Memory: זִכָּרוֹן


The three-letter root of this Hebrew word zikaron (זכרון) is ז-כ-ר. These three letters alone also spell out the word zachar (זכר, “male”). Other words coming from the same root include mazkir / mazkirah (מזכיר/מזכירה, “secretary”), mazkeret (מזכרת, “souvenir”), and tizkoret (תזכורת, “reminder”).

  1. It has been said that the Jewish People do not have history, but rather have memory. Does having zachar (“male”) at the root of the word zikaron (“memory”) mean that Jewish memory is gender-based (as in “HIS-story”)? Why might those two words be connected?
  2. How do the words "secretary," "souvenir," and "reminder" connect to the word zikaron (“memory”)?

Cemetery: בֵּית עָלְמִין

Beit Almin

On Yom Ha’zikaron, many people visit military cemeteries, with the official State ceremony taking place at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. Soldiers place Israeli flags with a black ribbon on every grave so that no one is forgotten.

Israeli soldier plants flag at an Israeli soldier's grave

There are a few ways in Hebrew to say the word “cemetery.” This phrase with the root ע-ל-מ, shares those root letters with some other words, including olam (עולם, “world”), elem/alma (עלם/עלמה, “a young man/woman”), l’he’alem (להיעלם, “to disappear”) and l’hitalem (להתעלם, “to ignore”).

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

  1. In what ways are these words connected?
  2. Why might these words all share the same root letter?

Torch: מַשּׂוּאָה


In both Yom Ha’shoah and Yom Ha’zikaron ceremonies, it is customary to light a memorial torch — in the same way that it is customary to light a memorial candle in homes and graveside.

The three-letter Hebrew root for this word, strangely, is נ-ש-א (note that the first letter of the root, נ, is not found in this word). There are other words that share this root and you might be surprised by what they are:

The word masa (משא, “burden”) has the same root, as does the word masa’it (משאית, “truck”). The Hebrew word for president (Nasi, נשיא) comes from this root, as does nisuim (נישואים, “marriage”).

Photo credit: Wikimedia

War: מִלְחָמָה


While we continue to hope and pray for peace, these remembrance days exist because of war.

The shoresh of the word milchama are the letters ל-ח-מ. Sharing those root letters is the word lochem (לוחם, “fighter”). Other words with the same root include lechem (לחם, “bread”) and lehalchim (להלחים, “to weld or solder”).

Bereaved Families: מִשְׁפָּחוֹת שַׁכּוּלוֹת

Mishpachot Sh’kulot

As we remember the fallen, we also remember those who are living with loss.

The shoresh of sh’chol (שכול, “bereaved”) is ש-כ-ל. Sharing this root is the word sechel (שכל, “intellect” or “common sense”). Another word is haskalah (השכלה, “education”), which in colloquial Hebrew refers to higher education, and is also the Hebrew term for the Haskalah (period of Jewish Enlightenment).

  1. In what ways are these words connected?
  2. Why might these words all share the same root letter?

Etymology of Hebrew Words Series