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January 2022 | שבט תשפ''ב

חַגִּים וּמוֹעֲדִים: ט"וּ בִּשְׁבָט

Holidays and Occasions: Tu BiShvat

Two words for ‘tree’ – עֵץ וְאִילָן

טו בשבט
In honor of ט''וּ בִּשְׁבָט, the New Year for trees celebrated on the 15th of Shvat, we ask: How did Hebrew come to have two words for ‘tree’ – עֵץ (ets) and אִילָן (ilan)? What’s the difference between them? In Semantic Aspects of Hebrew, Gad B. Sarfatti explains:

In the Bible the word עֵץ means not only ‘tree,’ as in עֵץ הַחַיִּים (‘the tree of life’), but also ‘wood,’ as in כְּלִי עֵץ (‘wood utensil’). אִילָן does not occur in Biblical Hebrew.

Rabbinic Hebrew distinguishes ‘tree’ from ‘wood’ by reserving עֵץ for ‘wood’ and using the Aramaic loanword אִילָן for ‘tree.’ The Mishna therefore calls the New Year for trees רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה לָאִילָן. However, in the blessings the rabbis deliberately used Biblical vocabulary, so the Mishna says that “on the fruit of the אִילָן one says בּוֹרֵא פְרִי הָעֵץ” (Brakhot 6:1).

In contemporary Hebrew עֵץ has reverted to serving for both ‘wood’ and ‘tree,’ as in Biblical Hebrew; אִילָן is used for ‘tree’ primarily in flowery Hebrew or in expressions and fixed phrases, such as חַג הָאִילָנוֹת (‘the Tree Festival’) – another name for Tu BiShvat. אִילָן also serves in contemporary Hebrew as a first name for boys and has inspired the feminized forms אִילָנָה (Ilana) and אִילָנִית (Ilanit) for girls.
קראו עוד באתר האקדמיה כאן.

מַטְבְּעוֹת לָשׁוֹן

Idioms and Expressions

כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה

Ilan Clean
Two Talmudists, the story goes, were walking to the river for a swim, when one suddenly stopped in disappointment. “What’s the matter?” the other asked.
“Danger! No swimming allowed,” said the first, pointing to a sign.
“Not at all,” replied the other. “It says, ‘Danger? No! Swimming allowed.’”

* * *

The words כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה from Deut. 20:19 have similarly spawned contradictory interpretations (not in jest). The verse enjoins:

כִּי־תָצוּר אֶל־עִיר יָמִים רַבִּים לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ לְתׇפְשָׂהּ, לֹא־תַשְׁחִית אֶת־עֵצָהּ לִנְדֹּחַ עָלָיו גַּרְזֶן, כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ תֹאכֵל, וְאֹתוֹ לֹא תִכְרֹת; כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה לָבֹא מִפָּנֶיךָ בַּמָּצור:

The usual reading of the verse construes the last clause as a rhetorical question:

"When you besiege a city a long time in fighting it to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees, putting an ax to them, for you may eat of them, and you shall not cut them down; for is the tree of the field a person to be besieged by you [literally‎: to come before you in the siege]?"

In this understanding, the clause כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה contrasts trees (specifically, trees bearing edible produce) and people, saying that trees are not like people.

In contemporary Hebrew, though, the clause has taken on a very different meaning: detached from the context of the verse, it serves as a declarative statement likening people to trees. Israeli poet Natan Zach uses the clause this way in the lyrics of the famous song כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה, which compares people to trees and vice versa (listen to it here).

קראו עוד באתר האקדמיה כאן.

שֵׁמוֹת וּמַשְׁמָעוּיוֹת

What's in a Name?

Shakéd – שָׁקֵד


Did you know?

Shmitta – שְׁמִטָּה

Shaked New
Shmita New1
The word שָׁקֵד (‘almond’) denotes both the tree and its fruit. In contemporary spoken Hebrew, though, שָׁקֵד generally refers to the fruit, while the tree goes by the name שְׁקֵדִיָּה popularized by the children’s Tu BiShvat song הַשְּׁקֵדִיָּה פּוֹרַחַת (“The Almond Tree is Blooming”; listen to it here). In Israel Tu BiShvat often coincides with the flowering of the beautiful pink and white almond blossoms.

Whereas the word שְׁקֵדִיָּה is just a century old, the word שָׁקֵד dates from antiquity and has cognates in other ancient Semitic languages. Gen. 43:11 names almonds as an item of local produce from Canaan.

In the Bible we also find the verb שָׁקַד, which Jeremiah 1:11–12 links to שָׁקֵד. The Biblical שָׁקַד means ‘to be alert and act quickly, attend [to something]’ – and, indeed, the almond is one of the first deciduous trees to blossom, coming into bloom in late winter. In Rabbinic Hebrew שָׁקַד also means ‘to work diligently and studiously’; from this meaning comes the word שַׁקְדָן (‘industrious person’).

