Tuesday, October 10, 2006


We've explained the origin of the term regel רגל for a festival. Well, the Torah provides a synonym for regel only a few verses away. In Shmot 23:14 we see:

שָׁלֹשׁ רְגָלִים, תָּחֹג לִי בַּשָּׁנָה

and in verse 17 we see:

שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים, בַּשָּׁנָה

Both are talking about "three times a year", and on that basis we can view regel as being equivalent to פעם pa'am - both mean "time, occasion". However, while everyone seems to agree that the original meaning of regel was "foot", there is disagreement about paam. Some view the original meaning also as foot (I think it can be seen in Kaddari's Dictionary and in the commentaries on Shmot of both Nachum Sarna (Chapter 27, note 34) and Amos Chacham (on 23:17) . This can be seen from such verses as Shir HaShirim 7:2: מַה-יָּפוּ פְעָמַיִךְ בַּנְּעָלִים - "How lovely are your feet in sandals" and Yishayahu 26:6 פַּעֲמֵי דַלִּים - "soles of the poor". And as Chacham points out, while paam mostly lost its meaning as "feet", regel kept its meaning as feet, but became less associated with "occasion".

(The association of paam with feet makes for some nice biblical imagery, but creates some strange phrases in Modern Hebrew. For example, foods that want to sound "classic" or "old-fashioned" claim to have a taam shel paam טעם של פעם , as in Treppenwitz's "shamenet shel pa'am". However, the idea of sour cream coming from feet isn't so appetizing.)

However, others, such as Klein, Steinberg and Almagor-Ramon, say that the earlier meaning was "to strike, to beat". From here the meaning went to "step" (both verb and noun), and from there both to "foot" and to "occurrence, time". The meaning of "to strike, to beat" is maintained in such verbs as התפעם - "was disturbed, troubled", peimot פעימות "heartbeats" or "strokes/ strikes" (who remembers the peimot promised after the Wye Agreement?) and paamon פעמון - bell.

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