Thursday, October 28, 2004

The origin of 'Chol Hamoed'

Reb Yudel brings the following fascinating piece of etymology for the phrase 'Chol Hamoed,' from the h-Judaica Jewish languages mailing list:
The root is H (Het)-l-l (cf. Hullin, Hillul), and not connected to Hol "sand".
Etymology: "to break (the sacred; cf Eng. "to break the Sabbath"), to untie, to allow (the sacred, the forbidden; cf. Arabic Halal "permitted, kosher" = Hebrew muttar "untied" vs. 'asur 'tied').
Hol ha-Mo'ed is then "the break, the hole between the Holidays"; yom Hol = "the day that work, etc., are allowed, or the hole, the gap, the break, between one Shabbat and another; cf. also Hebrew Halil - "hole-y instrument, flute'; Halal = "murdered body (punctured by arrows, etc.); Hallon = "a hole for wind, window".
One may add that since l and r often interchange (cf. miracle: milagro; margaret: margalit), also Hebrew Hor (Hrr) = "hole" is a variant.

Yona Sabar, Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1511

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