Plant names have long provided a source of Hebrew first names; Biblical examples include תָּמָר (tamar, ‘date, date-palm’) and אֹרֶן (oren, ‘pine’). The list has grown in recent generations, and in the last few decades שָׁקֵד has become a popular first name for both boys and girls. Additionally, surnames containing “Mandel” (‘almond’ in German and Yiddish) have sometimes been Hebraicized to שָׁקֵד or שְׁקֵדִי.

על שקד קראו עוד כאן. על שקדייה קראו עוד כאן.
In the Hebrew calendar, every seventh year is a sabbatical year, during which the Bible requires canceling debts, letting the land lie fallow, and forfeiting its produce for all to partake of. Jewish law forbids trading in sabbatical-year produce or wasting it. This year (5782) is a sabbatical year.

The Bible refers to the sabbatical year by a variety of names:
  • שְׁמִטָּה or שְׁנַת הַשְּׁמִטָּה (‘the shmitta year’). These names, still used today, are related to the transitive verbs שָׁמַט and הִשְׁמִיט, both of which mean ‘to release, leave [alone], let be’ – in this case, to release debts and to leave the land alone.
  • שְׁנַת הַשֶּׁבַע or הַשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִית or simply הַשְּׁבִיעִית (‘the seventh [year]’). Rabbinic Hebrew drops the definite article: שְׁבִיעִית. This name remains in use today, as in פֵּרוֹת שְׁבִיעִית (‘fruit of the seventh [year]’) and קְדֻשַּׁת שְׁבִיעִית, a term for the special status (‘holiness’) of sabbatical-year produce.
  • שַׁבָּת (‘sabbath’), שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן (used in the Bible also to refer to the Sabbath day and Yom Kippur), or שְׁנַת שַׁבָּתוֹן (‘sabbatical year’). These appellations, found in Lev. 25, emphasize the aspect of rest for the land. In contemporary Hebrew שְׁנַת שַׁבָּתוֹן denotes the sabbatical year of teachers and lecturers.
קראו עוד באתר האקדמיה כאן.

Timely Terms – מֻנָּחִים לָעִנְיָן


כדור הארץ
The abstract noun קַיָּמוּת is derived from the adjective קַיָּם (‘existing’). Their root, קו''ם, also underlies the Hebrew for ‘sustainable’: בַּר־קַיָּמָה (‘capable of stable existence’), מְקַיֵּם סְבִיבָה (‘environment-sustaining’), or simply מְקַיֵּם.

View the Academy’s dictionary of environmental terms here.
ראו עוד מונחי איכות הסביבה במילון האקדמיה כאן.

News and Events – חֲדָשׁוֹת וְאֵרוּעִים

שיר בעברית
יוֹם הַלָּשׁוֹן הָעִבְרִית תשפ''ב
Hebrew Language Day 5782

Tens of thousands of Hebrew enthusiasts worldwide celebrated Hebrew Language Day (established by the Israeli government and observed annually, this year on Dec. 23) through the Academy’s special events and activities, such as a Hebrew competition; a vote for word of the year; a survey of favorite expressions; and workshops and talks.

For Hebrew Language Day the Academy also produced a new set of humorous posters (for sale here) and provided on its website, free of charge, a wealth of content, including quiz challenges, videos, and lesson plans. The poster set sold over a thousand copies, destined mostly for schools in Israel and abroad.

This year’s initiatives also included, for the first time, a love song to the language: שִׁיר בְּעִבְרִית (“A Hebrew Song”), performed by the Shalva band and Jimbo J (Omer Havron).
Watch the video here.

ראו עוד על יום הלשון העברית כאן.
הָאָקָדֶמְיָה בְּכֶנֶס הַקְּהִלָּה הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִית־אָמֵרִיקָנִית
The Academy at the IAC Summit

The Academy made a splash at the National Summit of the Israeli-American Council, held on Dec. 9–11 in Florida. Prof. Moshe Bar-Asher, president of the Academy, spoke to a packed hall at a session about Hebrew in the 21st century. The Academy also set up a booth showcasing its poster sets, games, books, activities, and online presence. Both the talk and the booth received positive feedback, and the Academy gained wide exposure and made new contacts that may lead to fruitful collaborations.

מִנְוֵה הָאָקָדֶמְיָה – מֵיזָם בִּבְנִיָּה יְרֻקָּה
The Minve: An Eco-Conscious Project

In building its new home, the Minve, the Academy aims to meet a rigorous standard of green construction, as defined by rating systems such as LEED and WELL. The design of the Minve has an airy, open feel and includes a rooftop promenade and garden with lookouts. The Academy hopes to inaugurate the Minve in six years.

Learn more about the Minve here.
To support the building fund, click here.

קראו עוד על תוכנית המנווה כאן.
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