Thursday, May 30, 2024

edut, od, moed, and muad

The Hebrew word for testimony is edut עֵדוּת. Two related words are ed עֵד - "witness" and teudah תְּעוּדָה - originally also meaning "testimony," but today means "certificate, document.". Klein provides two possible roots for the etymology of edut:

Prob. from עוד and lit. meaning ‘exhorting sign’, ‘reminder’. Several other scholars derive עֵדוּת from יעד (= to appoint, to fix), and compare Akka. adē (= statements, commandments).
Each of those roots provides many familiar Hebrew words. Let's look at each of them.

Klein defines עוד as "to return, repeat, do again." Therefore, he writes that the verb העיד (the source of edut) means "to affirmed solemnly", and originally meant "to repeat." Other meanings of that root include "to warn" and "to bear witness, attest, testify." 

From the more general sense of "to return, repeat," we get from עוד the verbs עודד and התעודד - "to be restored, strengthened." As a noun, it appears as idud עִדּוּד - "encouragement."
Two  words deriving from the root עוד are:
  •  od עוֹד - an adverb with a number of meanings, such as "more, another," "yet, still," and "already." According to Klein, it was originally a noun meaning "duration, continuance."

  • eid עֵיד - a Talmudic word for an idolatrous festival. It is cognate with the Arabic eid which simply means "festival." Klein writes that the word literally meant "that which returns (every year)." Klein adds that a variant spelling is אֵיד, likely due to an association with the homonym אֵיד, which means "calamity, misfortune," but is unrelated etymologically to eid deriving from עוד.

Now let's take a look at the other root that might be the source of edut: יעד. Klein defines this root as "to appoint, fix, assign, designate." In the noun form, it appears as yaad יַעַד - "aim, target, destination" or yiud יִעוּד - originally "appointment, assignment," now "destiny, mission."

Other related words include:
  • moed מוֹעֵד - this is either an appointed time, like a holiday or festival (like the moadim listed in Vayikra 23) or an appointed place, like the ohel moed ("tent of meeting", the tabernacle sanctuary that the Israelites built in the desert). This latter meaning was used by Itamar Ben-Avi (Eliezer Ben-Yehuda's son) to coin moadon מוֹעֲדוֹן - "meeting place, club."
  • edah עֵדָה - "assembly, congregation." Klein writes that the original meaning was "a group assembled together by appointment." Today it frequently refers to an ethnic group.
Klein notes that the post-biblical root ועד is related to יעד. It also means "to appoint." It gave us three words that all originally meant "meeting", but today have distinct meanings: vaad וַֽעַד - "committee," vaadah וְעָדָה - "commission," and veidah וְעִידָה - "conference, convention."

Lastly, we have a word I was familiar with, but didn't realize it actually was a homonym pair: muad מוּעָד. In the Talmud (Mishna Bava Kama 1:4) there is mention of a shor hamuad שׁוֹר הַמּוּעָד, an ox who has caused damage in the past, and so the owner is considered fully responsible for any damage in the future. Klein provides two entries for muad, each from a different root:

  1. PBH forewarned, cautioned. [Part. of הוּעַד (= was forewarned), Hoph. of עוד ᴵ.] 
  2. adj. directed. [Part. of הוּעָד (= was set, was placed), Hoph. of יעד.] 
Each of these could have presumably been the meaning of the shor hamuad - either the owner was forewarned of its dangerous behavior (definition 1), or it was designated as a dangerous animal (definition 2). But it's clearly definition 1 as seen from the verse where the concept originates:

וְאִם שׁוֹר נַגָּח הוּא מִתְּמֹל שִׁלְשֹׁם וְהוּעַד בִּבְעָלָיו וְלֹא יִשְׁמְרֶנּוּ וְהֵמִית אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה הַשּׁוֹר יִסָּקֵל וְגַם־בְּעָלָיו יוּמָת׃ 

"If, however, that ox has been in the habit of goring, and its owner, though warned, has failed to guard it, and it kills a man or a woman—the ox shall be stoned and its owner, too, shall be put to death." (Shemot 21:29)

This translation follows Rashi:

והועד בבעליו. לְשׁוֹן הַתְרָאָה בְעֵדִים, כְּמוֹ הָעֵד הֵעִד בָּנוּ הָאִישׁ (בראשית מ"ג): 

"This is an expression of warning through witnesses, as in 'The man warned us' (Bereshit 43:3)

Every translation and commentary that I found says that וְהוּעַד here means either "warned" or "testified." It's rare to find such a consensus. 

Well, nearly every translation. One well-regarded Torah translation, by Everett Fox, follows definition 2:

But if the ox was a gorer from yesterday [and the] day-before, and it was so designated to its owner, and he did not guard it, and it causes the death of a man or of a woman, the ox is to be stoned, and its owner as well is to be put to death.

I was very surprised by this translation. On the one hand, I find Fox incredibly reliable in providing a literal translation that very effectively captures the rhythm and syntax of the original Hebrew text. But on the other, I found no one else who provides a similar opinion, and unlike in other occasions, Fox did not provide any additional commentary explaining his choice. My only possible idea is that Fox was influenced by an earlier verse in that chapter (21:8) which uses the root יעד and everyone translates it as "designated." But that seems to be a very different context, so I don't see why it would influence his choice here. It's certainly possible I missed an earlier source or resource that justifies this translation. If any of you are aware of one, please let me know.

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