Tuesday, July 09, 2024

halakha and charig

Halakha הֲלָכָה can refer to the system of Jewish law as a whole, or the set of laws dealing with a specific subject. Most etymologies connect it to the root הלך, meaning "to walk" or "to go". Here is a sample of those:

Klein brings support for this approach by noting that the word sugya  סוּגְיָה also means walking:

סוּגְיָה, סֻגְיָה f.n. MH    subject for study.  [Aram. סוּגְיָא (= lit.: ‘walking, going’), from אַסְגִּי (= he walked, went). For sense development cp. הֲלָכָה (= law, rule, ‘Halachah’), which derives from הלך (= to go).]
I certainly thought that halakha was related to halikha הֲלִיכָה - "walking." This may have been supported by the well-known derasha found in several locations in Talmudic literature. For example, Megillah 28b:

תָּנָא דְּבֵי אֵלִיָּהוּ: כׇּל הַשּׁוֹנֶה הֲלָכוֹת, מוּבְטָח לוֹ שֶׁהוּא בֶּן עוֹלָם הַבָּא, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״הֲלִיכוֹת עוֹלָם לוֹ״, אַל תִּקְרֵי ״הֲלִיכוֹת״ אֶלָּא ״הֲלָכוֹת״.

 The school of Eliyahu taught: Anyone who studies halakhot every day, he is guaranteed that he is destined for the World-to-Come, as it is stated: “His ways [halikhot] are eternal” (Habakkuk 3:6): Do not read the verse as halikhot [ways]; rather, read it as halakhot.
However, another theory gives halakha an entirely different, less obvious etymology. Prof. Saul Lieberman (quoted here) and others suggest that it may be related to the Aramaic word halakh הֲלָךְ meaning “toll, tax,” and therefore הֲלָכָה ultimately has the meaning of “obligation.” (See a challenge to Lieberman in "Alaktu and Halakhah Oracular Decision, Divine Revelation" by Tzvi Abusch, as well as furhter discussion here.)

Halakh is found in Ezra 4:13, 4:20, and 7:24. In each verse, it is listed as one of three types of taxes:

מִנְדָּה־בְלוֹ וַהֲלָךְ

The three are minda, blo (which we've discussed before), and halakh. The NJPS translates them as "tribute, poll-tax, and land-tax." The 1917 JPS translation has "tribute, impost, and toll." The Talmud (Nedarim 62b) identifies halakh with arnona אַרְנוֹנָא (a word we discussed here).

We see a related word in Talmudic Aramaic, karga כְּרָגָא (Bava Batra 8a) also meaning a type of tax.  And a land tax called kharaj in Arabic is found in Islamic law.

Lieberman quotes Genenius-Buhl (the German dictionary, not the English one) here as noting that halakh derives from the Akkadian ilku

The collaborative dictionary project Wiktionary claims that this Akkadian root also is the source of the Arabic root kh-r-j:

From خ ر ج (ḵ-r-j) in the sense “to extract” or “take out” [...] on the model of Imperial Aramaic 𐡄𐡋𐡊𐡀 (hlkʾ /⁠hălāḵā⁠/, “tribute, tax, any public charge based on land property”), itself calqued from Akkadian 𒅋𒆪 (il-ku /⁠ilku⁠/, “corvée, tribute, any public charge based on land property”). Also attested several times in Biblical Aramaic הֲלָכָא (/⁠hălāḵā⁠/) but otherwise missing in Aramaic. 

I don't know the source of this entry, so I'm wary of making too many conclusions from it. But Klein write that the Hebrew root חרג is cognate with this Arabic root:

חָרַג he came out in terror, quaked. [Arab. ḫaraja (= he came out).]

That root is only found once in the Tanakh, in Tehilim 18:46:

בְּנֵי־נֵכָר יִבֹּלוּ וְיַחְרְגוּ מִמִּסְגְּרוֹתֵיהֶם׃
Foreign peoples lose courage, and come trembling out of their strongholds.

That meaning is not found in Modern Hebrew. Today it means "to deviate, to exceed; to digress, to diverge, to stray." Klein doesn't include that meaning in his dictionary, but he does include the words choreg חוֹרֵג - "step" (as in step-child), which he says literally means "born outside" and the Modern Hebrew word charig חָרִיג, meaning "execptional, unusual, irregular."

Klein doesn't connect halakh and khoreg, and I didn't see anyone else who did. And it's important to note that although the Wiktionary entries connect the meanings of the Arabic roots meaning "to extract" and "to exit", they might not be related. But if they are, it would be interesting to see that halakha and  charig are cognates.

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