Friday, March 10, 2006


An interesting phrase appears in Megilat Esther: רוכבי הרכש - rokhvei harekhesh - translated as "riding steeds" (Esther 8:10). Rekhesh here certainly seems to be referring to a type of horse. But what is the connection between rekhesh and rekhush רכוש - property?

Horowitz points out (p. 61), that cattle and horses were among the most common forms of wealth. Besides rekhesh and rekhush, we have the following:

  • mikne מקנה - cattle has the root kana קנה - acquire
  • segula סגולה - property comes is related to the Akkadian word sugullu - herd of cattle
  • nekhesim - נכסים - property is related to the Aramaic root for killing נכס - and meant "cattle to be slaughtered"

The word rekesh is also related to the root רכס - "to bind, to fasten", which was of course done to cattle, horses and camels. We see the verb in this weeks parsha (Tetzaveh) וירכסו את החושן - "the breastpiece shall be held in place" (Shmot 28:28). This root gives us the word rekhes רכס - for mountain ridge (the mountains are fastened together), and rokhsan רוכסן - zipper.

There is one more related word that is used so frequently in modern Hebrew that I would guess most of you would assume it has ancient roots - I know I did. The word merkaz מרכז - center only entered Hebrew in the Middle Ages. According to Klein, it derives from the Arabic markaz - meaning foothold, stand, center, which in turn comes from the Semitic root רכס - to bind. The root רכז came later, as a back formation of מרכז.

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