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Jan 17, 2022
This week’s theme
Words borrowed from Hebrew

This week’s words
mitzvah
cherub
tzedakah
shekel
sabbath

mitzvah
“Today I become a man.
Tomorrow I need to do my homework.”
Image: Jokejive

Previous week’s theme
Birds
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

What did he brew now? Another week of words! The English language has borrowed words from French, German, Persian, Sanskrit, and others. All of these, including English, are languages in the Indo-European family, one that includes about half the languages spoken today.

But English has borrowed words from everywhere, including the Semitic family of languages. This family includes Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, among others.

This week we’ll focus on words borrowed from Hebrew.

mitzvah

PRONUNCIATION:
(MITS-vuh)

MEANING:
noun:
1. A good deed.
2. A duty, obligation, or commandment.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Hebrew mitzvah (commandment), from tziwwah (to command). Earliest documented use: 1723. Plural: mitzvahs or mitzvoth.

NOTES:
The most familiar usage of the word may be in the terms bar mitzvah (of the age of commandment, for boys) and bat mitzvah (for girls). Jewish children are considered adults at the age of 13 (in some versions of Judaism, the age for girls is 12). This comes with rights and responsibilities. The bar and bat mitzvahs are observed with rituals, ceremonies, and celebrations.

USAGE:
“There are three sorts of reaction to the commutation of [Chelsea Manning’s] jail term. First, there are those who say that what she did was a mitzvah to the world, that she should never have been tried but instead given a citation of thanks, a pension and a condo near Venice Beach.”
David Aaronovitch; America’s Might Lies in the Power to Forgive: Obama’s Decision to Commute the Sentence of the WikiLeaks Whistleblower Is a Sign of Moral Strength, Not Weakness; The Times (London, UK); Jan 19, 2017.

See more usage examples of mitzvah in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Fatigue is the best pillow. -Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (17 Jan 1706-1790)

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