Monday, July 30, 2007

Two of these for one little kid?*

A zuz was an oft-referenced coin worth a quarter of a sheqel (or two dinars).

In Binyamin Mussafia's addition to R. Nathan b. Yehiel's Aruch the following appears in the entry for זוז zuz:

פי' בלשון יוני שם אליל על כל האלילים וצורתו נטבעה במטבע הנקרא על שמו ולכן רבי מנחם בר סמאי בצורתא דזוזא לא הוה מסתקל בריש פ' דר' ישמעאל במסכת ע''ז דף נ

Zuz \zōōs\, noun: Greek; the name of the head of the pantheon of gods. His image was stamped on the coins which bore his name. It is for this reason that R. Menahem bar Simmai would not gaze at the image of a zuz (see Avodah Zarah 50a).

ע''ז דף נ reads:

מאן ניהו בנן של קדושים רבי מנחם ברבי סימאי ואמאי קרו ליה בנן של קדושים דאפי' בצורתא דזוזא לא מיסתכל
Who was 'the son of the holy'? R. Menahem son of R. Simai. And why did they call him 'the son of the holy'? — Because he would not gaze even at the image on a zuz.

Perhaps a zuz was something like this:

I do wonder where this etymology comes from. I checked Buxtorf's Lexicon Chaldaicum Talmudicum and there is no entry for זוז at all. I have discovered no other plausible etymology for זוז, so I guess Zeus it is, and it was Mussaphia's original idea.

For related info, s ee Alexander Kohut, Zeus in Mishnah, Talmud and Midrash, JQR, Vol. 3, No. 3. (Apr., 1891), pp. 552-554. and Daniel Sperber, Mark XII 42 and Its Metrological Background: A Study in Ancient Syriac Versions, Novum Testamentum, Vol. 9, Fasc. 3. (Jul., 1967), pp. 178-190.
* The reference.

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