Thursday, June 4, 2009

About the Name of This Blog

You probably noticed that the web url of this blog is kind of weird - "Lavlor". What's that?

A scribe is usually called a "sofer" in Hebrew but it turns out that "sofer" is a word with multiple meanings and although I'm not a fan of ethimology I conducted a thourough research about this word. The root of sofer is S-F-R and the Aruch, an authoritative dictionary written over 1000 years ago, mentions five different possible meanings:
  1. A "sefer" (book).
  2. To count ("lispor" in Hebrew)
  3. A barber ("sapar", still used in Modern Hebrew)
  4. A small town ("sfar")
  5. Rabbis ("sofrim")
Mind you that a scribe is not among the possibilties, a striking fact. What's the Aruch's word for a scribe? You guessed right - lavlor.

Coming back to the word "sofer", Hebrew words that share the same root are almost always connected in some way but in this case, "sofer" has way too many meanings and it's quite impossible to find common ground between a barber and a Rabbi. So what's going on?

It turns out that we are talking about two different languages. The Torah's language is a mix of two distinct but similar languages, and while the Tanach is written in Lashon Hakodesh (old Hebrew), the Talmud is written in Aramaic. Occasianally a word can have different meanings in these two languages and the word "sofer" is a telling example.

Exclusively in Lashon Hakodesh, a "sofer" has only four meanings:
  1. To count ("lispor")
  2. To tell something ("lesaper")
  3. To write
  4. A book
These four things are connected - a book is a story, a writer is a storyteller and "counting" is closely connected to "telling" in many other languages, including Latin, French and English.

But in Aramaic a "sofer" has other meanings and Aruch, a work on the Talmud and Midrashim, approprietly identifies alternative possibilities which include barber, Rabbis or a small city.

So what's the correct word for scribe? In Hebrew it's "Sofer" and in Aramaic it's "Lavlor". I decided to use both -, home to YK's Sofer Blog!

Some sources:

Avot Chapter 6 (written in Lashon Hakodesh):
אמר רבי יוסי בן קסמא, פעם אחת הייתי מהלך בדרך ופגע בי אדם אחד, ונתן לי שלום, והחזרתי לו שלום, אמר לי, רבי, מאיזה מקום אתה, אמרתי לו, מעיר גדולה של חכמים ושל סופרים אני, אמר לי, רבי רצונך שתדור עמנו במקומנו ואני אתן לך אלף אלפים דנרי זהב ואבנים טובות ומרגליות, אמרתי לו אם אתה נותן לי כל כסף וזהב ואבנים טובות ומרגליות שבעולם, איני דר אלא במקום תורה, וכן כתוב בספר תהלים על ידי דוד מלך ישראל, טוב לי תורת פיך מאלפי זהב וכסף.
Talmud (Eiruvin 13:A), in Aramaic:
אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל משום ר' מאיר כשהייתי לומד אצל ר' עקיבא הייתי מטיל קנקנתום לתוך הדיו ולא אמר לי דבר וכשבאתי אצל ר' ישמעאל אמר לי בני מה מלאכתך אמרתי לו לבלר אני אמר לי בני הוי זהיר במלאכתך שמלאכתך מלאכת שמים היא
Jastrow's Talmudic Dictionary:


Anonymous said...

yaasher coach!!!!

Lion of Zion said...

i was wondering about the name