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From: rhendel@king.mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel) Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 21:06:30 -0400 Subject: Faith, Holiness and Some Nifty Hirschian Etymologies I am responding to [Shmshoni and Himmelstein e.g. V 24 #58] who discuss non standard uses of AMN. To summarize in a nutshell: Rav Hirsch suggests that AMN refers to intensive MAKING/CREATION/PRODUCING. AMN differs however from ordinary production in that it involves *intensive, continuous labor and effort*. Some examples of this are the following: (a) AMAN means sculpture...not just "making" something but carefully molding it with attention to detail; (b) AMAYN means to nurse...not just to "make" or "maintain" the baby but rather to continually nurture and sustain; help the baby grow. Similarly says Rav Hirsch (c) EMUNAH=Faith does not just mean to surrender (say) to God but rather to surrender the way a baby surrenders to a mother or a sculptured piece of art to the artisan...It denotes total surrender in all detail and aspects of life to God's ways(I haven't checked but I believe Rav Hirsch says this in his commentary on the Possok in Lech Lechah...VeHEmin BASHEM....). Now Shimshoni and Himmelstein bring a yet 4th nuance: AMN could refer to a disease which is not just a say 24 hour virus but rather a disease that in effect sculptures itself from human body tissue. It continuously eats away from the patient and uses the patient to grow (like say Cancer). The English translations that are cited in Vol 24 #58 (e.g. enduring illness) would tie in with the concept mentioned above of "intensive, continuous, laborious, etc." In passing I take note that the DIFFICULTY with receiving such explanations is that the same word seems to mean both good and bad (faith and sickness). In reality however the focus of the meaning is NOT moral (good or bad) but rather on the INTENSITY. A similar situation exists with the shoresh KDSH. In a nutshell: KDSH denotes *intensive preparation". Some examples might be (a) Certain types of prostitutes who intensively prepare for their clients (Kedayshah); (b) Kedushah=Holiness---an intensive preparation for relationship with God. The famous Verse in Yoel which sheds light on this is "Kdshu TZOM KIRU AZATRAH..." = intensively prepare for a fast....etc. In closing I note that I often hear how the etymologies of Rav Hirsch (or Chazal in Midrashim) are unscientific. It is true that Rav Hirsch sometimes bases etymologies on interchanges in groups of similar sounding letters and this may or may not have the strongest appeal to logic. BUT: The real way to study Midrashim on meaning or Rav Hirsch's etymologies is *semantic*. Rav Hirsch very often shows (if we may use a metaphor) the underlying color or flavor or nuances of a words meaning. Thus in our example without the above analysis I would think AMAN is just making while now I am aware of the *type* of making (namely an intensive continuous laborious one). I hope the above gives greater appreciation for Rav Hirsch's etymologies (and similar items in Midrashay Chazal) and encourages their learning. Russell Jay Hendel, Ph.d. ASA, rhendel @ mcs . drexel . edu