just as shmitta’s general rules and fine points were conveyed from Sinai, so too all the mitsvot – both their general rules and their fine points were conveyed from Sinai.”
From the root נת"ן also come several boys’ names of enduring popularity – the Biblical יְהוֹנָתָן/יוֹנָתָן (Jonathan) and נְתַנְאֵל (Nathaniel), both meaning ‘G‑d gave,’ and their shortened form, נָתָן (Nathan) – as well as the less common אֶלְנָתָן (‘G‑d gave’) and names meaning ‘gift of G-d’ such as מַתִּתְיָהוּ (from מַתָּת, ‘gift’), מַתַּנְיָה, and מַתַּנְאֵל. Among girls, the names מַתָּנָה and מַתָּת are rare, as is נְתַנְאֵל; the feminized form נְתַנְאֵלָה is more frequent but still uncommon.

Other popular Hebrew names meaning ‘gift’ include דּוֹרוֹן (from Greek δῶρον) and שַׁי. Their use as names for baby girls has surged in recent years, often surpassing that for baby boys. In European languages, too, we find names meaning ‘gift’ or ‘gift of G‑d,’ such as Theodore, Theodora, and Dorothy, from Greek θεός (‘G-d’) and δῶρον.

להרחבה באתר האקדמיה

Timely Terms – מֻנָּחִים לָעִנְיָן

Talk of the Town – שִׂיחַת הָעִיר

חדשות כזב2
Narrative (n.) – סִפֵּר
Both in the field of sociology and in general use, the masculine noun סִפֵּר – from the same root as סִפּוּר (‘story’) – provides a Hebrew substitute for נָרָטִיב, ‘narrative.’ (In the study of literature, the term סִפֵּר serves instead for ‘narration.’) The word is in the same pattern as the noun דִּבֵּר, best known from the phrases חֵלֶק דִּבֵּר (‘part of speech’) and עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת (‘the decalogue,’ commonly referred to as “the 10 commandments”).

Browse sociology terms
לעיון במילון למונחי סוציולוגיה

Fake newsחַדְשׁוֹת כָּזָב; יְדִיעַת כָּזָב
The noun כָּזָב, from the same root as the verb כִּזֵּב (‘to lie, to deceive, to fabricate’) and the noun אַכְזָבָה (‘disappointment’), serves in contemporary Hebrew as a formal word for a falsehood or fabrication – as in the fixed phrase שֶׁקֶר וְכָזָב (‘a total lie, a complete fabrication’). In 2018 the Academy introduced the terms חַדְשׁוֹת כָּזָב for ‘fake news’ (from חֲדָשׁוֹת, ‘news’) and יְדִיעַת כָּזָב for an item of fake news (from יְדִיעָה, ‘news item’; the word יְדִיעָה, from the verb יָדַע, ‘to know,’ also means ‘knowledge, awareness’).

Browse mass-communication terms
לעיון במילון למונחי תקשורת המונים

The modern word תַּעֲמוּלָה (as in תַּעֲמוּלַת בְּחִירוֹת, ‘election propaganda’) is derived from the root עמ"ל underlying Biblical עָמַל (‘to toil’) and עָמָל (‘hard work, labor, great effort’), Rabbinic הִתְעַמֵּל (‘to train, practice’), and the more recent הִתְעַמְּלוּת (‘exercise, gymnastics’). Dictionary definitions of תַּעֲמוּלָה from the early 20th century include ‘effort, travail’ and ‘effort to disseminate an idea or matter.’ The latter sense appears also in Russia’s Hebrew press of that period, at times with the gloss אגיטציא or אגיטציון, a cognate of “agitation”; one meaning of Russian агитация (agitacija) is ‘propaganda.’ Now well-established, the word תַּעֲמוּלָה, like “propaganda,” today may refer to either the activity or the message. In the Academy’s dictionaries it appears most recently in the 1999 dictionary of diplomacy terms.
להרחבה באתר האקדמיה
News and Events – חֲדָשׁוֹת וְאֵרוּעִים
שפת הסימנים
נִפְתְּחָה יְחִידָה לִשְׂפַת הַסִּימָנִים הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִית
AHL Opens a Department for
Israeli Sign Language

At the initiative of the Israeli government, the Academy has opened a unit devoted to preserving, documenting, and developing Israeli Sign Language (ISL), the predominant sign language in Israel. This unit will be staffed by members of the deaf community. The Academy warmly welcomes its new hires and looks forward to providing a supportive environment, sharing its accumulated knowledge and experience, and working with the deaf community on this important mission.

* Text in the illustration: Irit Meir and Wendy Sandler, שָׂפָה בַּמֶּרְחָב (Language in Space).
הַרְצָאָה מְקֻוֶּנֶת: תֵּאוּר מַעֲמַד הַר סִינַי כַּחֲתֻנָּה בַּפִּיּוּט
Online Lecture:
Poetic Portrayals of a Wedding at Sinai

Academy member Prof. Shulamit Elizur, a scholar of Hebrew poetry, will give a talk in honor of Shavu'ot, delving into ancient and medieval Hebrew poems composed for the holiday. She will examine depictions of the encounter at Mount Sinai as a wedding and the different versions of the wedding event that emerge. The lecture, in Hebrew, will take place on Wednesday, June 1, at 19:00 IDT. Use the link below to register.

לעמוד ההרשמה

עברית מלוא הטנא
חָדָשׁ: "תִּיקִים עִבְרִיִּים"
New: Hebrew Swag!

The Academy now offers “Hebrew bags,” made of 100% cotton, in two designs. One design presents the Hebrew names of herbs beside the foreign names typically used for them; the other one features animals (pictured and named) and the special verbs for their vocalizations (corresponding to “donkeys bray,” “elephants trumpet,” etc.). The herb design adorns a sturdy tote bag; the animal design is available on the tote and, in addition, on a lightweight drawstring bag.

Visit the Academy's online store
לאתר חנות האקדמיה
מָבוֹא לְסֵמַנְטִיקָה – הִשְׁתַּלְּמוּת מְקֻוֶּנֶת
Online Course:
Introduction to Semantics

AHL’s new seven-week introductory course in semantics – appropriate for Hebrew speakers who love words and meanings – starts on June 14; it will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 20:00–21:30 IDT. Advance registration and payment are required. Participants may sign up for the entire course or for individual topics (by week).

לפרטים ולהרשמה
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