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Updated: 2013.09.29


There are, according to Ernest Klein (A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language For Readers of English, p. 476-7), four distinct themes in Hebrew whereas, according to Marcus Jastrow (Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature, p. 1093), there are two principle themes in Aramaic. In order of their primary meanings, these are:

Hebrew (Klein)Aramaic (Jastrow)
  1. To answer, reply or respond;

  2. To be occupied, busy oneself;

  3. To chant in answer, response or chorus (popularly – and misleadingly – reduced to "sing"); and

  4. To be bowed down or afflicted.

  1. To answer, reply or respond, chant in answer, response or chorus (popularly reduced to "sing");

  2. To detain or postpone. However, Jastrow (p. 1093) defines the pu•al pass. part., (mᵊun•ëh), as "fasting," as on Yom ha-Ki•pur.

Each of these are further modified by the bin•yân instantiated. Scholars are often divided concerning a number of passages in which the bin•yân is ambiguous. This is particularly true of the verb describing how one is to "answer-afflict" oneself on Yom Ki•pur—and, therefore, the same verb (rendered "afflicted") in Yᵊsha•yâhu 53.4 & 7.

While the fourth Hebrew connotation is the TC ([modern] traditionally correct) meaning of the pi•eil, these all complement one shared and overriding theme: the focus on—and "how to" of—responding or answering to someone or for something.

Most instances mean, straightforwardly, "reply." However, in the following instances, the traditional method of responding or making oneself answerable—tradition (e.g., by fasting)—has evolved to eclipse the earliest straightforward meaning:

Thus, peering through the subsequent tradition, the principle shared theme underlying all of the verb's cognates is to answer for something or to someone, to respond or to reply—particularly by demonstrating sincerity and commitment through asceticism, especially fasting.

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