Sunday, December 30, 2007


The first initial in the acrostic PaRDeS is peshat (or pshat) - פשט. The definition of peshat is - "the plain, simple meaning". Of course, what defines the peshat of a text or a subject is debatable. Nechama Leibowitz is quoted here as saying: ""If I say it, it's peshat. If you say it, it's derash."

The word peshat comes from the root פשט, for which Klein gives a number of meanings: "to spread, to strip off; to make a dash, make a raid; to stretch out; to make plain, explain." The verb להתפשט therefore means "to undress". From this root we get the adjective pashut פשוט. Rut Almagor-Ramon explains here that pashut originally meant "straight" as in a shofar pashut שופר פשוט - a "straight shofar". She explains that only in the Middle Ages did the word take on its more popular meaning today - "simple".

The Arabic cognate to פשט is basat. From here we get two familiar expressions in Hebrew slang:

a) basta - A market stand. Stahl writes that the original meaning was produce "spread out" on display for purchase. We also have the expression sagar et habasta - סגר את הבאסטה, which literally means "to close the stand" but has the sense of "to end a continuous activity".

b) mabsut - satisfied, pleased. Stahl writes that when a person is happy his "heart expands". In English we also see a connection between relaxed and happy.

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