Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Jameel and family visit Samaritans

Jameel at the Muqata has a fantastic series of posts on the trip he and his family took to visit Shomronim (Samaritans).


There are fantastic photos and commentary. Jameel also took a wonderful video of a fellow named Yefet Ha-cohen reciting the שמע in the Samaritan dialect of Hebrew (first post, or watch and listen below).

In case anyone is wondering why he seems to read "Shema Yisrael Shema Elo[h]einu . . . " it is not a variant reading, but because the Samaritan kinnui*for YHVH is not 'Adonay' and it is not 'Ha-shem.' It is 'Shema,' which is the exact Aramaic equivalent of 'Ha-shem.'

(See my prior post ' How do Samaritans pronounce the tetragrammaton, י-ה-ו-ה?' - see all my prior Samaritan posts, actually, while you're at it: link. Of course mine were all theoretical and from afar. Jameel has the good fortune of being neighbors and friends with Shomronim and thus he can visit).

Getting back to the 'shema' euphemism for YHVH, it would seem that when Jews used to speak primarily Aramaic they too said 'Shema,' in the place where we would say 'Ha-shem,' today. The evidence for this is the earliest pointing of YHVH which suggested the pronunciation 'Shema,' (ie, qomatz under the vav). Eventually this was modified with the addition of a cholem on the first heh, suggesting 'Adonay.' This, at least, is the most logical suggestion for the phenomenon.

* Kinnui = euphemism. Jews actually use a euphemism for YHVH in prayer or in reciting the Bible, which is 'Adonay,' meaning 'Lord' - hence the biblical term 'Lord,' which is really written YHVH in Hebrew - and they use another euphemism in other circumstances, 'Ha-shem,' which means 'the Name. 'Shema' also means 'the Name,' but Samaritans only use one euphemism, in prayer, recitation and in normal speech.

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