Tuesday, March 14, 2006

לכּבֿד פּורים - In Honor Of Purim

Today is Purim, and tomorrow isn't, so I thought I'd post on a Purim-related theme: intoxication. See, Purim, the festival commemorating the events of the Book of Esther, is particularly associated with drunkenness, all thanks to a throwaway line in the Talmud, saying,
A man is obliged to intoxicate himself on Purim, till he cannot distinguish between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai." (BT Megillah 7b)
Now so much attention has been paid to this line that the passage that follows has been all but ignored. So I'll quote it for posterity:

Rabbah and Rav Zeira celebrated the Purim feast together. They became intoxicated. Rabbah stood up and killed Rav Zeira. The next day, he prayed for mercy and brought him back to life.

The following year, [Rabbah] again invited [Rav Zeira] to celebrate the feast together. Rav Zeira answered, "A miracle does not happen all the time."

Yeah, I think I'd turn down that invitation too. But regardless, my goal here is to pass along an interesting fact I learned in a blog I just found, Balashon, where I learned that the Hebrew word for drunk, שיכּור, (which, oddly enough, is not the word used in the passage above - more on this also at Balashon), which gave rise to the Jewish English word 'shiker' via Yiddish, is cognate, through a complicated route, with the English word 'cider.' Now that's cool. It sounds like a folk etymology, I know, but the OED backs it up.

As for Yiddish, intoxication and folk etymologies, one of my students shared with me his deeply held but erroneous belief that the term 'crunk' is from Yiddish קראַנק /krank/ "sick." I hated to burst his bubble on that one, but fortunately for him he didn't believe me.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Thanks for the plug and Purim Sameach!