Sunday, May 14, 2006


Lately in my area of Israel there's been a lot of complaints about traffic. In general, when I have to wait in long lines in Israel - in traffic, at a government office or at the bank, I try to recall this verse from Yeshayahu (49:20) -

עוֹד יֹאמְרוּ בְאָזְנַיִךְ, בְּנֵי שִׁכֻּלָיִךְ: צַר-לִי הַמָּקוֹם, גְּשָׁה-לִּי וְאֵשֵׁבָה.
"The children you thought you had lost shall yet say in your hearing, 'The place is too crowded for me; Make room for me to settle"

The idea here is that just 100 years ago who would have believed there would be so many Jews in Israel that we would have traffic jams!

Only recently did I discover that the English word "traffic" has a Semitic origin. Klein writes in his CEDEL:
MF, trafique (F. trafic), fr. It. traffico, which prob. derives fr. Arab. tafriq, "distribution," verbal noun of farraqa, "he distributed," II (= frequentive or intensive conjugation) of faraqa, "he split, divided"; influenced in form by assumed L. traficere (for *transficere), "to make over" (see trans- and fact). Arab. faraqa is rel. to Heb. paraq, "he tore away (esp. the yoke), he rescued," peraq, "he tore off," Aram. peraq, "he rescued," Syr. peraq, "he withdrew (intr.); he redeemed, rescued," Ethiop. faraqa, "he set free". Derivatives: traffic, intr. and tr. v. (= F. traffiquer), traffic-able, adj., and traffick-er, n.
The root he is referring to is פרק. In addition to the verbs that Klein lists, we also have the word perek, meaning chapter ( from division), which can also mean "crossroads", which leads to such phrases as omed al haperek - עומד על הפרק - "to be on the agenda". We also find the word purkan פורקן - "salvation, redemption", which is known from the prayers על הניסים ועל הפורקן "Al HaNisim V'Al HaPurkan" and יקום פורקן "Yekum Purkan".

So I guess my association between traffic and redemption goes has an etymological connection as well...

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